St. Louis Domestic Violence Attorney
Understanding Your Domestic Violence Charge
Domestic violence is a term used to refer to a wide range of actions committed by one person against another in any type of domestic relationship, including marriage, cohabitation, and family relations. There are a number of crimes that can constitute domestic violence, virtually all of which are viewed negatively by much of society and punished harshly by the criminal justice system.
While emotional abuse and physical violence are common classifications for these charges, domestic violence can include a number of crimes and abusive actions, such as:
- Child abuse, neglect, and abandonment
- Domestic sex crimes
- Domestic assault
- Kidnapping and false imprisonment
- Elder abuse
- Violation of protection orders
In Missouri, both a man and a woman may be arrested for altercations that lead to violence. Regardless of whether you instigated the incident or defended yourself by fighting back, you may still be arrested for domestic violence. Familial disputes pose a number of complications for law enforcement officers, but as laws are rigid, they often make arrests and place the burden of proof upon defendants.
Many people want to enforce maximum consequences for these crimes because they see the sentencing process as a chance to pass strict moral judgement. However, all allegations come with nuance others may not take the time to understand. A defense attorney’s job is to provide context to your case and protect your rights against prosecutorial overreach. Without someone to make this effort on your behalf, you could end up with a felony record and its associated costs.
If you are facing charges for domestic assault, it’s important to retain a strong defense attorney right away. The potential penalties are too serious for you to leave your future to chance. Call (314) 334-3807 to discuss your options with a lawyer in a FREE consultation.
When Does a Fight Become Domestic Assault?
Any violence against a “domestic victim” – that is, a member of one’s household or family – is considered domestic assault. Why does this matter? Though slight, there are differences between Missouri’s general assault laws and domestic assault laws. Therefore, you may find yourself facing harsher penalties for a domestic accusation simply because the accuser fits this definition.
Degrees of Domestic Assault in Missouri
Fourth-Degree Domestic Assault
Even as the least serious accusation of domestic assault, you will face a Class A misdemeanor charge. If you are found guilty, you could have to pay up to $2,000 in fines and/or spend up to a year in jail. Even this “lesser” punishment could seriously disrupt your life. The state can win a conviction for domestic assault in the fourth degree if they can prove you targeted a domestic victim and:
- Tried to injure them;
- Acted recklessly in a way that resulted in injury, pain, or illness for the victim;
- Acted recklessly in a way that put them at risk of injury;
- Put them in harm’s way;
- Made unwanted physical contact, even if the contact was not in itself injurious; or
- Attempted to or succeeded in isolating the victim from in-person or virtual communications or transportation.
Fourth-degree domestic assault is the only type that is considered a misdemeanor and, if the accused has previously committed assault, the charge will be enhanced to a Class E felony.
Third-Degree Domestic Assault
A Class E felony, domestic assault in the third degree can come with a prison sentence of up to four years. This is not to mention the fact your record will show you are a violent felon, which could be a barrier to getting a job, renting an apartment, and accessing other essential services.
Domestic assault in the third degree includes:
- Attempts to physically injure a domestic victim
- Knowingly causing a domestic victim pain or illness
Notably, third-degree domestic assault charges usually only apply in situations where the victim was not injured. Higher charges can be made when a domestic victim suffered due to an attack.
Second-Degree Domestic Assault
In instances where the accused knowingly or recklessly causes injury, they may face a Class D felony charge. There is no “mandatory minimum” prison sentence someone must face after being convicted, but you could face up to seven years in state prison. An important thing to note about domestic assault in the second degree is the statute’s specificity regarding the severity of the situation. If any injury is recklessly caused, it must be serious; otherwise, the defendant cannot be charged at this level.
First-Degree Domestic Assault
Similar to the above charges, a conviction for domestic assault in the first degree requires the state to prove the defendant:
- Attempted to kill a domestic victim; or
- Attempted to cause serious physical injury.
The law specifies only that a defendant must attempt a vicious or deadly attack. This leaves a dangerous gap where a prosecutor may try to argue the injury you threatened may have been a “serious” one to try to win a conviction at the highest level. If the victim is uninjured, the defendant will face Class B felony charges; if the attack succeeds, the charge will be a Class A felony. Class B felonies are punishable by five to 15 years in prison; Class A felonies could result in a life sentence.
How Domestic Violence Is Prosecuted in Missouri
In light of the increasing attention domestic violence has gained in the past few decades, there has been a wave of initiatives, legislation, and awareness spreading throughout the country. Throughout the past several years, the state of Missouri has amended and enacted a number of domestic violence laws, many of which subject offenders to more severe criminal penalties.
Additionally, domestic violence cases have become the target of increased efforts by law enforcement and prosecutors, with many jurisdictions maintaining specialized domestic violence units.
What does this mean to those who stand accused of domestic violence?
- Little leniency
- Aggressive prosecution
- Harsh punishment
Although intimidating, the legal process and penalties you face can be successfully handled, mitigated, or avoided by working with the St. Louis domestic violence attorneys at our firm. Former prosecutors who have handled these cases from both sides of the legal arena, our lawyers are prepared to ensure that your rights are protected and that the most favorable resolution is secured.
Harsh Penalties Warrant Aggressive Defense
Penalties for domestic violence charges will differ according to the charge and your prior criminal record. As misdemeanors or felonies, you can expect large fines and lengthy terms of imprisonment. Multiple offenses, serious injury, and the use of weapons or firearms will also heighten these punishments.
In addition to the severe criminal consequences, domestic violence convictions will subject you to widespread scrutiny from a society that has become increasingly opposed to such behavior. Having a domestic violence charge on your record can impact your life beyond the criminal penalties handed down by the court.
Given the severity of these crimes, crafting a sound defense strategy and executing the plan during negotiations or trial is of the utmost importance. With more than 100 criminal jury trials under our belt and unparalleled knowledge of criminal law and the prosecution's tactics, you can trust in our firm to deliver the skilled representation you require.
We know that domestic violence cases are immersed in emotion, strained relationships, and personal matters, and we know that wrongful accusations, misinterpretations, and other factors can lead to these serious allegations. As such, we do our best to extract the facts, convincingly present your case, and fight as aggressively as necessary on your behalf.
Call The Hammer Law Firm for the Help You Need
When facing a domestic violence allegation, you can expect thorough investigations into all aspects of your personal life and a strong public opinion that may influence the outcome of your case. Having legal representation can help protect your rights, defend your reputation, and ensure that your case proceeds smoothly. Domestic violence cases can also be increasingly complicated by other circumstances, including family law matters.
Protection orders, divorce proceedings, and child custody battles can all be hinged on the conviction or dismissal of a domestic violence charge. Combined with fines and possible terms of imprisonment, there can be a great deal riding on the successful outcome of your domestic violence case.
To set up a free case evaluation or to speak with a qualified attorney from our firm, contact a St. Louis domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible.