Domestic violence charges may not always be crystal clear, and at times can be confusing. This is especially the case when taking a look at each state’s laws concerning the matter. But one thing is clear.
Domestic violence is a serious offense that is never taken lightly. Depending on the situation and certain factors that play into account, defendants may face felony charges because of it.
Here’s a closer look at the differences between a misdemeanor and a domestic violence felony and how much more serious the consequences that the defendant may have to face up to. We’ll also show you the differences between states and how the consequences may look a little different.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony or Misdemeanor?
No matter what part of the country you live, domestic violence is an offense that is always taken very seriously.
You may live in a state that considers it to be a felony, depending on certain factors, while in other states, it’s seen as a misdemeanor.
How it’s classified based on these factors will determine the possible sentence that the abuser will have to face.
Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
In the state of California, misdemeanors are crimes that can be punishable by up to one year in the county jail.
Most of these individuals are usually placed on one-year informal probation, where they may have to spend a certain amount of time in jail in condition with that probation.
Even with a misdemeanor, there may be collateral consequences that remain on a person’s record until the conviction has been expunged.
A felony is the most serious between the two and can lead to more serious sentencing. Individuals that are convicted can be sentenced to the state prison facility for a specific time period. The judge is able to determine whether to sentence them up to a year of formal probation.
A felony conviction can have more serious ramifications, including voter privileges being taken away, as well as showing up on your record and keeping you from being able to get certain jobs or even housing opportunities.
There are also felonies that are considered “wobblers,” where they could be charged as felonies or reduced to misdemeanors.
It’s the prosecutor’s job to review the case and to also take a look at the defendant’s criminal history in order to determine the severity of the charges to file. There are times when the judge will reduce the felony to a misdemeanor when the offense is seen as a wobbler.
For a majority of California’s domestic violence cases, where the defendant is arrested on suspicion of corporal injury to a partner or spouse, is usually viewed as a wobbler offense.
It’s up to the detective and the Deputy District Attorney to review the case and then decide what level of charges to file the case under.
When the defendant is found to have a past domestic violence history or there are injuries that have been left on the victim, for obvious reasons, the prosecutor will file felony charges. When bodily injuries are found to be more severe, the punishment will also increase in this situation.
In other cases where there is found to be physical contact, but no injury is present, the prosecutor will usually decide to charge the defendant with domestic battery, or in other words, a misdemeanor.
California’s 3 Strikes Law
Ever since 1994, the state of California has implemented a 3 Strikes Law in domestic violence cases. If convicted of a strike offense, any future convictions will be much more severe in consequence.
If the defendant already has a prior strike against them, then the normal term sentence at a state prison for that particular crime will be doubled.
When the defendant is found to have 2 or 3 strikes already against them, the law requires them to serve a minimum of 25 years to a maximum life sentence at a state prison.
In the state of Ohio, when domestic violence takes place and the victim is harmed by the defendant, it’s often classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor. That is unless the defendant already has prior convictions or the victim is found to be pregnant.
In those cases, the defendant may be charged with a 3rd, 4th, or 5th-degree felony, also depending on the number of prior convictions or if the unborn baby was harmed in any way.
When a defendant is found guilty of threatening another person, they are typically charged with a 4th-degree misdemeanor. But this also depends on the number of prior convictions as well as whether the defendant knew that the victim was pregnant.
In these situations, the defendant could face 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree misdemeanor charges.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Ohio
These are the following penalties that a defendant could face if convicted of the following:
- 1st Degree Misdemeanor, up to 6 months in jail, and, or up to a $1000 fine
- 2nd Degree Misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail, and, or up to a $750 fine
- 3rd Degree Misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail, and, or up to a $500 fine
- 5th Degree Felony, 6 to 12 months in prison, and, or up to a $2,500 fine
- 4th Degree Felony, 6 to 18 months in prison, and, or up to a $5,000 fine
- 3rd Degree Felony, 9 months to 3 years in prison, and, or up to a $10,000 fine
The defendant also may be required to pay back the victim any restitution, whether it’s medical treatment, counseling, or replacing damaged property.
No matter the situation, domestic violence is never okay. Depending on the state that you live in and the laws that they have in place, abusers could be facing some serious felony charges and time in prison. Each state is required to punish abusers to the full extent of the law.