Have You Been Charged With Domestic Violence?
Missouri’s domestic violence laws are complicated, and a criminal domestic violence case in this state is a complex legal procedure. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime in or near the St. Louis area, contact a Jefferson County domestic violence defense lawyer immediately.
For far too many Missouri families, domestic violence is a serious concern. What constitutes a domestic violence crime in Missouri? How are domestic violence crimes prosecuted? When should you reach out to contact a Jefferson County domestic violence defense attorney?
If you’re falsely accused, how can you challenge a domestic violence allegation and avoid a criminal conviction? Keep reading this brief discussion of domestic violence, your rights, and the law in Missouri for the answers to these questions.
Who May Be a Domestic Violence Victim?
Domestic violence is a genuine and substantial problem in every state. Domestic violence impacts divorce, separation, and child custody proceedings. Every year in the United States, more than ten million children, women, and men are the victims of domestic violence crimes.
Domestic violence crimes in Missouri are crimes committed against:
- a former or current spouse
- a relative by marriage or blood
- someone the perpetrator lives with or previously lived with
- someone the perpetrator had or has an intimate relationship with
What Crimes Are Domestic Violence Crimes?
Under Missouri law, “domestic violence” is not necessarily actual physical violence; threats, intimidation, and stalking – the actions that typically precede actual violence – are also legally considered domestic violence in this state.
However, domestic violence always involves two or more people who are related, in an intimate relationship, or previously in an intimate relationship. These crimes, when committed against any of the parties listed above as potential victims, are domestic violence crimes in Missouri:
- domestic assaults and sex crimes
- child abandonment, neglect, and abuse
- false imprisonment, stalking, and kidnapping
- elder abuse
- the violation of a protection order
How Are Domestic Violence Offenses Charged?
Felony convictions in Missouri may be penalized with time in prison. Misdemeanor convictions may be penalized with fines and/or time in a county jail. How are different domestic violence offenses charged in Missouri?
- An attempt to murder or inflict serious harm on a victim is a Class B felony. A repeated attempt to murder or inflict serious harm on a victim may be charged as a Class A felony.
- An attempt to injure or harm a victim with a weapon or with physical force is charged as a Class C felony.
- Intentionally placing a victim in an unsafe environment or engaging in reckless conduct that endangers potential victims is charged as a Class E felony.
- Trying to cause a victim’s physical injury, physical pain, or illness may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor.
How Does Missouri Handle Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence in Missouri is handled with aggressive prosecutions, harsh penalties, and little leniency. If you are charged with one of these crimes, you will need a Jefferson County domestic violence defense attorney to protect your rights and to advocate on your behalf.
The sentences for domestic violence convictions depend on the details of the charge and the defendant’s previous criminal history. Serious injuries, the use of weapons, and multiple offenses will increase the severity of the penalties for a conviction.
A domestic violence conviction will negatively impact your parental and custody rights, your opportunities for employment, your right to obtain and hold a professional license, and your right to buy, own, carry, or use a firearm.
What if the Allegation Against You Was Fabricated?
Fabricated domestic violence claims are made for all kinds of reasons. Your ex may be seeking an edge in a child custody or property dispute. A resentful teen may fabricate a claim against a stepparent. Some false domestic violence charges are made with no apparent motive at all.
False domestic violence accusations are not uncommon. Judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers deal routinely with false claims. A Jefferson County domestic violence defense lawyer will counterattack a false charge to find the truth about what did or did not happen.
If you’re wrongly charged with a domestic violence crime in Missouri, in many cases, a good domestic violence defense lawyer can discredit a false claim. In other cases, your attorney may recommend self-defense or the defense of your personal property as your legal defense strategy.
What Else Will the Right Attorney Do?
After considering the details of the charge, your domestic violence defense attorney will develop an aggressive, effective defense strategy. If you’re charged with domestic violence and you’re innocent, fight the charge.
If the charge cannot be dropped or dismissed, and you’re innocent, insist on a jury trial where your defense attorney will tell the jurors what actually happened and why they should return a not guilty verdict.
However, if you are in fact guilty, and if the evidence against you is conclusive, your lawyer may negotiate for reduced or alternative sentencing.
Does Missouri Require Mandatory Domestic Violence Arrests?
In many states, if the police receive a call about an incident of domestic violence, they must make an arrest. There is no mandatory arrest law in Missouri, and law enforcement officers are allowed to use their own discretion in domestic violence situations.
However, if the police make no arrest, they must write a detailed report of the incident, and if a second call is made within a twelve-hour period, the alleged abuser must be taken into police custody.
In Missouri, spouses cannot be compelled to testify against one another in court. When a domestic violence case goes to trial, the court may have to rely on evidence such as medical and police reports and third-party testimony.
Have You Been Accused of Domestic Violence?
If you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence in or near the St. Louis area, you are not required to answer any questions asked by the police. You can simply say, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent until my attorney can be here,” and then say no more.
Do not contact the person who has accused you. It is important to de-escalate the situation. Instead, contact a Missouri domestic violence defense attorney at once to begin working on your defense.
A successful defense will require the skills of a Missouri criminal defense attorney who will address your concerns, explain how the domestic violence laws apply in your own case, and develop a defense strategy that will bring your case to its best possible conclusion.