What Is the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, whether a misdemeanor or felony, is a very serious accusation. Not only do you have the long-term consequences of a conviction (if you are found guilty), but the arrest itself will negatively impact you.
It is important to know the difference between a misdemeanor and felony domestic violence charges, because depending on which you are found guilty for, your quality of life may change significantly.
How Is Domestic Violence Classified in New Mexico?
Every state has various classifications on domestic violence, and New Mexico is no exception. When violent offenses are committed against a household member, it typically falls under domestic violence. Household members don’t have to physically reside in your house. It could be a former or current spouse that has moved out, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, parents, and more.
Several acts may constitute domestic violence, depending on how they were committed.
Some of those include:
- An assault against a household member. In this case, you attempted to physically harm a person from your household or perhaps threatened them with violent acts. While you may not have attacked them physically, the assault is enough to constitute domestic violence.
- Physical battery against a household member. Instead of threats or actions that make a victim fear that they will be physically harmed, you have actually physically harmed that person – which is a misdemeanor.
- Aggravated battery against the member. If you intentionally attempt to harm someone, apply force, or do so with the intent of causing serious bodily harm, you have committed aggravated battery. You may not injure them with the intent to cause death, but if you have caused serious enough injuries, this is a charge that comes with a third-degree felony classification.
- Aggravated assaults against a household member. You may use a weapon, strike at or threaten with a deadly weapon, and with the intent of physically harming them. This is classified as a fourth-degree felony.
What Are the Punishment Differences between Felony and Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Convictions?
Both types carry serious consequences, and while some criminal acts with a misdemeanor attached are not as severe, a felony in domestic violence cases is not the same.
Misdemeanors, whether petty or not, carry anywhere from six months to up to one year in county jail. Your fine will range from $500 to $1,000 as well.
Felony convictions, on the other hand, will involve a prison sentence at a state facility. If convicted of third-degree domestic violence, you can face up to three years in state prison, plus a fine of up to $5,000 (or a combination of both). When convicted of a fourth-degree felony, you are now facing up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Other Factors That Affect Your Conviction
While jail time is certainly one consequence that separates felonies from misdemeanors, it is not the only one. A felony domestic violence conviction could result in your loss of gun rights and ownership, you will have a permanent criminal record, and you may be unable to seek certain types of employment, government benefits, or even qualify for housing opportunities.
A misdemeanor offense will still show on a criminal background check as well, and once you have a criminal record, it can still affect you. While most employers ask if you have been convicted of a felony, some may ask about misdemeanor offenses, too, which limits your job pool even further.
While incarcerated, you most likely will lose any employment you had at the time. In addition, you could lose your housing. If you have children, the courts may limit your rights to visitation with those children. You could have a restraining order placed against you as well, which limits access to your home (even if you own that home) and family.
Why You Need an Aggressive Defense Attorney When Facing Potential Domestic Violence Charges
When you are facing a domestic violence charge, the first thing you need to do is protect yourself from the long-term consequences of a conviction.
You cannot risk your job and life for an accusation of domestic violence. Worse, a lot of domestic violence charges are based on the victim’s testimony alone – giving you little opportunity to defend yourself against false accusations.
If you were falsely accused of domestic violence, or a family incident got out of hand and resulted in domestic violence charges, you need to protect yourself. You cannot risk your family life, career, and even custody of your children. Domestic violence charges are often filed when a household member is angry or looking for retribution.
You need an attorney who can find true facts, build evidence, and defend your rights in court.
Even if the household member later says that they want to no longer pursue the case, they do not have the power to stop it. The prosecutor has say in whether charges are dropped or not. Often in domestic violence cases, even when the victim says they no longer want to pursue it, a zealous prosecutor will continue on. They might even pressure the household member to move forward with their charges so that they can seek conviction.
Hire a Local Attorney That Understands What Is at Stake
The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices understands what you are going through. We have helped countless clients just like you face false or overly exaggerated accusations of domestic violence. We realize how even a misdemeanor can negatively affect you, and we want to protect your rights.
To explore your legal options, schedule a free case evaluation with our lawyers. You can call to schedule an appointment or contact us online with your questions. Our team has defended numerous clients like you, and we know how to create reasonable doubt in these cases so that you can move on with your life and not spend time in jail for a crime you didn’t commit.