Celebrating Christmas and ringing in the New Year while under the threat of the deadly covid-19 pandemic and government-ordered lockdowns and other restrictions are expected to heighten the danger of domestic violence episodes this 2020 holiday season.
With approaching winter temperatures increasing the virus’s danger and the pandemic’s financial pressure on families, increased use of alcoholic beverages and staying in close quarters is a recipe for trouble.
Since the pandemic began, calls reporting domestic violence have risen by 140 percent over calls a year ago according to the Phoenix Police Department. Yet many domestic violence incidents are never reported to authorities. Even without the 2020 pandemic restrictions, domestic violence increases during these holidays.
Those most vulnerable to domestic violence are (1) women who have been displaced and (2) older women who have disabilities. They are “disproportionately affected by violence” during the pandemic, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services as reported by KTAR news radio
Health Services also states that more than one of every three women and more than one in every four men have experienced physical abuse or stalking by an intimate partner. Nearly every minute, 20 people are physically abused by their partners. Of all violent crimes, intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent.
Types of domestic violence
Domestic violence is committed by a person in a family or household upon someone else in the relationship; namely a spouse, former spouse, children, previous intimate partners, dating relationships and the elderly.
Domestic violence law, Arizona Revised Statute §13-3601
, defines and broadly classifies domestic violence offenses. The crime does not require a physical act nor does the victim have to be physically injured.
Criminal acts also can be emotional or mental abuse, involve the victim’s finances, or performing neglectful acts. Domestic violence takes many forms, including these criminal offenses:
- assault with a dangerous weapon
- child abuse
- criminal trespassing
- elder abuse
- physical and verbal assaults
- sexual battery
- sexual assault upon a minor
- violating a restraining order or an order of protection designed to keep the aggressor away from the victim and
- witness intimidation
Forms of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse behavior also takes several forms including verbal, controlling behavior, isolation, blaming, and threats of violence. A domestic abuser is easily insulted, explodes over small things, perceives issues as personal attacks, and isolates the victim from family and friends.
Domestic violence’s impact on children
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, partnering with the New Life Center
to promote the danger of domestic violence, reports that “every 44 minutes” a child witnesses an act of domestic violence. The worry is that impressionable children may see domestic violence as normal and could become future abusers and victims themselves. About half of those abused as children become abusers themselves, says the center.
Sheriff’s domestic violence intervention policy
Arguably the most dangerous calls officers respond to are for domestic violence. The volatile emotions of the parties involved can lead to officers being attacked and harmed, sometimes even by agitated bystanders. Officers of both genders often respond to these calls to separate the contenders.
To protect deputies and the people involved in a domestic violence situation, the Maricopa Sherriff’s Office
in 2018 established a policy for the procedures used in responding to these calls. The deputy is required to thoroughly investigate and document the incident and attempt to determine the identity of the predominant aggressor and perform an arrest if probable cause exists.
If a child is in the home, the authorities will conduct a welfare check to ensure the young one is safe or might be a victim of child abuse.
Responding deputies can contact a judge to obtain an Emergency Protection Order for the victim and arrange to serve the order upon the defendant. They perform many other tasks such as asking if there is a firearm on the premises and temporarily seizing the legal weapon while conducting the investigation for their own safety.
How best to behave when police arrive
When tempers flare, it is in your best interest to calm down and remember that anything you say will become evidence and will be used against you. It may be difficult to remain silent in such a heated time, but that is the best thing to do -- and it is your right under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.
The warring parties are separated and interviewed. Officers expect to hear two versions of the events leading to police involvement and they expect someone may lie or downplay the event hoping the authorities will leave.
Officers in deciding if an arrest should be made will base that decision on probable cause or a reasonable suspicion, such as one person has a fresh injury which is evidence that he or she has been struck or pushed against something.
Property damage at the scene is also evidence of other offenses. Broken glass, a damaged big screen television, furniture out of place all are indications of an altercation. If property damage, say to a vehicle or other valuables owned by one of the people, that can add a charge of criminal damage.
Charges in domestic violence situations
Domestic violence is an overall term rather than a specific crime by itself.
The actual charge is the criminal act performed upon a domestic partner. Most of these charges are misdemeanors. A conviction for a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious in this range of offenses, the penalty is up to six months in county jail, probation, significant fines, and court-ordered counseling.
If the domestic violence victim was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender knew her situation, the court will consider that and increase the length of incarceration and the amount of fines. If the offender committed a felony causing injury to a pregnant victim, the maximum sentence is increased for up to two additional years. Repeat offenders face more serious enhancements to the state’s case.
A felony conviction will have consequences far beyond incarceration and fines. Felons cannot vote in elections, cannot own or possess a firearm and will find it difficult to get a job or rent a place to live. A felony conviction will stay on the public record for 99 years.
Common domestic violence defenses
The most common is self-defense. It applies if the person did not start or escalate the confrontation and reacted to prevent being injured.
Domestic situations are personal and the alleged victim may falsely accuse the other person. In that situation, the defense must prove the statement was a falsehood.
The officer’s investigation at the scene did not show probable cause to make a lawful arrest.
At the time of arrest the officer did not recite the Miranda rights to remain silent and have legal representation during interrogation.
Other defenses may be available depending upon the facts of the event and the history of the domestic relationship.
Negotiating with the prosecution to plead guilty to a lesser charge can result in penalties that are less harsh.
Free and confidential legal consultation
The law is complex, so it is best to learn what you are facing and what are your options by taking advantage of my free case assessment without any obligation to use Aaron M. Black Law to defend you. Arrange for your legal advice by calling 480-729-1683 at any time day or night on any day including our holiday season and weekends. I will promptly respond unless I am in court. Or use my easy online contact form.
I have a record of aggressively defending clients with the goal of a dismissal while providing personalized legal services. You will never be handed off to an assistant. You will always be talking directly to me.
During the pandemic we can meet online using FaceTime and communicate by phone, text, and email.
I defend domestic violence cases in justice, municipal (including Phoenix and Scottsdale), state, and federal courts in Maricopa and its surrounding counties.