Sometimes, things can get very heated with a loved one, whether it is a spouse, a child, or someone in a dating relationship. In the heat of passion, a person sometimes lashes out and does things he or she does not intend or want to do.
When that person commits some kind of crime against the person he or she has a family or dating relationship with, the state of Alabama calls it domestic violence. This area of law in Alabama includes the following topics:
Domestic violence claims often arise out of misunderstandings. Sometimes, people even might make false allegations or exaggerated claims, often to help them in divorce or child custody proceedings. Police might also think the wrong person is the aggressor and arrest that person.
Huntsville Domestic Violence Lawyer
Our experienced attorneys at Law Offices Of Segal & Segal will stand up for you and your rights if you've been charged with family assault. We will carefully review your case, looking for weaknesses in the prosecution or missteps by the police, and seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Family assault cases often involve a great deal of emotion. At Law Offices Of Segal & Segal, we are passionate about defending your liberty. Call us today at (256) 533-4529 for a free consultation where we can go over your domestic violence charge.
We are experienced criminal defense lawyers. Sandra Segal worked as a prosecutor for the Huntsville City Attorney's Office. Andrew Segal served in the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Madison County District Attorney's Office. Family violence charges carry a negative stigma. We are respected by judges, juries, and even prosecutors because we practice with honor and integrity, so we may be able to overcome that stigma when we speak for you.
If you've been charged with domestic violence anywhere in the Huntsville-Decatur area, including Madison, Morgan, Marshall, Limestone, or Jackson County, we can represent you.
Alabama Domestic Violence Information Center
- What crimes are included in this category of offenses?
- How do restraining orders work in Alabama?
- Do alleged offenders have any defenses in these types of cases?
- What are some frequently asked questions about this subject?
- Have there been any recent developments in this area of law?
- Where can I learn more about this subject?
Specific Domestic Violence Offenses under Alabama Law
Under Alabama law, there are over 14 different criminal offenses which can, when committed within the confines of a domestic relationship, be considered domestic violence offenses. Below is a list of those crimes which would constitute domestic violence crimes when they occur under these circumstances:
a. Arson. Arson as defined under Sections 13A-7-40 to 13A-7-43, inclusive.
b. Assault. Assault as defined under Sections 13A-6-20 to 13A-6-22, inclusive.
c. Attempt. With the intent to commit any crime under this section or any other criminal act under the laws of this state, performing any overt act towards the commission of the offense.
d. Child Abuse. Torture or willful abuse of a child, aggravated child abuse, or chemical endangerment of a child as provided in Chapter 15, commencing with Section 26-15-1, of Title 26, known as the Alabama Child Abuse Act.
e. Criminal Coercion. Criminal coercion as defined under Section 13A-6-25.
f. Criminal trespass. Entering or remaining in the dwelling or on the premises of another after having been warned not to do so either orally or in writing by the owner of the premises or other authorized person as defined under Sections 13A-7-2 to 13A-7-4.1, inclusive.
g. Harassment. Harassment as defined under Section 13A-11-8.
h. Kidnapping. Kidnapping as defined under Sections 13A-6-43 and 13A-6-44.
i. Menacing. Menacing as defined under Section 13A-6-23.
j. Other Conduct. Any other conduct directed toward a plaintiff covered by this chapter that could be punished as a criminal act under the laws of this state.
k. Reckless Endangerment. Reckless endangerment as defined under Section 13A-6-24.
l. Sexual Abuse. Any sexual offenses included in Article 4, commencing with Section 13A-6-60, of Chapter 6 of this title
m. Stalking. Stalking as defined under Sections 13A-6-90 to 13A-6-94, inclusive.
n. Theft. Knowingly obtaining or exerting unauthorized control or obtaining control by deception over property owned by or jointly owned by the plaintiff and another. Theft includes theft as defined under Sections 13A-8-1 to 13A-8-5, inclusive.
o. Unlawful imprisonment. Unlawful imprisonment as defined under Sections 13A-6-41 and 13A-6-42.
Under offenses listed in Code of Alabama Title 13A, Chapter 6, Article 7, these types of crimes are defined as involving alleged victims who are spouses, former spouses, parents, children, persons with whom alleged offenders have a child with, present or former members of the alleged offender's household, or persons with whom the alleged offender has a dating relationship with or engagement relationship. This means that if an alleged offender punches a person he or she doesn't know, the criminal charge would be assault. However, if that same alleged offender punches a spouse, the criminal charge would be domestic violence.
This offense is divided by three degrees. Each grade has a list of crimes that a person might commit against someone with whom he or she has a relationship that defines this type of violence.
Under Code of Alabama § 13A-6-132, domestic violence in the third degree includes the charges of:
- Assault in the third degree;
- Reckless endangerment;
- Criminal coercion;
- Harassing communications;
- Criminal trespass in the third degree;
- Criminal mischief in the second or third degree; and
- Arson in the third degree.
Third-degree domestic violence is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $6,000 fine. However, upon the second conviction, there is a mandatory 10-day sentence, and a third offense is classified as a Class C felony.
Domestic violence in the second degree is classified under Code of Alabama § 13A-6-131 as a Class B felony punishable by at least two years and up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. It includes the crimes of:
- Assault in the second degree;
- Burglary in the second or third degrees; and
- Criminal mischief in the first degree.
Code of Alabama § 13A-6-130 states that domestic violence in the first degree is a Class A felony punishable by between 10 and 99 years in prison, or life, and a $60,000 fine. It includes charges of:
- Assault in the first degree; and
- Aggravated stalking.
If the domestic violence case is allegedly to have involved any incident in which pressure was put on the neck, a person was made to breathe toxic fumes, or his or her airways were blocked, the prosecution could pursue charges of domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation. This is a Class B felony, punishable by a minimum sentence of two years up to a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.
Additionally, there is the crime of interference with a domestic violence emergency call, in which a person is alleged to have kept the victim from calling for assistance. This is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $3,000 fine.
In these types of cases, there is a good chance that the alleged victim will seek some kind of protection order, often referred to as a restraining order or an injunction. These orders exist to keep alleged offenders away from their alleged victims.
Any violation of a protection order is itself a crime. The first such offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine, but a second violation can result in a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail. Third or subsequent violations are punishable by minimum sentences of 120 days imprisonment which cannot be suspended..
However, if a person commits any degree of the criminal offenses listed above while violating a protection order, the punishments will be greatly increased. For first and second-degree domestic violence crimes, the minimum sentence is doubled. There is a 30 day minimum sentence for third-degree crimes of this nature.
When a spouse is anticipating family court proceedings for divorce or child custody, they sometimes look for a tactical advantage. Unfortunately, this can involve false accusations or exaggerated claims of violence allegedly committed by their spouses, former spouses, or other partners.
An angry child might also make false claims against a parent. When this happens, an experienced criminal defense attorney can show the court the falseness of the claims, damaging the prosecution's case and showing they have not proven the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Domestic violence claims, as mentioned above, relate back to certain crimes. There is often small difference between these charges, such as that while someone may commit second-degree assault if he or she causes serious physical injury, that person commits only third-degree assault if it's merely physical injury. The difference may be small, but it changes the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. A Huntsville criminal lawyer may be able to negotiate the charges down.
Is my case dismissed if the alleged victim does not want to press charges?
No. It is exceptionally common for alleged victims in these cases to ultimately express a desire to not see their spouses or loved ones not have to possibly face criminal penalties. However, even when the two parties involved in an incident resolve an issue, the decision to file criminal charges is solely based on the opinion of the prosecutor.
How can I prove that these were false accusations?
Police officers who respond to these types of situations generally place one party under arrest. This is often done as a matter of ensuring the safety of any alleged victim. If the allegations are completely baseless, then an attorney should be able to use the lack of evidence to get the criminal charges dismissed.
Will I go to jail if I am convicted?
Imprisonment is definitely a possible punishment in these cases, but it is not always the sentencing option that judges choose. In many cases, alleged offenders may agree to plea deals that allow them to receive a far less restrictive sentence of probation.
Can I enter a pretrial diversion program?
This depends on the specific nature of the alleged crime and the criminal record of the alleged offender. Madison County has a Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTIP) known as “DV Diversion” that lasts up to 26 weeks, but alleged offenders need to be first-time offenders who are willing to admit their guilt. They also cannot be charged with Class A felony offenses or crimes involving serious injury or death to a person, and alleged offenders will not be eligible if they have other pending charges. Morgan County's PTIP has many of these same criteria for eligibility, and a lawyer can help an alleged offender get approved by the district attorney for participation in one of these programs.
I know I am guilty, so why should I spend any money on an attorney?
Even if you know that you committed a crime and you are convinced that you are going to end up pleading guilty, it is still in your best interest to consult an experienced lawyer who can make sure that you face the fewest possible penalties as a result of a conviction. Additionally, you will want to ensure that you have a calm and reasoned voice in the courtroom during what can be very emotional hearings.
- Federal Judge Accused of Domestic Abuse Resigns — United States District Judge Mark Fuller sent a two-sentence letter of resignation to President Barack Obama on May 29 following months of pressure from state and national lawmakers. Fuller was arrested last August and charged with misdemeanor battery after he assaulted his wife during an argument about her suspicions that Fuller was having an affair with a law clerk. The criminal charges were ultimately dismissed after Fuller completed a pretrial diversion program. He was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama by President George W. Bush in 2002, and Fuller will step down from the bench on August 1.
- Alabama First Lady Helps Get Domestic Violence Legislation Passed — While the Alabama Legislature ended one day early this month, one of the many bills that did earn the lawmaking body's approval was legislation that would increase marriage license fee to pay for capital improvements at women's shelters statewide. It also requires courts to enter restraining orders into a digital database among other measures. The bill was championed by Alabama's first lady, Dianne Bentley, who made strengthening domestic violence victim services and protection in Alabama a priority of her legislative agenda when it was announced this past March.
- Domestic Violence Charges Against One Alabama Player Dropped, Woman Recants Allegations Against Another — Domestic violence charges against Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones were dropped in May two days after he was arrested for allegedly taking and destroying a 22-year old's cell phone. Jones was charged with criminal mischief and harassment, but the charges were dropped after police said he “attempted to deescalate the situation” by contacting the police department. One month prior, the unidentified 24-year-old woman who claimed that former Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor assaulted her was charged with False Reporting to Law Enforcement after recanting those allegations. Taylor was charged with domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief in the Alabama incident, and he still has a case pending in Georgia relating to aggravated assault and family violence charges for allegedly punching and choking his girlfriend in July 2014.
Domestic Violence Resources For Alabama Residents and Visitors
Huntsville Police Department — This law enforcement department is dedicated to information about family violence. It includes questions that victims should ask themselves to determine whether they need help, and there is also a graphic explaining the cycle of domestic violence.
815 Wheeler Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801
Crisis Services of North Alabama — This nonprofit organization assists the victims of family violence and sexual assault through several programs. One major program is the HOPE Place Shelter Program, which has a main shelter in Madison County and satellite shelter in Morgan County. On this website, you can learn more about the organization's crisis services and find a link to Lifeline Crisis Chat.
Huntsville, AL 35804
An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection (AARDVARC) — AARDVARC.org, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating family and relationship violence, sexual violence, and child abuse. The Alabama page of this national-scope website has information about state laws, where victims can get help, and legal forms in addition to much more.
Alabama Code, Title 13A, Chapter 6 — This contains Alabama statutes regarding offenses to the person, including domestic assault.
If you're facing domestic violence charges, let the Huntsville domestic violence lawyers at Law Offices Of Segal & Segal fight for you. We'll cut through the false claims and defend your rights.
If you've been arrested anywhere in the Huntsville area, including Decatur, Madison, Athens, or Albertsville, call us today at (256) 533-4529 to set up a free consultation.