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Understanding A Domestic Violence Charge

Ohio Revised Code §2919.25 contains Ohio's domestic violence statute. There are three ways to violate this statute: knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm to a family or household member; recklessly causing serious physical harm to a family or household member; or, by threat of force, knowingly causing a family or household member to believe that the defendant will cause them imminent physical harm. A family or household member includes a spouse, person living as a spouse, former spouse, parent, foster parent, child, and any relative by blood or marriage that lives or has lived with the defendant.

Will You Be Arrested?

Typically, yes. Under Ohio law, if an officer responding to a domestic violence allegation has reasonable grounds to believe that domestic violence has occurred then it is the "preferred course of action in this state" to arrest the physical aggressor. See Ohio Revised Code §2935.03(B)(3)(b).

If you are not at the home after the accusation is made, you need to be aware that part of the investigation may include asking a defendant to come in and tell his or her side of the story-it is imperative you contact us before speaking with law enforcement. In most of these scenarios, the police arrest the accused.

Once arrested, a defendant will remain in jail until the first court date, called an arraignment, where a judge or magistrate will set a bond. A defendant is not able to obtain a bond until this first hearing. Often one of the terms of an individual's bond is a no contact order with the accuser / alleged victim. After the arraignment, the case is set for a pre-trial, at which the defense attorney and prosecutor meet to review the case.

A good criminal defense lawyer will take a number of steps prior to the pretrial and immediately after being contacted to represent a person accused of domestic violence.

What Are The Penalties For Domestic Violence?

Generally, domestic violence is either charged as a first degree misdemeanor or a fourth degree misdemeanor. If the charge involves an allegation of causing physical harm then it is a first degree misdemeanor which carries the possibility of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Domestic violence is a fourth degree misdemeanor when the charge is based on an allegation of threatened harm. A fourth degree misdemeanor carries up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. Domestic violence is also an enhanceable offense, which means that if a defendant has previously been convicted of a domestic violence charge then there are additional penalties, including the possibility of being charged as a felony.

There are also collateral consequences to be considered with domestic violence charges above and beyond the court imposed penalties. A first degree misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can never be sealed or expunged from one's record. It also renders a defendant ineligible to own a firearm under federal law.

How Can We Help?

Our criminal defense team at Rittgers & Rittgers has years of helping people charged with domestic violence. We have numerous not guilty jury verdicts in these cases and frequently help folks resolve their case by reaching a less severe plea bargain with lower consequences. We understand the process, the consequences, and what's at stake, and aggressively defend these cases. We are prepared to litigate these cases through a trial or to work to resolve the case through a plea bargain. Potential plea agreements range from diversion (as discussed in our previous blog post) to disorderly conduct ( a non-violent and sealable offense) to assault or domestic violence as a fourth degree misdemeanor (both of which are able to be sealed). 

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