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While crimes of domestic violence vary, as a general rule, courts take them very seriously. Often, defendants convicted of a domestic violence offense find that judges are less than sympathetic when it comes to handing down a sentence. At the same time, these cases are often based on little evidence and frequently come down to your story versus the alleged victim’s. However, having the assistance of a skilled Atlanta criminal defense attorney can make the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. At the Law Offices of Glenn T. Stern, we aggressively represent clients facing all types of domestic violence crimes.
Domestic violence, also referred to as family violence, is used to describe certain crimes that are committed against individuals with whom the defendant has a close relationship. More specifically, domestic violence offenses are those committed against:
Under Georgia law, the following crimes can be considered domestic violence when they are committed against any of the above-listed individuals:
Additionally, violating a protective order is also considered a domestic violence offense.
Like many other states, Georgia law does not have separate criminal offenses for most domestic violence crimes. Instead, the fact that a crime was committed against an intimate partner or family member enhances the seriousness of the underlying charge. In the case of misdemeanor offenses, this typically results in the charge being elevated from a misdemeanor to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.
For example, simple assault is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000. However, a family violence simple assault is a high and aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by the same 12 months in jail; however, the maximum potential fine increases to $5,000.
Felony domestic violence charges follow a similar pattern. For example, aggravated assault carried a punishment of a minimum of one year in jail with a maximum of 20 years. However, family violence aggravated assault is punishable by a minimum of three years in jail, with a maximum of 20 years.
However, the punishment for stalking works differently. Stalking is a misdemeanor. However, family violence stalking is considered a felony, punishable by a minimum of one year in jail and a maximum of ten years, along with a fine of up to $10,000.
Furthermore, a conviction categorized as “family violence” can have permanent consequences. For example: although it is a conviction on the state level, under – 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) – if a person is convicted of domestic violence in either federal or state court—that individual’s ban on right to own and possess firearms. For those in law enforcement or other professions that require the possession of a firearm—a domestic violence conviction can be a career-killer.
One other thing to note is that judges have broad discretion in coming up with sentences. Often, this discretion works against defendants in domestic violence cases. For example, while simple assault and family violence assault carry the same maximum punishment, some judges are more likely to fashion a harsher sentence in the family violence case.
In any criminal case, a witness’s credibility is important. However, given the relationship between the parties in family violence cases, this is especially true. It is common for alleged victims will often exaggerate—or even fabricate—claims based on unrelated actions of the defendant. For example, perhaps a husband and wife are in the middle of a contested divorce, and the wife calls in a domestic violence complaint against the husband in hopes of being awarded custody of the couple’s children. A dedicated Atlanta criminal defense lawyer can help expose an alleged victim’s bias and inconsistencies in their stories to show that their story doesn’t add up.
If you have a domestic violence case, it is imperative that you are represented by an experienced defense attorney who is ready to fight on your behalf. At the Law Offices of Glenn T. Stern, we have more than 20 years of experience standing up for the rights of individuals facing these serious crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of Glenn T. Stern at (404) 320-1049 today. You can also reach us through our online contact form. We handle cases on behalf of clients in Atlanta and throughout Dekalb, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties, including in Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Jonesboro, Duluth, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Cumming and Dunwoody.