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State’s domestic violence laws have a new bite, longer reach

The days of a spouse having to worry about testifying against an abusive or violent mate due to fear of repercussion are fading away.

The State of Alabama legislators recently took a positive step toward putting more bite into the crimes of Domestic Violence.

HB-16, which later became Act no. 2000-266 separates domestic violence into its own category.

In the past, offenses stemming from domestic violence were considered as a part of other statutes of the Criminal Code of Alabama.

Domestic violence in the first degree is defined as: Anytime that a person commits the crime of assault in the first degree (with intent to cause serious physical injury, causes serious physical injury to any person by means of a deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument) and the victim is a current or former spouse, parent, child, any person with whom the defendant has a child in common, a present or former household member, or a person who has or had a dating or engagement relationship with the defendant.

Domestic violence in the first degree is a Class A felony, except that the defendant shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of one year without consideration of probation, parole, good time credits, or any reduction in time for any second or subsequent conviction under this subsection.

Defined similarly, the crime of domestic violence in the second degree is: With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he or she causes serious physical injury to any person.

Domestic violence in the second degree is a Class B felony, except that the defendant shall serve a minimum term of imprisonment of six months without consideration of probation, parole, etc…for any second or subsequent conviction.

Domestic violence in the third degree is also similar, but includes the offenses of assault third degree, reckless endangerment, criminal coercion, or harassment.

D.V. in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, except that there is a minimum term of imprisonment of 48 hours in a city or county jail or detention facility without consideration of reduction in time for any second or subsequent conviction.

An additional enhancement to the domestic violence offenses is that the minimum term of imprisonment shall be double without consideration of probation, parole…if a defendant willfully violates a protection order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction and in the process of violating the order commits domestic violence .

The law also allows for a warrantless arrest if an officer of the law sees probable cause to believe that the crime did occur.

This means that the officer does not have to see the crime committed, but just evidence of the crime.

The new law also provides that if a law enforcement officer receives complaints of domestic violence from two or more opposing persons, the officer shall evaluate each complaint separately to determine who the primary aggressor was.

If the officer can determine that one person was the primary physical aggressor, the officer need not arrest the other person alleged to have committed domestic violence

Another stipulation already in effect, is that any person convicted of a crime of domestic violence cannot own, possess, or carry a handgun.

Another provision is the holding period following an arrest for Domestic Violence.

Persons arrested for violating a protection order or for domestic violence as defined may not be admitted to bail until after an appearance before a judge or magistrate.

If they are not taken before a judge or magistrate within 12 hours after arrest, the person may be released on bond.

Prior to release, the judge or magistrate shall review the facts of arrest to determine any threat to the alleged victim, threat to public safety, and likelihood that the defendant will appear in court.

These findings will be made on the defendants record, and the judge may impose any conditions of release or bail to protect the victim, and ensure the defendant's appearance in court.

The act also permits a warrantless arrest for violations of conditions of release, even if no other offense occurs.

Act HB-16 was signed into law by Governor Don Siegelman on April 25, 2000 and will go into effect on August 1, 2000.