Critical Facts to Know About a Domestic Violence Accusation
An accusation of domestic violence is not something law enforcement just shrugs off. Instead, it is taken seriously and results in an automatic arrest of the accused – innocent or not.
While domestic violence is a misdemeanor in New Mexico, it carries life-long consequences – many of which will dramatically impact your quality of life. Worse, these charges can escalate further depending on the circumstances – which puts you at risk for lengthy jail or prison sentences, thousands of dollars in fines, and a permanent criminal record.
Common Issues and Questions Regarding Domestic Violence Accusations in Albuquerque
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you will have numerous questions. From what will happen after the arrest, to your rights and the potential jail time you face.
One of the most commonly asked questions is whether you will go to jail if you are accused of domestic violence. As detailed below, if the victim indicates that you have committed violence upon them in a domestic situation – it is likely that you will be arrested at the scene. It is really up to the discretion of the police. For instance, if it is apparent that the victim is lying, then you may not be arrested. But typically police tend to err on the side of caution, which means an arrest will be made.
How a Domestic Violence Accusation and Call-In Works
A domestic violence call comes to the local precinct for numerous reasons – and the call might not be the victim. Sometimes a neighbor or family member calls out of concern, and sometimes the calls are unjustified. Many of these calls are made maliciously or out of ignorance. Other times, there is a legitimate threat, and law enforcement can remove that threat successfully and prevent harm.
Once officers are called to the scene, they will start their report. If the victim is at the scene and accuses the defendant of domestic violence, law enforcement will question both parties. If the victim wishes to press charges or gives a positive indication that domestic violence has occurred, the defendant will be arrested and removed from the scene.
Realize that the victim is not the person pressing charges – but making the complaint. Only the prosecutor can officially file charges against the defendant. However, the complaint/accusation from the victim is the first stepping stone.
Domestic Violence Charges Are Not Dismissed Because the Victim Requests It
Sadly, after a person is arrested for domestic violence, getting the charges dismissed is complicated. Even if the victim recants their story or no longer wishes to press charges, the prosecution can move forward with the domestic violence case against the defendant.
Most prosecutors have a policy against dismissing charges for domestic violence. Instead, they may push the case all the way to the trial date before conceding that there is not enough evidence. By then the defendant could have spent weeks or months in jail.
You May Be Denied Bail
Sadly, you could be denied bail in a domestic violence case. If you reside with the victim, then the judge may hold you over if you pose a serious threat to the victim or others in that household. On average, it can take several weeks to months for your official trial date after the arraignment; therefore, it is essential that you hire a criminal defense attorney so that you can avoid having your bail denied for bogus charges.
A Restraining Order May be Issued
If the victim continues accusing you of domestic violence, they may receive a temporary restraining order. This order prevents you from coming close to the victim at home, work, or in public. It may also prevent you from seeing your children unless under supervision by a court official.
It Often Comes Down to the Victim’s Word Against the Defendant
Unfortunately, most domestic violence cases come down to the victim’s word against the defendant’s word. Little evidence is needed to convict a person of domestic violence, and prosecutors can put the victim on the stand. Even if the victim is exaggerating or falsifying their testimony, you could spend years in prison off of a single person’s word.
The Penalties Are Long-Term
There are long-term consequences to a domestic violence conviction, which is why it is imperative you hire an attorney right away if you have been accused of this crime.
Most domestic violence cases are misdemeanors, but you could be charged with more than one count. For each count of domestic violence, add one year to your possible sentencing. Therefore, the possible sentence for one count is one-year, but many defendants are charged on multiple counts and face multiple years in prison.
And a misdemeanor can escalate into a felony.
A felony domestic violence charge is even more severe. Felony domestic violence is typically charged when a weapon is used, or sexual assault is alleged. These charges come with enhanced penalties from the state, who will often seek the maximum penalty.
First-Time Offenders May Get Intervention
If you are a first-time offender, you may receive an Early Intervention Program offer from the presiding judge. Realize that this sentence is up to the judge’s sole discretion, but your attorney may request it.
Early Intervention Programs allow you to avoid jail time in exchange for anger management, domestic violence counseling, drug or alcohol prevention programs, and parenting classes (if minors are involved).
Even if you are a first-time offender, you will not qualify for an intervention program if you have any drug or alcohol convictions or if you have been convicted of a felony in the past.
Act Fast for Domestic Violence Charges
The moment the call is made to law enforcement the clock starts ticking on your case. You have limited time to react in your situation. The sooner you call in representation, the easier it may be to have your case dismissed or avoid severe penalties.