A junior linebacker playing for the University of Alabama has been arrested on a single charge of domestic violence, a third-degree misdemeanor.
According to the statement released by the local police department, the alleged victim was defendant’s girlfriend. However, she did not show any signs of injury, nor did she allege injury. Instead, the charge stems from property damage reportedly done to victim’s car.
This is a little-known fact about domestic violence charges in Alabama: They don’t necessarily have to involve actual physical violence against the other person.
Per Ala. Code 13A-6-132, a person commits domestic violence in the third-degree if he or she commits a crime of assault, menacing, reckless endangerment, criminal coercion, criminal mischief or harassment and the victim is a current or former spouse, parent, child, any person with whom defendant has a child, a current or former household member or a person with whom defendant engaged in a dating relationship at some point.
While assault is a form of physical violence, the other charges are not necessarily. For example, menacing under Alabama law means using physical action to intentionally put the other individual in fear of imminent serious or physical harm. It is not necessary for an individual to actually lay a hand on the other person to be charged with menacing. If the person being threatened is a family member or falls into one of those other categories, that can result in a domestic violence charge.
Harassment, too, needn’t involve physical violence. Per Ala. Code 13A-11-8, a person commits harassment if in acting with the intention of alarming, annoying or harassing another, hr or she kicks, shoves or otherwise touches a person OR directs obscene or abusive language or gestures to another person. Qualifying threats can be verbal or non-verbal, so long as the intention is to cause the alleged victim to fear his or her safety.
This is where an experienced Birmingham criminal defense lawyer can help. Often, proof of these allegations comes down to proof of intent. A person’s intentions are not an objectively knowable fact, and thus, these assertions rely on circumstantial evidence of what was said or done and in what context.
Particularly in cases where there is no actual physical violence, it is often possible to have such charges reduced or maybe even dismissed. It does depend heavily on the situation, but the best chance a defendant has is hiring a good lawyer.
This is especially important for someone like the defendant in this case, who is just starting out his life and professional career. A conviction for third-degree domestic violence has the potential to close doors for certain career paths and opportunities. It also carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
According to news reports, officers responded to a call of a domestic dispute. Upon arrival, officers determined a couple had gotten into an argument in the yard. While the girlfriend reportedly keyed and threw change at the boyfriend’s vehicle, the boyfriend reportedly kicked his girlfriend’s vehicle. Both cars had visible damage.
Here, the underlying misdemeanor for which defendant was charged was criminal mischief.