Domestic violence involves assault or threats between people in a current or prior relationship. Domestic violence is taken very seriously by police in Alabama and a domestic violence call almost always ends up with an arrest. The penalties for domestic violence depend on the specific events but can include a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Under the Alabama criminal code, domestic violence charges include:
- First-degree domestic violence
- Second-degree domestic violence
- Third-degree domestic violence
- Domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation
- Violating a domestic violence protection order
In order to be considered domestic violence, the people involved have to have a domestic relationship together. This includes:
- Current spouse
- Former spouse
- Any person with whom the defendant has a child in common
- Present household member
- Former household member
- Has or had a dating relationship
A dating relationship includes an engaged couple or a “significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature characterized by the expectation of affectionate or sexual involvement over a period of time and on a continuing basis during the course of the relationship.”
Domestic Violence in the First Degree
Under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-130, domestic violence involves first-degree assault or aggravated stalking between people in a domestic relationship. First-degree assault generally involves intentionally causing a serious injury to another person by use of a dangerous weapon or causing a serious and permanent injury.
Aggravated stalking involves stalking someone in violation of a protective or restraining order. Stalking is intentionally and repeatedly following or harassing another person and making threats that put the other person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm.
First-degree domestic violence in Alabama is a Class A felony. The penalties for a conviction of a Class A felony in Alabama include from 10 years up to life in prison. If a deadly weapon was used during the crime, the minimum sentence is 20 years in prison.
Domestic Violence in the Second Degree
Under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-131, second-degree domestic violence includes any of the following violations against another person the defendant has a domestic relationship with:
- Second-degree assault
- Intimidating a witness
- Second-degree burglary
- Third-degree burglary
- First-degree criminal mischief
Second-degree domestic violence is a Class B felony. The penalties for a Class B felony conviction in Alabama include from 2 years to 20 years in prison. However, a conviction for second-degree domestic violence carries a minimum term of 6-months in prison. If the domestic violence involved a violation of a protection order, the minimum penalty will be doubled.
Domestic Violence in the Third Degree
Under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-132, third-degree domestic violence includes any of the following violations against another person with whom the defendant has a domestic relationship:
- Third-degree assault
- Reckless endangerment
- Criminal coercion
- Criminal surveillance
- Harassing communications
- Third-degree criminal trespass
- Second-degree criminal mischief
- Third-degree criminal mischief
- Third-degree arson
Third-degree domestic violence is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction of a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama include up to one year in prison. If the defendant violated a protection order in committing third-degree domestic violence, there is a minimum sentence of 30 days in prison. A second conviction for third-degree domestic violence has a minimum prison term of 10 days in jail. A third or subsequent conviction for third-degree domestic violence is a felony.
Domestic Violence by Strangulation or Suffocation
There is a separate criminal offense of domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation. Under Alabama Code Section 13A-6-138, domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation involves assault or menacing by strangulation, suffocation, or attempted strangulation or suffocation against a victim.
Strangulation involves intentionally causing asphyxia by compression of the blood vessels or air passages of the neck through external pressure. Suffocation involves depriving a person of air or preventing a person from breathing by obstructing the airways or causing inhalation of toxic gases.
Domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation is a Class B felony, with penalties including from 2 years to 20 years in prison.
Violating a Domestic Violence Protection Order
A domestic violence protection order is a court order that protects someone from abuse. This generally requires the alleged aggressor to stay a minimum distance away from the alleged victim and prohibits any type of contact. This may include a requirement to stay away from a person's home, work, school, or family members. It may prohibit contact in person, by phone, email, text, or even social media.
Violating a domestic violence protection order is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction of a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama include up to one year in prison. However, a second violation carries a minimum sentence of 30 days in prison. A third or subsequent conviction carries a minimum jail sentence of 120 days behind bars.
Experienced Northern Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney
John Allen knows the risks and penalties involved with a conviction for domestic violence. Even the accusation of domestic violence can ruin a person's life. Experienced criminal defense attorney John Allen will vigorously defend you from charges ranging from first-degree domestic violence to violating a protection order. An arrest does not mean you have to be convicted. Experienced criminal defense attorneys like John Allen know how to challenge the state's evidence and fight for his clients. Contact Huntsville criminal defense lawyer John Allen today.