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A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Family Violence

Georgia typically defines family violence as violence between certain family members.  Georgia’s definition of family violence expressly excludes a parent’s “reasonable discipline” of a child. The most common family violence misdemeanors include Battery, Simple Assault, Obstruction of a 911 Call and Cruelty to Children in the 3rd Degree. Family violence offenses typically carry greater potential penalties than identical violent acts committed among persons who are not protected under the family violence laws.   Additionally, Georgia law requires a person convicted of Family Violence Battery to complete the 22 week domestic violence intervention course.

The long term consequences and collateral consequences are often more severe than the immediate ones. Typical domestic violence (DV) sentences are probation and a fine; however, the collateral consequences can be deportation, loss of employment, loss of firearm permit, or even the right to possess a weapon. Some business licenses can also be denied to those who have a DV conviction.

As with many misdemeanor offenses, Pre-trial Diversion Programs are now common. These programs allow you to complete certain requirements like community service and counseling in exchange for dismissal and expungement of your record.

Pretrial Diversion Programs are also available for a felony domestic violence charge.   Even when a Diversion Program is not an option, the First Offender act may be an option to keep a criminal conviction off your record.  Under the Georgia First Offender Act, a defendant, at the time of entering a plea, can request that the judge sentence the defendant to First Offender Georgia treatment.  If the judge agrees, then after the defendant completes the terms and conditions of the sentence, the defendant is deemed to not have a criminal conviction.

Self-defense is a common defense to DV cases. One recent improvement in Georgia Law is that a person who claims they acted in “self-defense” is entitled to a full pre-trial hearing to determine whether the actions were justified under the doctrine of “self-defense.” Georgia Law also provides that the use of “Opprobrious Language” can justify battery. “Opprobrious Language” is scornful or abusive language.

Another common defense is based on the fact that there are rarely witnesses to DV cases. Police officers can make an arrest, but they do not have much say when it comes to trial. This is because the statements of individuals are usually not admissible. Battery cases are often “he said/she said” cases that lack corroborating evidence. Our experience is that the government really just want to see the underlying problems solved (i.e., no more calls to the police), and if they are given a reasonable alternative to prosecution, they usually agree to dismiss the charges.