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The Landscape of Domestic Violence in Alabama

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In Alabama, domestic violence laws are designed to protect individuals from abuse within domestic settings and ensure that offenders face appropriate legal consequences. The state recognizes various degrees of domestic violence charges, each differing in severity and specific criteria. This article will explore the distinctions between Domestic Violence in the Third Degree, Domestic Violence in the Second Degree, Domestic Violence in the First Degree, and Domestic Violence by Strangulation.

Domestic Violence in the Third Degree

Domestic Violence in the Third Degree is considered a misdemeanor and encompasses a range of behaviors that involve physical harm, threats, or coercion against a family or household member. According to Alabama Code Section 13A-6-132, an individual can be charged with Domestic Violence in the Third Degree if they commit any of the following offenses against a current or former spouse, a parent, child, or any person with whom they have a dating or engagement relationship:

  1. Assault in the Third Degree
  2. Menacing
  3. Reckless Endangerment
  4. Criminal Coercion
  5. Harassment
  6. Criminal Surveillance
  7. Harassing Communications
  8. Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree
  9. Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree
  10. Arson in the Third Degree

Penalties for Domestic Violence in the Third Degree can include up to one year in jail, fines, probation, and mandatory participation in domestic violence intervention programs. The severity of the punishment can be influenced by the presence of prior convictions or the specific circumstances of the offense.

Domestic Violence in the Second Degree

Domestic Violence in the Second Degree is a more serious charge and is classified as a Class B felony. According to Alabama Code Section 13A-6-131, this charge applies when an individual commits any of the following offenses against a family or household member:

  1. Assault in the Second Degree
  2. Intimidation
  3. Stalking
  4. Burglary in the Second or Third Degree
  5. Criminal Mischief in the First Degree
  6. Discharging a firearm into an occupied or unoccupied vehicle, building, or other dwelling

Penalties for Domestic Violence in the Second Degree include prison sentences ranging from 2 to 20 years, substantial fines, and long-term consequences such as the loss of certain civil rights. The increased severity of this charge reflects the more serious nature of the offenses it encompasses. The sentencing includes enhancement provisions for multiple convictions.

Domestic Violence in the First Degree

Domestic Violence in the First Degree is one of the most serious domestic violence charges and is classified as a Class A felony. Under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-130, this charge is applied when an individual commits one of the following offenses against a family or household member:

  1. Assault in the First Degree
  2. Aggravated Stalking
  3. Burglary in the First Degree

Given its severity, penalties for Domestic Violence in the First Degree are harsh, including prison sentences ranging from 10 to 99 years or life imprisonment, along with substantial fines. This charge is reserved for the most egregious cases of domestic violence, involving severe physical harm or significant threats to the victim’s safety. Multiple convictions will call for mandatory imprisonment.

Domestic Violence by Strangulation

Domestic Violence by Strangulation is a specific and serious charge classified as a Class B felony under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-138. This charge applies when the perpetrator intentionally impedes the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a family or household member by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose or mouth.

Key elements that distinguish Domestic Violence by Strangulation include:

  1. Intentionality: The act must be deliberate and intended to impede breathing or blood circulation.
  2. Method: The use of pressure on the throat or neck, or obstructing the nose or mouth, must be the means of causing harm.

Penalties for Domestic Violence by Strangulation can result in prison sentences ranging from 2 to 20 years, significant fines, and long-term consequences such as the loss of certain civil rights.

Strategic Considerations

Severity and Classification

– Domestic Violence in the Third Degree: Misdemeanor; covers a broad range of less severe offenses.

– Domestic Violence in the Second Degree: Class B felony; involves more serious offenses.

– Domestic Violence in the First Degree: Class A felony; involves the most severe offenses.

– Domestic Violence by Strangulation: Class B felony; involves narrow criteria but a specific and severe method of assault.

Penalties

– Domestic Violence in the Third Degree: Up to one year in jail, fines, probation.

– Domestic Violence in the Second Degree: 2 to 20 years in prison, substantial fines.

– Domestic Violence in the First Degree: 10 to 99 years or life imprisonment, substantial fines.

– Domestic Violence by Strangulation: 2 to 20 years in prison, substantial fines.

Elements of the Crime

– Domestic Violence in the Third Degree: Includes various forms of physical harm, harrasment, threats, or coercion.

– Domestic Violence in the Second Degree: Involves more serious offenses such as second-degree assault and stalking.

– Domestic Violence in the First Degree: Involves the most severe offenses such as first-degree assault and aggravated stalking.

– Domestic Violence by Strangulation: Specifically involves intentional actions to impede breathing or blood circulation.

Legal Proceedings

– Domestic Violence in the Third Degree: Typically handled in District Court or Municipal Court with potential for lighter sentences. These cases are tried before a judge only, known as a “bench trial,” however, the defendant is entitled to an appeal de novo to Circuit Court before a jury so long as it is demanded in a timely fashion.

– Domestic Violence in the Second Degree: Handled in Circuit Court with more severe legal consequences. The Defendant is entitled to a jury trial.

– Domestic Violence in the First Degree: Handled in Circuit Court with the harshest penalties. The Defendant is entitled to a jury trial.

– Domestic Violence by Strangulation: Handled in Circuit Court, reflecting the seriousness of the offense. The Defendant is entitled to a jury trial.

Conclusion

Understanding the distinctions between Domestic Violence in the Third Degree, Second Degree, First Degree, and Domestic Violence by Strangulation is crucial for both victims and those accused. Each charge addresses different levels of harm and employs different legal criteria and penalties. It is important to understand that Defendant’s are sometimes improperly charged. For example, a Defendant might be incorrectly charged with Domestic Violence Strangulation when he or she should have been charged as Domestic Violence Third Degree. Understanding the elements of each charge is critical to preparing a proper defense and discussing the case intelligently with prosecutors and law enforcement.

At Brackin Law Firm we are ready to defend your domestic violence charge. If you have pending charges in any state or municipal court in Baldwin County, Alabama, call us today to discuss your options.

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