Arizona’s Domestic Violence Law and Defenses

by Aaron Black • August 25, 2018
Domestic violence in Maricopa CountyDomestic violence has several avenues in criminal law, all aggressively pursued.

Arizona defines domestic violence as a criminal abusive act performed by a member of a family or a household upon another member. This includes spouses, former spouses, children, present and previous intimate partners, dating relationships, and elderly residents.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in May of this year adopted a policy establishing procedures for deputies to follow to thoroughly investigate and document an investigation of a domestic violence incident or a protective order violation.

Arizona’s domestic violence law

When there’s aggressiveness in the family or similar setting and the situation elevates to police being summoned, a criminal charge comes into play. Arizona Revised Statute 13-3601 and its several subsections cover all aspects of domestic violence, which is comprised of several associated offenses, including:
  • physical and verbal assaults
  • battery
  • assault with a dangerous weapon
  • threats
  • witness intimidation
  • violating a restraining order or an order of protection designed to keep the aggressor away from the victim
  • stalking
  • child abuse
  • sexual battery
  • sexual assault upon a minor
  • elder abuse
  • kidnapping
  • murder
Domestic violence doesn’t have to be violent. It’s also emotional, financial, mental, and neglectful. A domestic violence victim doesn’t have to be injured for the case to proceed.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s office says 90 percent of domestic violence cases are prosecuted as the most serious of the misdemeanor offenses, punishable by up to six months in jail, $2,500 in surcharges, plus hours and hours of domestic violence classes. A second conviction allows prosecutors to ask for a harsher sentence. A third conviction may be charged as a more serious felony with time in state prison and larger fines.

Besides the loss of freedom, a domestic violence felony conviction also means the loss of the right to possess or own a firearm, the loss of voting rights, and a criminal record that can mean difficulty keeping or getting employment.

At trial, a previous domestic violence conviction usually can’t be introduced as evidence; the present offense being the only issue. However, the prosecution may introduce the previous conviction at the sentencing phase in support of more punishment.

Be Cautious when Police Come to the Door

When the alleged victim, another family member or even a neighbor summon police, it’s human nature for a suspect to try and de-escalate the situation which skeptical officers see as a cover-up.

In questioning, the suspect may try to be cooperative by explaining themselves thinking it’s enough to satisfy police and they’ll leave. But Arizona authorities are serious about domestic violence and they’re not going away. The more that is said is more fodder the prosecution has to use for a conviction.

Evidence at the scene is also examined. For example, a big flat screen television is on the floor with the screen damaged. That’s called criminal damage, considered in the context a domestic violence offense, and can be sufficient for an arrest. An arrest for domestic violence also can be based on disorderly conduct when it involves people in a domestic relationship.

At the time police are at the scene or later on, the victim may have a change of heart and decide not to bring charges. But bringing charges is the prosecution’s choice. However, a victim who recants or changes a statement to police can make the state’s case difficult to win by becoming an uncooperative witness in failing to remember certain facts, causing a reasonable doubt and resulting in an acquittal.

Domestic Violence Defenses

Insufficient evidence is a defense. It could be that some evidence is determined by law to be inadmissible because of a police error such as failing to advise the person being arrested that they have the right to remain silent. Hearsay, a statement made by someone who was not present, is usually not admissible. However, an “excited utterance,” a statement made in an emotionally charged state of mind, may be allowed.

Self-defense can be raised if the defendant didn’t start or escalate the altercation and reacted to keep from being injured.

Sometimes an emotional episode in a relationship will cause someone to make a false claim and it falls on the defense to prove the lie.

Other defenses are available depending upon the circumstances of the incident and a history of those involved. The knowledge and experience of a criminal defense attorney who has defended domestic violence cases may determine other defenses.

Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re arrested on a domestic violence related charge, you’ll need to find an attorney. A number of online resources to do that are available, including, and

Criminal law and the procedures are complex so in your search look for an attorney practicing in Maricopa County who has extensive experience representing people charged with domestic violence crimes. You can ask attorneys about their experience and the results they achieved in domestic violence cases, such as winning or negotiating a plea to a lesser included charge. It’s also reasonable to ask about the attorney’s fees and fee schedule.

The attorney you choose needs to be an excellent communicator to explain the law involved, your available defenses and be responsive to your concerns.

Free Legal Consultation

The attorney you hire must believe in your case, and you need to feel confident enough to believe in your attorney, after all your freedom is at risk.

I invite you to meet with me so we can discuss the situation you’re in and your options. To schedule your free consultation contact the Criminal Defense Attorney, Aaron Black or call 480-729-1683.

About the Author

Aaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.

Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.

Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.

After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.

After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.

Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.

You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
Google Screened Attorney - Phoenix DUI and Criminal Defense
We've just been vetted by Google screening. This process provides peace of mind to consumers that the attorney they are choosing passes both business and personal background checks, has malpractice insurance, and has a current license to practice law in the state.


Subscribe to the RSS feed

DUI or Criminal Related Question?
Send me an email.

I will promptly respond unless I am in court.