Domestic violence can be charged in a number of different ways in Oklahoma.
Regardless of the details of the charges, however, it is vital to have on your side a dedicated criminal defense attorney with experience in domestic violence cases.
From our team of Oklahoma defense attorneys at Jacqui Ford Law, here’s what you need to know if you or a loved one is charged with domestic violence, and the different reasons it might be filed in different ways.
What is domestic violence in Oklahoma?
One of the first, and most important, things to know is that domestic violence is different from simple assault and battery. The difference between these charges depends on who’s involved.
In a domestic violence case in Oklahoma, there has to be some sort of relationship between the victim and the accused. You can’t have a domestic violence charge without the victim or the accused being one of the following:
- former spouse
- some sort of foster parent
- some sort of blood relative
- relative by marriage
- parent of a mutual child, etc.
This even extends to someone who’s currently living in a house, even if there’s no familial relationship. For example, there could even be domestic violence in a roommate situation. Domestic abuse requires some sort of pre-existing relationship before the crime occurs – which makes it different from a simple assault and battery (which could be a bar fight, for example).
This is important because when you’re charged with domestic violence, the community, and the legislature have decided that that act is much more offensive than the act of getting in a fight with a stranger in a street – that we somehow owe each other a greater duty because we have this familial or romantic relationship. It suggests that we should engage in behavior with even greater than the amount of respect guaranteed to strangers.
What does a domestic violence misdemeanor charge mean in Oklahoma?
As a general rule, the first-time offense of domestic violence in Oklahoma will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor if there’s no great bodily injury, no strangulation, and no aggravating factors.
A misdemeanor means that you’re looking at up to a year in the county jail. In Oklahoma, it also carries a $5,000 fine.
Your first-time offense could be charged in a municipal court, like the City of Oklahoma City, or Mustang, or Yukon, or Piedmont.
But you could be charged in state court. Oftentimes domestic violence cases do get transferred over to state court because they carry with them extra obligations, as opposed to a simple assault and battery.
Here, it’s important to talk about bonds. Let’s say there’s a fight or domestic dispute at the house, someone calls the police, and the police come and take you to jail. You can almost guarantee that you’re going to be held in jail without bond. In other cases, like with a DUI or simple possession of marijuana, you know your bond is going to be set at $1,000 or $2,000, so you can call a bondsman, post your bond, and get out of jail.
But in a domestic violence case, the law permits the government to hold you for 72 hours. They call it a ‘cooling-off period.’ They believe this time allows emotions to calm down, and whatever issues allowed the situation to get out of control will have an opportunity to subside. Some people also say it gives the victim an opportunity to pack their bags and get out — or re-think the accusation.
But either way, there’s a 72 hour hold, which means you’re stuck in jail for three days if you don’t hire an experienced lawyer to defend you on these domestic violence cases.
If you’ve been arrested, or your loved one has been arrested, and they’re being held with a 72-hour hold, contact our Oklahoma City criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. We’ll get in there and see what we can do to get that bond lifted so that we can get the accused person out and back to life as usual.
What about a second domestic violence charge?
A second charge of domestic violence most likely gives rise to a felony charge in the state of Oklahoma. These felony charges can carry up to four years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and, again, up to a $5,000 fine.
Domestic violence carries a number of differently qualifying statutes.
- What does it mean to have ‘great bodily injury?’
You may not have any prior domestic violence charges, but in this situation, the actions that gave rise caused an incredible injury to one of the parties. Maybe a nose or a finger got broken. We would call that great bodily injury. First-time offense carries up to 10 years in the State Department of Corrections. If you’re charged with or accused of committing domestic violence against a woman you knew to be pregnant (whether it’s your first-time offense, whether she suffers any injuries or not), the range of punishment is up to 10 years in the State Department of Corrections, as well as a $10,000 fine.
- Sometimes we see people charged with domestic violence ‘by strangulation.’
Strangulation means that someone put their hands on, or around, your airways in an attempt to stop you from breathing naturally. The penalty is a minimum of one year, but it can carry up to three years and up to a $3,000 fine.
These are pretty serious allegations. Each one of the enhancers does not require a misdemeanor to give it rise to be a felony.
Being found guilty of a domestic violence charge in Oklahoma
If, during any of these charges, you are found guilty, you’re required under Oklahoma statute to engage in a 52-week batterers’ intervention course. This includes being found guilty:
- By a judge
- By a jury
- In the course of a trial
- By plea
- If you receive a deferred sentence (which is a special kind of probation that’s not a conviction, but allows the court to make a finding of guilt and put you on probation to meet your certain probationary needs at the end of that sentence the case is dismissed.)
In any domestic violence situation where you’re charged and sentenced, you have to take part in this domestic violence course for an entire year.
This is important because that is a stringent probationary requirement. There’s no other law in the state of Oklahoma that requires mandatory one-year’s worth of classes for any other action. The 52-weeks batterers’ intervention course is not an option. It is mandatory. And they’re not very tolerant of absences – they’re pretty serious about you starting it and completing it with the same groups of folks you started it with.
So it’s important to know if you’re going to enter a plea that you might want to start enrolling in those classes early. If you start engaging in those classes, you learn the skills and tools necessary to be able to better deal with better conflict within the home environment. And that helps your defense attorney assist you in negotiating a better deal on your behalf.
Is it considered a violent offense?
Well, by its very name it must be deemed violent because it’s violent – domestic violence. However, it’s not violent for the purposes of whether you’re considered a violent offender in the state of Oklahoma.
To put it briefly, do you have to register as a violent offender on the Violent Offender Registry? No.
However, it is a violent offense for other reasons. For people who are looking at an application for you to rent from their rental property, domestic violence charges can, and oftentimes do, prohibit you from having access to that rental property. People will just say, “No. We’re not doing it.”
If you are currently renting, and you are charged with domestic violence, and the police have been called out to your apartment complex because of a domestic violence issue, in many leases you will find a term that says they can terminate you, and everyone who’s in that house, if you return after a domestic violence case.
Employers look at domestic violence with a special eye, oftentimes, too. And it’s very likely that you could risk being fired from your job based upon a plea or conviction for domestic violence.
Getting a domestic violence case dismissed in Oklahoma
It’s difficult to get a case like this dismissed. Oftentimes, you have to litigate it. If you’re charged with a misdemeanor, you have to set a date for trial, see if your accuser shows up, deal with the evidence as they have it, and ask a jury to see it your way.
If you’re charged with a felony, you have some more options. Certainly, it’s not a good thing to be charged with a felony, but at least in a felony you have a right to a preliminary hearing. That’s the first time that they’re going to call your accuser in and get their story on the record. Whatever they reported to law enforcement is not evidence. And that’s important to remember.
It’s important for the person who notified law enforcement to remember that it’s not evidence, either. And you’re not stuck to the story that you told. Especially if that story isn’t truthful. You have a right, a duty, and an obligation to clear up the record. Not only for yourself, but also for the person who’s been accused.
I hear it from clients and their alleged victims all the time. “I don’t want to press charges. Do I have to go to court?” The fact of the matter is, if law enforcement is involved it’s not up to you to make that decision anymore. The crime is not you against your spouse. The crime is the state of Oklahoma against the offender.
Still, though, the alleged victim has an incredible amount of power.
What does this mean for Oklahoma citizens accused of domestic violence?
Domestic violence claims come with really a dark cloud, and it can really be debilitating.
Oftentimes, we see domestic violence claims accompanied with other cases. Let’s say you and your spouse are getting a divorce. It’s possible that lawyers – especially divorce lawyers who don’t practice in criminal court and don’t understand the grave consequences of making such false allegations – oftentimes encourage their clients to use the court system’s resources, whatever they might be, to best advantage them for a battle over silverware and custody of their children.
So, if you’re charged with a domestic violence case, and you’re also going through a divorce, talk to your divorce lawyer about their experience in this matter. Most divorce lawyers that I know should know that they don’t want to mess with domestic violence accusations. And they’ll send you to an experienced lawyer in Oklahoma City to represent you.
In sum, these are the most important things you need to know about domestic violence:
- It could be a misdemeanor, or it could be a felony.
- It could be a year, or it could carry up to 10.
- Any finding of guilt, any conviction of any kind, is ultimately going to result in 52-weeks of batterers’ intervention courses, along with a slew and series of other probationary requirements.
Contact Jacqui Ford Law today
In order to limit these consequences, limit your amount of time that you’re on probation, and limit the amount of hoops that you have to jump through, it’s important that you find someone experienced in defending domestic violence cases. We hope that you give us a shot. Contact Jacqui Ford Law today to see how we can help.