If you are charged with domestic assault in Missouri, you will need sound legal advice and effective defense representation immediately. You will need to contact a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.
A conviction for domestic assault can very negatively impact your life for years to come. What is the definition of domestic assault in Missouri? What are the penalties for a domestic assault conviction? What if you are the target of a fabricated domestic assault allegation?
Keep reading this brief discussion of domestic assault in Missouri, and you’ll learn the answers to these questions. You will also learn more about your rights if you are charged with domestic assault, and you’ll learn where to find the legal help that you will require.
Who Are the Victims of Domestic Assault?
Claims of domestic assault are treated very seriously by Missouri’s criminal court system. In the past, when the authorities did not take such claims seriously, tragedy was sometimes the result. Thus, legal penalties for a domestic violence conviction are quite harsh in this state.
The law in Missouri holds that any act of violence perpetrated against a “domestic victim” – that is, against a member of one’s own family or household – constitutes domestic assault. These are the people who may be considered domestic victims under Missouri law:
- a former or current spouse
- a family member through marriage or blood
- someone the alleged offender lives with, previously lived with, dates, or previously dated
- the other parent of the alleged offender’s child, without regard to marital status
What is Fourth-Degree Domestic Assault?
There are some differences between the general assault laws and the domestic assault laws in Missouri. The penalties for a domestic assault conviction are somewhat harsher. Anyone who is accused of domestic assault will face an aggressive prosecution and may expect little leniency.
Missouri recognizes four degrees of domestic assault. Fourth-degree domestic assault is classified as a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
However, a defendant with a previous conviction for domestic assault will be charged with a Class E felony. You can be convicted of fourth-degree domestic assault if you targeted a domestic victim and if:
- You attempted to injure that person.
- You were reckless in a way that caused the victim injury, pain, or illness.
- You were reckless in a way that put the victim at risk of injury or in harm’s way.
- You made unwanted physical contact, even if that contact caused no injury or harm.
- You isolated or tried to isolate the victim from communications and/or transportation.
What Are the Other Domestic Assault Charges?
Third-degree domestic assault is a Class E felony that may be penalized upon conviction with up to four years in prison. Domestic assault in the third degree includes attempting to injure a domestic victim physically and intentionally causing a domestic victim’s pain or illness.
Second-degree domestic assault is classified as a Class D felony that may be penalized upon conviction with up to seven years in prison. If the victim was not seriously injured, the defendant cannot be charged with second-degree domestic assault.
Attempting to kill or seriously physically injure a domestic victim constitutes first-degree domestic assault. If the victim escaped serious injury, the charge is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction with up to fifteen years in prison.
However, if a domestic assault victim was seriously physically injured, the first-degree domestic assault charge is a Class A felony punishable upon conviction with a life sentence.
What If the Claim Against You Was Fabricated?
While every domestic abuse accusation is taken seriously by the authorities in this state, experienced Missouri law enforcement officers, judges, divorce lawyers, and defense attorneys also see fabricated domestic assault allegations. False charges are made for a variety of reasons.
An ex-spouse, for example, may be seeking an advantage in a child custody or property dispute. A resentful teen might make up a lie to get a stepparent in trouble. And sometimes, fabricated domestic assault allegations are made with what seems to be no discernible motive at all.
If someone has made a false domestic assault accusation against you, you must be represented by a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney who will get to the truth, protect your rights, and fight aggressively and effectively for justice on your behalf.
How Will Your Defense Lawyer Represent You?
Your defense attorney’s probable first step will be seeking to have the case against you dismissed. If the case cannot be dismissed, you have the right to a trial where your attorney will explain your side of the story and tell a jury why you should be acquitted of domestic assault.
However, if the accusation against you is true and the state’s case against you is strong, your attorney may instead negotiate a plea deal where you plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for a lesser sentence.
The right Jefferson County domestic violence attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore your plea options or represent you at trial, and bring your domestic assault case to its best possible resolution.
What Will a Successful Defense Require?
If you are charged with domestic assault in Missouri, you will probably also be targeted with an order of protection – sometimes called a restraining order – which forbids you to have any contact with the alleged victim.
Protection orders, divorce proceedings, and child custody battles can all hinge on the outcome of a domestic assault case. A successful defense against a domestic assault charge will require the skills of a criminal defense lawyer who can advocate forcefully and effectively on your behalf.
A domestic assault accusation reflects directly on your character. The legal penalties for a domestic assault conviction are harsh, but the worst loss may be a penalty the court cannot impose – the loss of respect from your friends, family members, and employers.
If you are charged with domestic assault, you must fight the charge aggressively, so you must seek the legal help you need as quickly as possible. Don’t take any chances. Get the high-quality defense representation that you will very much need. A good attorney’s help is your right.