While some states do not classify domestic violence as a discrete criminal offense, Georgia’s Family Violence Act codifies specific legal protections for victims of domestic abuse. State law allows for enhanced criminal penalties if an offense is designated as an act of “family violence,” including both fines and potential prison time.
If you were recently accused of committing a violent act against a family member, you should make it a priority to seek representation from an Atlanta domestic violence lawyer. Local courts take these kinds of cases extremely seriously, so it may be wise to retain a qualified defense attorney who has experience handling these charges.
As per Official Code of Georgia §19-13-1, a criminal offense may be classified as family violence if the alleged victim is a current or former spouse, a co-parent, or a parent or child of the perpetrator by blood, marriage, or fostering. Assault and battery are most common forms of domestic violence offenses, but this designation can also be applied to crimes like stalking, criminal property damage, unlawful restraint, or any other offense considered to be a felony.
A parent engaging in “reasonable discipline” of their minor child is not considered a form of domestic abuse, even if it involves restraining, detaining or corporally punishing the child. However, excessive use of force that results in severe physical or psychological harm to a child may constitute assault and qualify as domestic abuse. A knowledgeable family violence attorney in the area could clarify why particular acts are classified as criminal charges.
State law expressly allows and encourages courts to pass down harsher sentences upon domestic violence convictions. Depending on the offense, enhanced penalties could be applied for a first conviction, after multiple convictions, or solely at the discretion of the court overseeing a case.
For example, a first offense of battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 12 months and a $1,000 fine whether it is committed against a family member or a non-family member. When someone who was previously convicted of battery against a family member is then accused of that same offense against a family member again, they would be prosecuted for a felony punishable by five years in prison at most.
While simple assault against a non-family member is a misdemeanor offense, any assault of a family member—regardless of any prior criminal record, or lack thereof—is a high and aggravated misdemeanor offense. This does not allow for increased jail time but does allow for a maximum fine of $5,000. Working with an experienced local domestic violence lawyer could be crucial to understanding how state law applies to a particular criminal case.
Even if you have never been convicted of a criminal offense or even arrested on suspicion of committing one before, it is important to take domestic violence allegations seriously. State law allows courts to order enhanced sanctions for certain criminal convictions if they are classified as family violence, and if you fail to effectively fight back against these charges, you could face steep personal, professional, and legal consequences.
Guidance from an Atlanta domestic violence lawyer could allow you to ensure your rights are respected and protect yourself in court. Call today to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about your options.