Domestic violence is a serious issue in Arizona and throughout the country. On the other hand, many domestic violence cases involve relatively minor offenses. What might be viewed as a scuffle in one context is viewed in a much more serious light when the act is allegedly committed against a person with whom the defendant has a family relationship – present or former spouses, household members, those who are or were in a romantic sexual relationship, and others. As an example, if two people get into a minor shoving match at a bar, with no injuries or weapons involved, the chances are that both will end up going home – although perhaps angry or frustrated – and sleeping in their own beds that night. Not so with domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Perhaps the first thing to understand is that in Arizona, domestic violence is not a specific crime; rather, it could be one of a large number of specified offenses – some serious, and some minor – among spouses and others in a family or romantic relationship. An example is assault under A.R.S. 13-1203A3, which is basically coming into physical contact with another person with the intent either to injure, to provoke or to insult that other person. It is a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries maximum jail time of 30 days.
In the context of an altercation at a bar (as described above), there likely would be no consequences to the participants, other than perhaps a bruised ego. But if the same conduct occurs between spouses, and the police are called, you can be reasonably sure that there will be an immediate arrest. And because of the haste exercised by the police in many of these situations, the arrest could well be the result of a false statement by one of them, leading to the wrong person being charged.
So one of the parties, often the breadwinner, ends up in jail, while the underlying dispute often involves money, or the lack thereof. A conviction for the domestic violence offense could lead to loss of job and future employment possibilities, worsening the financial situation with no real benefit to anyone. One answer to this problem is diversion.
Diversion and Domestic Violence
Diversion is a kind of a plea bargain in which the defendant agrees to a program, in this case focusing on domestic violence prevention. In Phoenix, it will involve between 26 and 52 two-hour sessions. If the defendant completes the program, the underlying charge against him or her – in this case (domestic violence) assault – will be dismissed. While diversion is not available in the case of most serious crimes, or for most repeat offenders, it nevertheless provides a mechanism to educate the parties, and avoids the stigma and negative financial consequences of a domestic violence conviction.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004