When Domestic Dispute Result in Criminal Charges
Our Maryland domestic violence criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Gary H. Gerstenfield understand that many times ordinary arguments become animated and escalate until one of the parties makes a regrettable mistake. There are still other situations where allegations of domestic violence against one’s child or spouse are used as a sword to gain an advantage in a divorce or child custody dispute rather than a shield to protect one from harm.
While the victim may later recant false allegations, domestic violence is a unique type of criminal offense where it is difficult to “unring the bell.” The political pressure on prosecutors in the wake of pressure from women’s advocacy organizations and in response to high profile domestic violence cases like the O.J. Simpson and Chris Brown-Rihanna case often motivate prosecutors to try to obtain a conviction in a domestic violence case even though the victim has completely recanted.
The Potentially Devastating Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Maryland, you may face either a misdemeanor or felony conviction, which could mean incarceration, fines, domestic violence classes, a criminal record, bans on firearm ownership, probation and more. Further, the consequences of a domestic violence conviction can have a dramatic impact on many areas of one’s life, including but not limited to the following:
While this is not a comprehensive listing of every consequence of a domestic violence conviction, it should be clear that domestic violence allegations can touch every aspect of your life. Because our Maryland domestic violence criminal defense lawyers understand that these charges can impact your family relationships, career and reputation in the community, we provide a zealous defense to prevent our clients’ lives from being derailed. We analyze law enforcement reports, 911 recordings, statements by the purported victim, medical reports, photographs, the credibility of other witnesses and motivations of the complaining witness to lie.
There are several types of domestic violence under Maryland law, which include First-Degree Domestic Violence, Second-Degree Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence against a Minor.
Understanding First Degree Domestic Violence under Maryland Law
If you have been arrested and charged with First-Degree Domestic Violence, you are facing a prosecution for the most severe form of domestic violence offense under Maryland law (Code ß 3-202), which also applies to first-degree assault offenses. A person may be convicted of first-degree assault when a person causes a “serious physical injury” to another individual. The term “serious physical injury” is a legal term of art that is defined by Code ß 3-201 as causing prolonged disfigurement or a substantial probability of death. This also includes any significant impairment of body function. Even if you do not cause serious physical injury, you may still be prosecuted for first degree domestic violence if you use virtually any firearm.
Anyone convicted of domestic violence in the first-degree faces exposure to a maximum sentence of 25 years in state prison. A conviction of this more serious form of domestic violence may also result in other forms of punishment, such as community service, restraining orders, substantial fines, probation and more.
Understanding Second-Degree Domestic Violence under Maryland Law
If the severity of injury does not rise to the level that it supports a 1st Degree Domestic Violence charge, the prosecutor will charge this offense if an injury is inflicted to another, including a person with whom you reside. Although this is considered a misdemeanor offense, this is still an extremely serious criminal charge that may result in a prison term of up to ten years and a maximum fine up to $2,500. The other adverse effects that apply to a felony charge of domestic violence also apply if you are accused of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Understanding Domestic Violence against a Minor under Maryland Law
This form of domestic violence is covered by Maryland State Code ß 3-601 and can be charged against a parent or other caregiver of a child. If the parent causes severe or fatal physical injuries, the accused can be charged with a felony offense of First-Degree Child Abuse and face exposure to a maximum term in the penitentiary of thirty years. If the injury caused by the “abuse” does not rise to this level, the prosecutor will still charge a felony for Second-Degree Child Abuse. The penalties that apply for First-Degree Child Abuse also apply here except the maximum period of imprisonment is fifteen years.
While domestic violence charges have serious consequences, our Maryland domestic violence attorneys have assisted many people facing false charges motivated by anger or strategic advantage in a family law case as well as those where allegations were exaggerated. Statements made by complaining witnesses in the heat of an intense argument may be distorted or false. When we are able to intervene early, we may be able to get the prosecutor to dismiss the charge or reduce the charges to a less severe offense that does not carry the damaging consequences of a domestic violence charge. We understand the importance of obtaining a dismissal or acquittal whenever possible so we analyze the best factual and procedural defense strategies.