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Criminal Defense | Divorce | Family

What Is the Punishment for Domestic Violence?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

A domestic violence conviction can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Possible punishments include fines, probation, community service, and a prison sentence. Here’s what you need to know if you are facing a domestic violence charge. 

Crimes relating to domestic violence are often charged as misdemeanor cases. For instance, one of the least severe domestic violence offenses is disorderly conduct punishable by a fine and a maximum jail sentence of 15 days. 

However, a domestic violence case can be elevated to a felony if the incident has caused injury or involved the use of a deadly weapon. Domestic violence charges will be treated as a felony if a pattern of abuse can be proven and the defendant has previous convictions. 

If you’ve been involved in domestic violence cases it’s essential to consult a lawyer right away. If convicted, you can be facing very serious penalties — including a jail sentence. A domestic violence conviction will also affect your financial situation, employment, insurance — and more. 

An experienced lawyer will carefully study your case and explain your options. It’s important to know what to expect from the charge and what potential penalties you may be facing. 

We can connect you today with a local unbundled legal services lawyer for a consultation on your domestic violence case.

When Will Domestic Violence Be Prosecuted as a Misdemeanor?

In most cases, domestic violence is treated as a misdemeanor. However, there is a category of circumstances in state criminal law that will elevate domestic violence to a felony. These circumstances may include the use of a deadly weapon, injuries to the victim of domestic violence, a previous pattern of abuse, the victim of violence being a child — and more. 

However, unless these specific circumstances are present, a domestic violence case will most likely be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. 

When Will Domestic Violence Be Prosecuted as a Felony?

Domestic violence will become a felony-level charge under specific circumstances, which are determined by the state you reside in. In most cases, the following elements will make domestic violence a felony case: 

  • There was bodily harm caused to the victim by the violence
  • The victim of domestic violence was a child or senior citizen
  • A child was a witness to the violent incident
  • A weapon was used in the attack
  • There have been prior instances of abuse
  • There is a prior domestic violence conviction
  • A restraining or protective order has been violated

Note the exact circumstances that can elevate a domestic violence case into a felony may differ from state to state. The prosecutors will look into the specifics of the case and examine the defendant’s criminal history to determine the severity of the offense.

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence?

The exact penalty you may receive if convicted of domestic violence depends on the act itself, your criminal history, the circumstances around the offense, and other factors. As we’ve stressed above a domestic violence case may start as a misdemeanor but it can be quickly elevated to a felony if there are aggravating factors.

The legal consequences of a domestic violence conviction may include:

  • fines
  • jail sentence
  • community service
  • mandatory counseling
  • probation, and more.

Moreover, you will most likely receive a restraining order and will be prohibited from contacting the victim and approaching their home. 

The penalties for domestic violence may also differ in different states. For instance, in Tennessee, a domestic assault is generally classified as a Class A misdemeanor. A first-time domestic assault conviction there can result in a jail sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days with a maximum $15,000 fine and possible additional fines of up to $2,000.

In California, spousal abuse may result in up to four years in state prison or up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $6,000. If the defendant has prior convictions within the past seven years, the offense can result in a longer jail sentence and fines of up to $10,000. 

In most states, once a domestic violence charge has been filed, it can’t be taken back — even if the victim of domestic violence wishes to do so. In some states, domestic violence charges can be brought against you even if it hasn’t been reported by the victim.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Domestic Violence Charges?

A conviction resulting from domestic violence charges can have serious consequences including heavy fines and a long-term jail sentence. Additionally, a conviction of this nature can also have a lasting impact on your reputation, financial situation, employment options, and more. 

This is why it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to gain a clear understanding of all your options. An experienced domestic violence lawyer studies your case and works towards obtaining the most favorable resolution. 

In a domestic violence case, the state’s attorney’s job is to prosecute the defendant. Since the victim in a domestic violence case can’t drop the charges once they’ve been filed, it will be up to the prosecution to drop charges against you based on the facts presented for their case.

The job of your defense attorney will be to conduct an investigation of the case and go over the facts so that they can present your side of the story in court. If the charges against you aren’t dismissed, your attorney’s goal will be to present sufficient evidence to prevent your case from being elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony.

When it comes to approaching domestic violence charges, the best strategy can be to hire a lawyer who has extensive experience with cases similar to yours and who has previously worked with local prosecutors and judges involved in your case. Local insight and in-depth knowledge of state laws are invaluable for selecting the right strategy to achieve the most favorable result. 

How Expensive Are the Services of a Lawyer in a Domestic Violence Case?

The legal expenses for handling a domestic violence case can get quite high. This is because most attorneys charge a flat fee for a full set of services associated with your case. Thus, the prices for a package of legal services can range anywhere from $3,500 to $15,000 and even higher. Plus, if your case requires additional work on the part of your attorney, you should be prepared to pay an extra per-hour fee of around $300. The final amount that you will need to pay in legal fees depends on the complexity of your circumstances, possible conviction implications, and more.

As the prices for legal services can get quite high, it’s understandable that you may look for ways to bring related costs down. The services of a defense attorney may be expensive, but they are necessary. Without an experienced attorney at your side, your chances of presenting a strong defense are very low.

Get Help With Unbundled Lawyers

So while skipping the hiring of legal help may not be an option, there are other ways to manage legal expenses. One way is to use unbundled legal services. With unbundled legal services, you can hire an attorney for a specific service or a set of services. In this case, you will still be paying for the work your defense attorney needs to do — but you won’t have to pay a large flat upfront fee for a full package of services.

For instance, you can hire an experienced local attorney for an initial consultation on your case to evaluate your options and the penalties you may be facing. Or, if the evidence in your case is straightforward, you may only need the help of an attorney to represent you in a court environment. 

Using unbundled legal services is a good way to manage legal expenses, but it’s not always the best fit in a complicated situation where a lot of research is needed — or if this is not your first offense. In such cases, it’s best to have full representation and access to uninterrupted legal support. You can work with an attorney from the Unbundled Legal Help network if you need full legal representation. We cooperate with many individual lawyers and smaller law firms who offer affordable fees with full legal representation. 

We can connect you today with an experienced domestic violence attorney for an in-depth consultation on your case.

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