Arizona domestic violence laws prohibit the commission of certain violent acts and property crimes between current and former spouses, persons who date or have a sexual relationship, and other domestic relationships.
Prohibited Acts & Protected Relationships
Arizona defines domestic violence as one of the following offenses committed by an aggressor whose relationship to the victim is protected by the domestic violence laws:
- negligent homicide, manslaughter, or murder
- threatening or intimidating a witness
- assault or aggravated assault
- custodial interference
- unlawful imprisonment
- sexual assault
- criminal trespass
- criminal damage
- interference with judicial proceedings
- disorderly conduct
- cruelty to animals
- preventing use of a telephone in an emergency or false representation of an emergency
- use of telephone to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend
- harassment or aggravated harassment
- surreptitiously photographing, videotaping, filming, or digitally recording or viewing
- child or vulnerable adult abuse, or emotional abuse
- dangerous crimes against children.
Domestic violence occurs when one of the above crimes is committed among persons who share one of the following relationships:
- current or former spouses
- persons who reside or resided in the same household
- persons who have a child together
- the defendant or the victim is pregnant by the other party
- the victim is related to the defendant or defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister, or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law
- the victim is a child who resides or resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who has resided in the same household as the defendant
- the defendant and victim are or were in a romantic or sexual relationship.
In addition to the above list of crimes that can form the basis of a domestic violence offense, a person who commits multiple domestic violence offenses over a period of time may be charged with the felony of aggravated domestic violence, even where the prior domestic violence offenses are misdemeanors.
A defendant charged with a domestic violence crime based on an act of physical violence may assert self-defense, arguing that the victim was the initial physical aggressor. A defendant may also argue that the prosecutor failed to prove that the underlying violent act or property crime occurred. Or, the defendant may contest the prosecution’s allegations that the defendant and victim shared one of the domestic relationships protected by law.
An offense involving domestic violence is punished the same as the underlying offense on which the domestic violence charge is based. However, some situations result in added penalties.
If the underlying offense in a domestic violence crime is a felony and the defendant knew the victim was pregnant, or if the defendant committed a felony offense causing physical injury to a pregnant victim and knew that the victim was pregnant, the maximum prison sentence otherwise authorized for the underlying offense is increased by two years. For example, a person without prior convictions who commits unlawful imprisonment against a stranger is guilty of a Class 6 felony and faces a maximum of three years in prison, but a person without prior convictions who commits unlawful imprisonment against his pregnant wife faces up to five years in prison.
Aggravated domestic violence
Aggravated domestic violence, explained just above, is a Class 5 felony, punishable by up to 36 months in prison for a first offense. Defendants convicted of aggravated domestic violence who have two prior convictions for a domestic violence offense must serve a minimum of four months in jail. Defendants convicted of aggravated domestic violence who have three or more prior convictions for domestic violence offenses must serve a minimum of eight months in jail.
In addition to fines and jail or probation, persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence must complete a domestic violence offender treatment program.
A person may seek a protective order that restrains another person from committing a domestic violence offense against the person seeking protection. The court may issue a protective order if it determines that there is good cause to believe that the defendant may commit an act of domestic violence, or if the defendant committed an act of domestic violence within the preceding year. The court may consider acts of domestic violence older than a year under certain circumstances.
Contact a Lawyer
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Arizona, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling domestic violence cases. An experienced attorney can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s evidence against you, explore any possible defenses you might have, and explain your rights and options available to you. A lawyer may seek to have certain evidence thrown out, or even seek dismissal of your case. A lawyer may also negotiate a plea to reduced charges. A lawyer will protect your interests every step of the way, as well as represent you in court if your case goes to trial.