As the county tries to navigate self-quarantines, we at Stommes Law Office are seeing an increase in domestic violence offenses in our area. Even the best of relationships are facing stressors never before seen. With that in mind, it is important to educate yourself as to the practical consequences you could expect to see if the stress gets the better of a situation and the police get involved.
First, the charges themselves. Domestic violence charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies. These types of charges are what are called “enhanceable offenses,” meaning that prior convictions can be used to “enhance” future charges and penalties. Like DWIs, domestic violence offenses have a ten-year look back window for prior convictions. Depending on the circumstances, the first instance could result in a misdemeanor charge. However, if a person has two prior convictions for domestic violence offenses, a third charge within ten years of the first conviction will be a felony.
In addition to the charges themselves, there are a number of other consequences that a person can expect to see while their case is moving its way through the courts. One of the more impactful consequences is a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order.
Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (DANCO)
In most every case of domestic violence, the court will impose a DANCO. This order is meant to protect the alleged victim from harm and any contact from the accused.
A DANCO orders that the accused shall not have any contact (direct, indirect, third-party, social media, etc.) with the alleged victim. If children were present during the incident, it is likely they will be included as “protected parties” and contact with them will be limited/prohibited as well.
If the two parties live together, the accused will have to find somewhere else to stay even if they own the residence. The courts will not order an alleged victim out of the residence.
This DANCO could stay in place for the duration of the case (months) and possibly for the duration of probation (years). Even if the alleged victim does not want the DANCO in place, the courts are hesitant, and often do not, modify a DANCO once it has been issued.
The DANCO does not prohibit the alleged victim from contacting the accused. It only prevents the accused from making any contact.
If the accused violates the DANCO, new criminal charges will be filed against the accused.
Strict compliance with a DANCO is very important. DANCO violation cases are difficult. Oftentimes there is a call log or text message evidence of contact. All it takes is one instance of contact to violate the DANCO, and each instance of contact can be a separate charge. We have seen clients who didn’t take their DANCO seriously and ended up with literally dozens of new charges, one for each violation of the DANCO. TAKE THE DANCO SERIOUSLY!
Other pre-trial consequences a court can impose include ordering that an accused have no use or possession of mood-altering substances, including alcohol. To enforce this, the court can order that the accused submit themselves to random testing.
If drugs or alcohol are alleged to have been involved in any domestic related incident, it is likely the court will order that the accused abstain from the use or possession of all mood-altering substances, including alcohol.
As discussed above, the court will also likely order that the person submit themselves to random urine testing.
This testing program is what is commonly referred to as the “color wheel.” The accused is provided a color by their probation officer and told to call a phone number every single day to see what color has been called for that day. If the accused’s color is called, they will have to report to a testing facility that day to provide a sample for testing. A missed or diluted test is considered a positive test.
Additionally, the accused will often have to pay for their own test. This can range from around $20 to $40 per test. How frequently someone will have to test is at the discretion of their probation officer.
If the accused misses a test or provides a positive test, they can be violated and brought back into court to address their use. Depending on the circumstances, the court could do anything from reinstating them on their original release conditions to increasing their bail, meaning the accused would be held in custody until they can come up with additional funds to bail out.
Some counties have “Domestic Violence Courts.” These are specialty courts that are designed to increase the accountability of the accused through highly increased levels of monitoring. Typically, these courts are reserved for repeat offenders and those facing felony charges. The level of supervision for these specialty courts is extensive. They include:
weekly court hearings;
more frequent urine testing;
a “whereabouts line;”
This is a phone number the accused must call when the leave/arrive anywhere. It is strictly enforced. If an accused is at home and wants to go to the gas station, they will have to call when they are leaving their house and inform the line of where they are going, call when they get there, call when they are leaving the gas station, and call when they get back home.
These are probation officers who literally drive around and check to make sure that accused persons are where they say they are. If an accused is at the gas station and they forgot to call the whereabouts line prior to leaving their residence, they can be arrested on the spot and brought in to court to readdress their conditions of release.
domestic violence programming.
The above-mentioned consequences are some of the things you can expect to face before you even go to trial. If there is a plea agreement, or if you are convicted, then a whole host of other consequences can be imposed.
Gun Rights Prohibition
Domestic violence is a serious issue in society. Because of this, governments both at the state and federal level have determined that a prohibition on gun rights in domestic violence cases is appropriate. Not all domestic violence incidents end with a ban on gun rights, however, many of them do. The prohibition can differ between state and federal. Minnesota may impose only a two-year prohibition upon a conviction for Misdemeanor Domestic Assault, however, the federal government, depending on the circumstances, can impose a lifetime ban. It is very important to talk to your attorney about how the outcome of your case may affect your gun rights.
As discussed above, the courts can impose a probationary DANCO that could stay in place for the entire probationary period.
Domestic Violence Pre-Sentence Investigation
Prior to sentencing, the accused will have to contact probation and participate in a pre-sentence investigation. This investigation involves providing information regarding things like work history, family history, chemical use history, etc. In Domestic Violence cases, there is an added component to the typical pre-sentence investigation that deals with domestic violence.
Based on the results of that investigation, it is likely that the probation agent will recommend that the accused participate in domestic violence programming
Domestic Violence Programming
This programming is typically a 36-hour course that the accused will have to participate in and complete. If the accused does not participate in court ordered programming, the accused can expect to be brought back into court on a probation violation.
This programming is typically one or two hours a week and lasts for months. It is meant to educate the accused as to the effects of domestic violence and to modify behavior to prevent future incidents from occurring.
This programming is not free. The accused will have to pay for it, and it can cost over a $1,000 to complete.
The information we have provided above is not an exhaustive list of all the potential consequences of a domestic violence incident. Rather, we are hitting the high points of the things that most impact our clients.
With all this in mind, especially in these times when stress is high and we are being ordered to stay at home in close-quarters, it is so important to maintain perspective and defuse situations before they erupt into something that can have serious consequences for you and your loved ones.
If things do get out of hand, remember that you have rights and it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure those rights are protected.