What's the difference between a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction and a felony one in terms of fines, jail time, and other penalties? Huge. This is how to understand the difference between the two, and what they could mean in terms of your future if you are charged with one or the other.
The Charges Generally Reflect The Seriousness Of The Case
Domestic violence charges can occur between spouses, lovers, people who used to have a relationship together and share a child, people who live together, people who have a child together, and parents and children. The charges cover just about every act of physical violence imaginable, including:
- pushing, shoving
- hitting with an open palm
- hitting with a weapon or other object
- sexual assault
All of these things would be crimes no matter who was involved, but when a pre-established domestic relationship exists the police and prosecutors treat the case differently. The fact is, prosecutors have a wide degree of discretion when deciding how to charge a domestic violence case. They will often look to see if there are certain "aggravating factors." It's those aggravating factors that will turn a domestic violence case from a misdemeanor into a felony.
Prosecutors will generally charge you with the more serious crime of felony domestic violence if:
- The victim suffered serious bodily harm.
- There were permanent injuries.
- You made death threats or used a weapon to threaten someone.
- You used a firearm during the incident.
- The victim was young or pregnant.
- There was a sexual component to the attack.
- You already have one or two misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence.
The Penalties For A Felony Charge Are More Severe Than For A Misdemeanor Charge
If you're convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you can expect fines, community service, an order of protection that prohibits you from contacting the other person involved, and up to 6 months in jail. If you're involved in a custody dispute, the conviction can also affect your visitation rights with your child. You also lose the right to possess a firearm.
If you're convicted of a felony domestic violence charge, however, you can expect heavier fines, mandatory rehabilitation courses, incarceration in a prison (not a jail) for up to 3 years, mandatory counseling and rehabilitation services, and probation periods or parole in addition to other penalties. You may also have a much harder time in the future finding housing or a job, because of the felony conviction.
One of the most significant differences is that a felony conviction will send you to an actual prison, not jail. Jails are generally less restrictive, and function more as temporary holding facilities. Prisons are more restrictive, are meant for long-term prisoners, and can be much harder to endure.
Whether you're charged with a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge, seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney, such as Jeffrey D. Larson, Attorney at Law, right away because your entire future depends on the outcome of the charges. Even where it's not totally possible to get the charges dismissed, your attorney may be able to get felony charges reduced to the misdemeanor level in order to minimize the impact of a conviction on your future.