ARS § 13-3601 is the Arizona statute that defines the offense of domestic violence. The law applies when someone commits a certain crime specified under the statute and does so when in a domestic relationship with the “victim” (for example, when married to the alleged victim or formerly married to the alleged victim). A violation of this law can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony and is punishable by years in jail or prison.
The language of ARS 13-3601 sets forth several criminal offenses that can lead to domestic violence charges (provided that the accused commits them while in a domestic relationship with the “victim”). Some of these include:
- aggravated assault, per ARS 13-1204,
- endangerment, per ARS 13-1201, and
- sexual assault, per ARS 13-1406.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help defendants contest domestic violence charges. Some of these include showing that a defendant:
- committed an act on accident,
- acted in self-defense, and/or
- was falsely accused.
A violation of ARS 13-3601 is punished in the same manner as the underlying offense on which the domestic violence charge is based.
If, for example, a defendant is convicted of sexually assaulting his ex-wife, then he faces a conviction for domestic violence sexual assault. This crime is punishable by:
- a Class 2 felony charge, and
- custody in state prison for up to seven years.
These punishments are the same ones that a defendant would face for sexual assault alone.
In some circumstances, a domestic violence charge may result in additional penalties, such as:
- additional jail or prison time,
- completion of a domestic violence offender treatment program, and
- revocation of a person’s right to own or possess a firearm.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “domestic violence”?
Under Arizona law, people are guilty of a domestic violence offense if:
- they commit a crime that is listed within ARS 13-3601, and
- do so while in a “domestic relationship” with the alleged victim.i
Arizona’s domestic violence law lists several crimes that may trigger a charge under this statute. Some of these include:
- aggravated assault, per ARS 13-1204,
- elder abuse, per ARS 13-3623,
- endangerment, per ARS 13-1201,
- sexual assault, per ARS 13-1406,
- disorderly conduct, per ARS 13-2904,
- unlawful imprisonment, per ARS 13-1303,
- criminal trespass, per ARS 13-1504,
- child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse, per ARS 13-3623,
- custodial interference, per ARS 13-1302,
- first-degree murder, per ARS 13-1105,
- negligent homicide, per ARS 13-1102, and
- aggravated harassment, per ARS 13-2921.01.ii
Note that, for purposes of domestic violence cases, there is a “domestic relationship” in the following type of relationships:
- current or former spouses,
- persons who share or shared in the same household,
- persons who have a child together,
- the victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, or sister or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law,
- the victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the defendant, or
- a relationship between the victim and the defendant that currently, or was previously, a romantic or sexual relationship.iii
Note that domestic violence offenses in Arizona are treated as dangerous crimes. For example, a peace officer, with or without warrant, can arrest a person for this offense if:
- the law enforcement agent has probable cause to believe that domestic violence occurred, and
- the police officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed the offense.iv
This is true whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor and whether the offense was committed within or without the presence of the officer.v
The above also holds true in cases where the officer believes someone committed an act of domestic violence by inflicting physical injury or by threatening with a deadly weapon.vi
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-3601 charges?
People facing criminal charges under this statute have the right to challenge them with a legal defense. Three common defenses include accused people showing that they:
- committed an act on accident.
- acted in self-defense, or
- were falsely accused.
Many of the crimes listed within ARS 13-3601 say that people are only guilty of an offense if they acted intentionally, knowingly, or with some other purpose. For example, a person commits an assault only if he knowingly touched someone or intentionally injured someone. This means it is always a defense in domestic violence cases for a defendant to show that he/she committed an act on accident, or without some other purpose. Perhaps, a husband struck a wife because of some mishap rather than an intentional act.
An accused can challenge a domestic abuse or domestic violence charge by showing that he/she committed some domestic violence crime out of self-defense. Defendants can raise this defense provided that the force they used in defending themselves was reasonable under the circumstances.
2.3 Falsely accused
Unfortunately, people often falsely accuse others of domestic violence crimes. For example, they may falsify charges to help in a child custody dispute or out of revenge for certain family members. No matter the reasons, though, defendants can challenge charges under this statute by saying they were unjustly blamed.
3. What are the penalties?
A domestic violence conviction carries the same penalties as the underlying offense on which the domestic violence charge is based.
Consider, for example, the crime of disorderly conduct under ARS 13-2904. The crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.
If a person commits the offense and he/she is in a domestic relationship with the victim, then he/she will be charged with domestic violence disorderly conduct. The crime is punished in the same manner as with disorderly conduct – a Class 1 misdemeanor charge and the potential of custody in jail for up to six months.
Note, though, that there are certain cases in which an act of domestic violence will lead to further penalties. Depending on the facts of the case, a domestic violence offense can lead to:
- longer time in jail or state prison,
- the mandatory completion of a domestic violence offender treatment program, and/or
- revocation of a person’s right to own, possess, or purchase a firearm.
In addition, victims of domestic violence can seek a protective order, or order of protection, against the perpetrator to try and end any sexual and domestic violence.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to acts of domestic violence. These are:
- aggravated assault – ARS-13-1204,
- threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202, and
- child abuse – ARS 13-3623.
4.1 Aggravated assault – ARS 13-1204
ARS 13-1204 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of aggravated assault. A person commits this offense if:
- he/she assaults another person, and
- does so by means of certain aggravating factors (such as assaulting someone and causing serious physical injury).
As stated above, aggravated assault is listed within ARS 13-3601 and could give rise to a domestic violence offense.
4.2 Threatening or intimidating – ARS 13-1202
Under ARS 13-1202, threatening and intimidating is an offense where someone either:
- threatens to physically injure someone,
- threatens to cause a serious public inconvenience (such as the evacuation of a building), or
- threatens to injure another person to promote a street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise.
Unlike with acts of domestic violence, threats that violate this statute are always charged as Class 1 misdemeanors.
4.3 Child abuse – ARS 13-3623
Per ARS 13-3623, child abuse is when a person:
- causes a child to suffer physical injury,
- allows a child to be injured, or
- allows a child to be placed in a situation that endangers the child’s health or well-being.
Unlike with domestic violence, child abuse does not require that the offender and “victim” be involved a certain relationship. Any person can be found guilty of child abuse.