For the past twenty years or so, Alabama laws have been changing in order to address the problem of violence among those in family relationships. These Domestic Violence laws supplement existing laws such as assault, menacing, reckless endangerment, or harassment if the alleged victim “is a current or former spouse, parent, child, any person with whom the defendant has a child in common, a present or former household member, or a person who has or had a dating or engagement relationship with the defendant” (Code of Alabama, § 13A-6-132)
In many cases, the “Domestic Violence” designation can result in an increased penalty upon a conviction, and even in the deprivation of civil rights such as the right to possess a firearm. In nearly every case, however, it results in differences in the way cases are handled.
It is the practice in most courts that a person arrested for an offense involving domestic violence is immediately served with a protective order that seeks to prevent further incidents, and sometimes forbids any contact at all between the accused and the alleged victim. Violations of these orders can lead to additional charges being brought against the accused. Because of this. it is important to carefully read these protective orders and strictly comply with their contents.
Since these laws were passed, it seems to me that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases that are claimed to involve Domestic Violence. Is this because incidents have increased, or is there some other reason for this?
I believe that the reason for this is two-fold.
First, the expansive definition of what type of relationship can lead to the Domestic Violence designation leads to charges being brought when a family relationship has nothing to do with the incident in question, but the people involved are related in some way that triggers the statute.
Second and more disturbing, it has become common practice for people who have filed or are anticipating filing for divorce to make accusations of domestic violence, seeking to gain an advantage in the domestic relations litigation.
If you find yourself accused of an offense that involves Domestic Violence, it is vital that you immediately consult with a lawyer who is versed in the handling of these charges. Explain truthfully to your lawyer the facts of your situation, and listen to his or her advice on how to handle your situation. As I often tell clients, the earlier a good lawyer gets involved in your case, the more effective he or she can be.