Domestic violence is one of those crimes that is taken very seriously. Those who are accused of domestic violence charges can find that there is a strong social stigma that follows them, despite the fact that they haven’t been proven guilty.
There are any number of reasons why somebody may be falsely accused of domestic violence. As such, there are several defenses that can be utilized against a domestic violence charge. But determining the right one can be difficult without a careful consideration of the unique circumstances surrounding your charge.
To better understand these charges and how to defend against them we are going to look at the various levels that domestic violence can be charged. This will allow us to determine the seriousness of a particular charge. Following this, we will explore the penalties that come with a guilty verdict of domestic violence. Finally, we’ll have everything we need to discuss the various defenses against these charges.
What Are the Levels of Domestic Violence?
Before answering that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page in regards to what we mean when we say domestic violence. Domestic violence is the crime of committing abuse against a family or household member. Domestic violence can be divided into a few crimes but the primary one is domestic assault, which is what we’ll be looking at.
It’s important to note that members of your family or household is a broad category. It’s clear that it covers your spouse and children, but it might not be clear that it also includes the people you are dating or even your ex-partners.
Domestic assault doesn’t have to have a physical component. The act of placing another in fear of physical injury falls under the definition of assault.
Domestic assault can be charged in:
- Domestic Assault in the 4th Degree: This occurs when an individual recklessly causes physical injury or pain; negligently causes injury with a deadly weapon; purposely makes a victim fear for their life; recklessly act in a way that creates a serious risk of death; intentionally touch a victim when you know they will be offended by the contact; or knowingly isolate a victim by means such as restricting access to communication devices. Some of these are done on purpose but largely fourth degree domestic assault is accidental or minor.
- Domestic Assault in the 3rd Degree: This occurs when an individual knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical pain or illness to a victim. It’s important to note that an attempt is enough for a third degree charge. If you swung your fist at your partner and missed, that would still be a purposeful attempt to cause physical harm and thereby a charge of domestic assault in the third degree.
- Domestic Assault in the 2nd Degree: This occurs when an individual knowingly causes physical injury by any means, which includes using a deadly weapon or strangling the victim; recklessly cause serious physical injury; or recklessly cause physical injury with a deadly weapon. Teasing your partner with a knife might not seem overly serious but should that reckless behavior lead to their injury then it could result in a charge of domestic assault in the second degree.
- Domestic Assault in the 1st Degree: This occurs when an individual knowingly inflicts or attempts to inflict serious physical injury. For example, an attempt to kill your partner would fall under domestic assault in the first degree.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Missouri?
The punishment for domestic violence in Missouri will depend on what degree it was charged at and whether or not this represents a pattern of behavior or a first-time charge.
The penalties for domestic violence in Missouri are:
- Fourth Degree: As a Class A misdemeanor, this is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Third Degree: As a Class E felony, this is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second Degree: As a Class D felony, this is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- First Degree: As a Class B felony, this is punishable by between five and fifteen years in prison. If serious harm was inflicted then it is upgraded to a Class A felony and is punishable by between ten to thirty years in prison or even life in prison.
- Repeat Offenses: If you have a prior conviction within the last five years then a repeat offense will result in a prison term for one step higher than the charge. Class E crimes would be punished at Class D levels and so forth.
What Defenses Are There Against a Domestic Violence Charge?
Putting together a defense for a domestic violence charge can be difficult. As you’ve seen, sometimes intent doesn’t matter as reckless action can be charged. In order cases, the intent is extremely important. Picking the right defense depends on the specifics of your charge.
Some charges are best met with a defense stating you didn’t do it. In other cases, it is better to prove that the accuser is lying. In other cases, arguing that it was an accident may be the best case, even if it only results in a lower charge rather than a complete innocent verdict. If you were defending yourself against domestic violence, then that is a defensive argument as well.
Should I Speak to an Attorney?
An attorney can help you to investigate the situation and select the most appropriate defensive strategy based on your unique circumstances. They will also be able to offer you advice and support both in and out of the courtroom. You’ll want to make sure that your attorney has experience in the courts and a thorough understanding of what goes into winning a case like yours.
The best time to reach out to an attorney is as soon as possible. The more time you have to work on your case together, the better the chances are that you’ll be able to build a solid defense. It takes a lot of work to defend against a domestic violence charge; but, as you’ve seen from the punishments, it’s worth it.