A series of high-profile domestic violence incidents in Birmingham recently prompts us to take this time to highlight the need for a solid defense in these cases.
Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers know that domestic violence arrests are common primarily because of the way the laws are written. Police arriving on the scene of a domestic violence call will almost always take one party to jail, even if neither person has serious injuries or if it’s just one person’s word against another person’s.
Police officers do not want to risk being called back to the same location again that night or to be held in any way liable if one person or the other ends up seriously hurt after they leave because they failed to separate the two for the evening.
And finally, domestic violence cases are one of the few areas of criminal law where the cooperation of the victim is not necessary. A domestic violence victim does not need to agree to press charges for arrest or the continued prosecution.
That said, a victim who cooperates can certainly make the case much easier for the prosecution.
Domestic violence is covered in Alabama Code 13A6-130 through 143. With a charge of domestic violence in the first-degree, a person is considered guilty if the crime is first-degree assault or aggravated stalking and the victim is a current or former spouse, parent, child, co-parent, current or former roommate or someone with whom you have or have had a romantic relationship.
Domestic violence in the first-degree is a Class A felony in Alabama, which means you could serve up to 99 years in prison, depending on your criminal history and the severity of the incident. However, the minimum you will serve is one year. If the action was committed while you were also violating a protection order, the length of imprisonment is set to double what it would have been otherwise.
In a recent case out of Huntsville, a woman was arrested for second-degree domestic violence after boyfriend allegedly suffered non life-threatening stab wounds in the midst of an argument between the two.
Second-degree domestic violence is much more common than first-degree, and it involves the crime of second-degree assault, intimidation of a witness, burglary, criminal mischief or stalking, as applied to a person who is intimately known to you. Its a Class B felony, and as such is punishable by between six months in jail to 20 years in prison – again, depending on the severity of the incident and your own criminal background.
This is why it’s so important to secure a good lawyer. That decision could be the critical difference between a sentence at the low end of the spectrum and one that skews higher.
Another domestic violence case out of Jefferson County stemmed from a dramatic incident in which federal marshals and the county SWAT team were called in. Investigators reported that the 31-year-old suspect became upset with his wife when they were out somewhere and she asked to go home. He allegedly pulled a gun, forced her to the vehicle, drove home, forced her inside and repeatedly threatened to kill her.
He ended up falling asleep and when he awoke, his wife told him she was going to run errands. At that point, she left to contact authorities. Warned that he was potentially violent and with numerous weapons in the home, a tactical team was called in. Initially, he would not surrender, but once SWAT officers burst through the door, he surrendered without incident.
Officers reportedly found numerous weapons, as well as steroids – the presence of which the county’s narcotics detectives are now in investigating.
That suspect is charged with second-degree domestic violence and second-degree kidnapping. As such, he could be facing significant time behind bars.
In these cases, whenever possible, we aim to help our clients avoid conviction in the first place. We will challenge any inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s version of events, as well as the methods by which investigators collected their evidence.
If you have been arrested on a domestic violence offense, do not offer a statement to police without your lawyer present.