You’ve Been Accused of Domestic Violence. Now What?

Being arrested on domestic violence charges or learning that you’re the subject of a protection order might come as a complete surprise to you. Or, you might have been prepared for the moment. Either way, domestic violence charges are certainly nothing to brush off or minimize; a conviction for domestic violence can trigger mandatory minimum jail sentences, fines, and prolonged restrictions on certain freedoms. 

What Constitutes a Domestic Violence Charge?

A crime like assault, harassment, stalking, burglary, criminal mischief, or witness intimidation (to name a few) becomes a domestic violence charge when the alleged victim has some type of prior relationship with the alleged perpetrator. The state of Alabama lays out the relationships required to bump up a charge to domestic violence:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Parents and children
  • Those who have had a child or children together
  • Current or former household members
  • Individuals who have been or are currently in a dating or engagement relationship

You should let your attorney know if you genuinely believe that one of the above relationships does not apply to you and your alleged victim. Even if you are eventually found guilty of the underlying crime, it can be better for you if that crime does not get the domestic-violence designation attached to it. 

Domestic violence charges can be designated as DV in the first degree, second degree, third degree, or DV by strangulation or suffocation. The nature of the underlying crime determines which tier will apply to your DV charges. The maximum prison sentences range from one year for third-degree DV and life for first-degree DV. Mandatory minimum sentences often come into play for repeat DV offenses. Additionally, your sentence may be doubled if you committed first-degree or second-degree DV while you were the subject of a protection order. 

Protection Orders

Another way domestic violence allegations can change your life in the short-term is by becoming the subject of a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order. Alabamians who either believe they or their minor children are in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse can petition for and receive a temporary PFA order. If you are named in a temporary PFA order, you will have the opportunity to attend a hearing in civil court; at the conclusion of this hearing, a judge will determine whether a permanent PFA order will be placed on you.

PFA orders can place a number of restrictions on the subject. For instance, if you are the subject, you might be prohibited from:

  • Calling or contacting the alleged victim
  • Being within a certain physical distance of the alleged victim
  • Residing in the same place as the alleged victim
  • Selling or hiding property owned by you and the alleged victim
  • Having contact with your children

Even if you do not become the subject of a PFA order after allegations of domestic violence are levied against you, these same restrictions could be placed on your bond if you are arrested on domestic violence charges. 

Mere allegations of domestic violence can upend the day-to-day lives of the accused like few other crimes are able. While victims deserve strong protections from those who wish to do them harm, there are unfortunately opportunities in the system for false allegations of domestic violence. If you are facing these charges, you need to contact an attorney immediately. Our firm stands ready to help you face any criminal charges; call us at 256-233-2025 to discuss your options with our team.

John M. Totten