Domestic violence is a serious charge, and the effect it has on your life can be enormous. Immediately, it can lead to fines or incarceration. It affects your criminal record, which impacts your ability to get work. In a divorce, domestic violence accusations may change the entire outcome.
What Is Domestic Violence?
“Domestic violence” may seem like a fairly obvious term, but that’s not necessarily the case. First, you have to answer the question of who must be involved for the violence to be “domestic.” Certainly, two strangers in a bar fight wouldn’t be committing acts of domestic violence. So, domestic violence is between spouses only, right? Not necessarily.
Domestic violence happens between current and former spouses, yes, but it also takes place between people who are just dating. If the fight happened between people who have a child together, it could be considered “domestic.” It doesn’t even have to include romance. Any two people who are living together can commit domestic violence upon one another.
The next word to define is “violence.” It’s easy to think of physical harm, punching and kicking, to be the only forms of violence, and this is true to an extent. The law tends to see a difference between “violence” and “abuse.” Abuse includes things like controlling the other person’s money, stalking, threats and intimidation, and emotional abuse. While it’s much harder to be arrested for such behavior, sometimes impossible, these accusations can still impact your future.
Finally, it’s important to see how domestic violence is treated by the police. Michigan gives officers the freedom to execute a “warrantless arrest.” This means that, if the cop has reason to believe you’ve committed an act of violence against your partner, you can be immediately arrested. Even if your partner claims that you didn’t harm them, police can arrest you if they believe otherwise.
Penalties of Domestic Violence Charges
A domestic violence first offense is a “93-day misdemeanor” in Michigan. Misdemeanors are a step below felonies in the severity of a crime, and Michigan has three classes of misdemeanor. The lowest of these is the 93-day class, which is punishable by up to 93 days (hence the name) in jail and fines of up to $500.
Charges begin to rise in severity if you’ve already been convicted once. A second offense falls under the next class of misdemeanor, where you can serve up to one year in jail and be fined up to $1,000.
Penalties continue to escalate from there. The final class of misdemeanor in Michigan is known as a “high court” misdemeanor. These crimes exist in an interesting grey area between being a misdemeanor and a felony. While technically misdemeanors on paper, they are tried and sentenced as “two-year felonies.” A third domestic violence accusation becomes a high court misdemeanor, and it can land the accused in prison, not jail, for up to two years. If more accusations are thrown at this person, prison times can get longer and longer as charges stack up.
Personal Protection Orders
Domestic violence accusations can lead to protective orders, sometimes referred to as “restraining orders.” If someone feels like they are in immediate danger, they can file for an “ex-parte” order. Ex-parte protection orders have a shorter length of time and are moved through courts quickly, as they are meant to be used in an emergency.
Like a warrantless arrest, ex-parte restraining orders can be executed in your absence. If the accuser convinces the court of the threat you pose to them, you can have a personal protection order placed against you without your knowledge. You will, of course, be notified later, but you are left out of the initial procedure. Longer-term protection orders will require a full hearing with your presence where you can present your case. Personal protection orders limit your contact with the other party. It also limits some of your other behaviors.
If you have a PPO against you, restrictions include:
- Limiting your ability to own and carry a gun
- Barring you from the other person’s property
- Removing child custody privileges
- Keeping you from intimidating or making threats against the other party, including stalking
How Domestic Violence Affects Divorce
Judges are going to look at abuse accusations when determining the outcome of a divorce. Michigan already uses an “equitable division” model when deciding how to divide property. This means that the judge distributes the assets based on what they believe is fair, not necessarily on equal percentages. If the court believes that you were abusive, they may reward your ex with even more of your assets as a way of trying to comfort them and punish you.
Child custody can also be impacted by domestic abuse claims. Clearly, if the judge thinks that a child is unsafe in your home, that’s going to affect their decisions. They could force you into supervised visitations or deny you visitation altogether. You could be denied full or joint custody and be relegated to being a “possessor.” This means you will have little say in decisions for your child and have authority only when they are with you.
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, we want to represent you in court. There is no risk in speaking to us, and our consultations are free. Give us a call at (517) 316-1195, or contact us online.