What You Need to Know About Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence, also known as a domestic assault in Missouri, is defined as an assault against someone with whom you share a familial relationship. This type of issue can involve any number of family dynamics, including current or former spouses, romantic interests, parents of a shared child, family members by blood or marriage, or occupants within the same household.
Facing these types of criminal accusations or charges can have significant negative ramifications on your family life and your professional reputation. The following is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about domestic assault in Missouri.
Question: What are the penalties for domestic assault?
Answer: There are three degrees of domestic assault in Missouri. First-degree is considered the most serious, while third-degree is the least serious.
Third-degree domestic assault occurs when a person commits the following acts against a victim:
- Recklessly causes or attempts to cause an injury
- Uses a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon to injure a victim (with an element of criminal negligence)
- Threatens a victim, causing him/her to fear bodily harm
- Recklessly puts the victim at grave risk of serious injury or death
- Intentionally makes physical contact with the victim with the knowledge that he/she would take offense
- Knowingly isolates or attempts to isolate the victim
This type of domestic violence crime is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence and a fine of no more than $1,000. However, a third or subsequent offense will be charged as a Class D felony, which is punishable by a jail term of up to four years and a maximum $5,000 fine.
Second-degree domestic assault occurs when a person commits the following acts against a victim:
- Knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause an injury using a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon
- Recklessly causes a serious injury
This type of domestic assault offense is a Class C felony, and it can lead to a prison term of up to seven years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
First-degree domestic assault occurs when a person commits the following acts against a victim:
- Attempts to kill
- Knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious injury
This type of domestic assault offense is a Class A felony, which carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence or lifetime term, if the victim suffers serious injury. If the victim doesn’t suffer serious injury, it is a Class B felony, which is punishable by a maximum 15-year prison term.
Q: When the police arrive, is an arrest required?
A: No. Missouri law enforcement is allowed to use discretion when responding to a domestic assault call, which means an arrest is not mandatory. If an arrest isn’t made, then the responding officer must make a report to explain why there was no arrest.
Q: Can the prosecution drop the charges upon a victim’s request?
A: No. Missouri—along with other states throughout the country—has adopted a “no-drop” policy in domestic violence cases, meaning the prosecution will not drop a case despite the request of an alleged victim to do so. It is assumed that domestic violence victims continue to be intimidated by the alleged abuser throughout the criminal process, which is why all charges must be investigated.
Q: Is the bond for domestic violence expensive?
A: Possibly. Missouri law gives judges the power to set an extremely high bond—especially if the defendant poses a threat to the victim or the community at large—or deny it entirely.
Q: Are previous crimes admissible in court?
A: Yes. If there is evidence that the defendant abused the alleged victim in a previous offense, it will be admissible in the current case.