Prior to 2015, crimes of “domestic violence” were ordinary criminal offenses that would then receive the special label of “domestic violence” if the alleged victim was in a special relationship with the defendant (spouse, dating, family member, etc.). Beginning in 2015, “domestic violence” became its own crime. It is considered a Class A Misdemeanor unless a “deadly weapon” is involved, in which case it is a Class B Felony. In addition to the standard criminal penalties, a person convicted of domestic violence is banned from possessing firearms as long as the conviction remains on the person’s record. This has huge repercussions on hunters, sport shooters, and people who chose to own firearms for home and personal protection.
Though not a “conviction” for purposes of a criminal record, there is another avenue for allegations of domestic violence to enter the court system: Domestic Violence Protective Orders. These Orders are considered civil in nature, as opposed to criminal. They are commonly referred to as “restraining orders.” You cannot go to jail when a DV Order is issued, since it is not a crime, but such Orders can remove you from your home, prohibit you from having contact with your children, order you to be financially responsible for a number of bills, etc. And unlike criminal cases, where the judge or jury must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in a domestic violence civil proceeding, the judge is only required to find your responsible by a “preponderance of the evidence;” in other words, slightly more than 50%.
Domestic violence civil proceedings have more immediate potential to turn your life upside down than even criminal cases. They have their own laws and rules, and with the help of an effective advocate, you can make your day in court a successful one. There is no substitute for experience and trial skills.