You got into an argument with your spouse, significant other, or another family or household member. Tempers flared. Harsh words were said. Maybe things were thrown. Then, it got physical—and now you find yourself the subject of a Protective Order (PO) or facing accusations or charges of domestic assault and battery. One thing is certain: You're in deep trouble.
It's impossible to overstate the gravity of your current situation. Regardless of what you may have heard from the folks at the jail, the bondsman who bailed you out, or your friends, domestic violence accusations or charges can turn your entire life upside down, jeopardizing your freedom, career, reputation, gun rights, and future. This is not your buddy's bar brawl or your cousin's DUI. This is much, much more serious. Here's what you need to know.
Say Goodbye to Your Guns
Enjoy hunting or target shooting? Work in a profession that requires you to carry a firearm? Well, if you're found guilty of domestic violence or assault and battery or accept a plea deal, you can kiss your guns goodbye—forever. Federal law prohibits anyone who's ever taken a plea or been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge from owning or possessing a gun, or even a single round of ammunition. Those found in violation of this law risk federal felony charges. Stop and think about the impact that kind of restriction (or a federal felony charge) would have on your life. Got your attention? Good.
Oklahoma Domestic Violence Charges and Potential Penalties
Gun rights aren't the only things you stand to lose if you're convicted of domestic abuse. Here are the penalties you could face if you take a plea or are found guilty of the following charges:
- Domestic assault and battery. The first offense is a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to one year in the county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Second or subsequent offenses are felonies that are punishable by up to four years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
- Domestic abuse committed in the presence of a child. The first offense can result in up to a year in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Second or subsequent offenses are punishable by one to five years in prison, fines of up to $7,000, or both.
- Domestic abuse of a pregnant woman. The first offense is a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in the county jail, while subsequent offenses are felonies punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison. An assault that results in miscarriage or injury to the unborn child is a felony that can result in 20 or more years in prison.
- Domestic abuse resulting in great bodily injury. This is a felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- Domestic abuse by strangulation. The first offense can result in between one and three years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both, while subsequent offenses carry penalties of between three and 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.
What is Domestic Violence / Assault and Battery?
Assault and battery are two separate crimes, although they are very similar and easily confused. Assault refers to a threat of violence, as opposed to battery which refers to unlawful physical contact with the intent to cause injury, harm, or pain. Assault AND battery refers to both the threat of violence and the accompanying physical contact. This is actually a more complex question than one would originally have anticipated. Simply explained, domestic assault and battery is the act as regular assault and battery with one big addition.
The addition of the word “domestic” to assault and battery refers to Oklahoma Legislature’s intent to separate and differentiate between violence between strangers and intimate partner violence. Over the years, the word “domestic” has been expanded to mean people associated by blood, by marriage, by living situation, or by romantic/dating relationships. This differentiation is based on an expanding concern over the prevalence of violence occurring between intimate partners and families.
The Oklahoma Legislature defines domestic abuse as, “‘Domestic abuse’ means any act of physical harm, or the threat of imminent physical harm which is committed by an adult, emancipated minor, or minor child thirteen (13) years of age or older against another adult, emancipated minor or minor child who are family or household members or who are or were in a dating relationship;” Title 22 O.S. § 60.1.
The “elements” that the State of Oklahoma must prove to obtain a conviction for Domestic Assault and Battery are:
“No person may be convicted of domestic abuse unless the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime.
These elements are:
Third, attempting or offering to use force or violence; and
Fourth, the use of force or violence;
Fifth, was against the person of a _____________. * [Specify Applicable Relationship in 21 O.S. Supp. 2000, § 644(C)].”
** The relationships listed in 21 O.S. 2011, § 644(C) includes "a current or former spouse, a present spouse of a former spouse, a former spouse of a present spouse, parents, a foster parent, a child, a person otherwise related by blood or marriage, a person with whom the defendant is or was in a dating relationship as defined by section 60.1 of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes, an individual with whom the defendant has had a child, a person who formerly lived in the same household as the defendant, or a person living in the same household as the defendant."
Title 22 O.S. §60.1 defines “dating relationship as, “‘Dating relationship’ means a courtship or engagement relationship. For purposes of this act, a casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context shall not constitute a dating relationship...”
So, in its simplest form, domestic assault and battery is the willful and unlawful attempt or offering of violence and the accompanying use of violence against a person with whom the defendant has significant/substantial relationship.
Domestic assault and battery can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on specific allegations or conditions, as alleged by the “victim(s).” Some factors that can change a misdemeanor to a felony include, but are not limited to, the extent of the alleged victim’s injuries, if instant charge is a second offense for the defendant, is the alleged victim complaining that a weapon was involved, and or, was the alleged victim strangled.
Domestic Violence Intervention Counseling
Even if you get a deferred or suspended sentence with probation and no jail time, you're not off the hook. You'll be required to complete 52 weeks of domestic violence intervention counseling (DVIS). All 52 sessions are mandatory, you can't miss more than three sessions in a row, and if you miss more than seven sessions in an entire year, you have to start the process all over again or risk being found not in compliance—and late arrivals count as absences. Additionally, you'll have to show up in court every three months to prove you're attending sessions as ordered.
Don't Expect These Charges to Just Go Away
Long gone are the days when domestic violence charges were dropped because the parties in question reconciled or the victim didn't show up in court. Thanks to increasingly harsh laws and the existence of police body camera footage, Oklahoma prosecutors may have everything they need to move forward, even without the victim's blessing or participation.
Don't Let a Domestic Violence Charge Destroy Your Life
Did a judge grant a protective order against you? Are you facing potentially life-shattering domestic assault and battery charges? Whether you made some mistakes or have been falsely accused and charged, there's far too much at stake to go it alone—or risk it all by working with an attorney who's a jack of all trades and master of none. When your life hangs in the balance, only a Master of One will do. Fortunately, you've come to the right place: Lee Berlin is the state's only private criminal defense attorney to focus his practice solely on defending clients accused of special victims crimes like domestic assault and battery. Contact the Berlin Law Firm today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation to discuss your case and learn about the benefits of our proprietary defense system.