February 14 is Valentine’s Day, a day created to recognize the importance of the love we hold for one another. For most of us, Valentine’s Day means showing our loved ones how much we care with romantic gestures and well-meant gifts of flowers and chocolate. Sadly, for some people, Valentine’s Day means a brief reprieve from their abusive relationship. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Valentine’s Day is one of three days (alongside Christmas and Thanksgiving) where there is a slight decrease in reports of domestic abuse in the United States. That brief moment of relief is cold comfort for those who are victims of family violence.
Despite the name, family violence does not have to occur between family members. Under Georgia law, family violence is defined as any pattern of deliberately violent and abusive behavior between people in a domestic relationship, committed with the intent of establishing power and control. This includes parents and children, spouses and intimate partners, and roommates or housemates. There does not have to be physical abuse for an act to count as family violence either – if someone subjects a person fitting one of the above categories to emotional abuse, threatens to hurt them, stalks them, or deliberately damages their property, they can also be charged with family violence.
Despite the slight downtick in reports of domestic violence this Valentine’s Day, there are still bound to be lovers’ quarrels. These arguments can escalate into a domestic disturbance… and the situation might not be perfectly cut and dry. It takes two to tango, and there are unique circumstances leading to every incident. For example, you might be trying to get away from an argument with a partner that turned physical or fighting back against a spouse who attacked you first. Unfortunately, this might not save you from being charged with family violence if the police are called to your house.
A Family Violence Charge Can be Heartbreaking
When police are called to the site of a domestic disturbance, the laws codified in the Georgia Family Violence Act allows them to arrest whoever they identify as the primary aggressor. They do not need strong evidence to make this arrest like they would for a typical assault or battery case, nor are they required to consider the relationship between the two parties. It does not matter if the other person did not want anyone to be arrested, or if they were just as or more at fault as the alleged primary aggressor. If your lovers’ quarrel goes sour, and police believe you are to blame, you will find yourself facing a domestic violence charge.
Georgia’s family violence laws were created with good intentions. 35.1% of Georgia men and 39.9% of Georgia women experience intimate partner violence,and 1,150 Georgia citizens lost their lives to domestic violence from 2003 through 2015. Make no mistake – family violence laws were created for a good reason, and they can help save lives. Unfortunately, if you have been wrongfully charged with family violence, you can find the same laws created to protect victims ruining your life.
If you are charged with family violence, you might have a temporary protective order, or TPO filed against you. A TPO will prevent you from contacting the other person under threat of jail time, even if they contact you first. This can force you to find a new place to live if you were cohabiting with the alleged victim. A family violence conviction can also cause you to lose your job, especially if you work directly with women, children, or the elderly, or if are a respected public servant like a teacher.
You will not necessarily lose your right to a firearm if you are charged with family violence in Georgia. However, there is a very real possibility that the judge will require you to give up your guns. This is another legal policy created with good intentions – a firearm in the home of an abusive partner leads to a 500% increase in domestic violence fatalities. There have been pushes to make it explicitly illegal for Georgia citizens convicted of family violence to bear arms for this reason. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned decisions can affect those wrongfully convicted of family violence as well.
Georgia law also penalizes acts of family violence more harshly. For example, a simple assault involving family violence is considered a high and aggravated misdemeanor, which can cost you up to $5,000, one year of jail time, and no more than four days’ credit for good behavior while incarcerated. To put this in perspective, inmates under typical misdemeanor sentences can receive two days’ credit for good behavior for each day they serve. If a crime of battery is considered family violence, and it is your second time being charged, it will be considered a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Don’t let a wrongful conviction of family violence turn what’s supposed to be a celebration of love into a day of heartbreak. If you have been charged with domestic violence in Georgia, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team today, and see how our experienced criminal defense team can help you with your case. And if you are facing domestic abuse, know that you are no less deserving of help. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and get help today.