Seven things you may not know about domestic violence cases in Missouri

There are many misconceptions that some individuals may have concerning domestic violence allegations. Those who are accused of the offense may not know what to do in order to protect their rights. This article explains some of the things that can happen in these incidents, and helps people understand how important it is to offer a strong defense when charged with these crimes.

1. Domestic violence charges can result from many different types of behavior, not just abuse. While a physical altercation can definitely form the basis for charges, there are many other potential acts that may also qualify as domestic violence according to Missouri law.

Actions such as threatening an assault or battery, as well as harassment and stalking are covered in the state's Adult Abuse Act. If allegations are made that include these types of behaviors, prosecutors will take a close look at the actions of the offender, and determine if his or her course of conduct qualifies as abuse. If the actions meet these definitions included in the law, the individual could be charged with a crime of domestic violence.

2. Police in Missouri do not necessarily have to make an arrest when called to a scene where domestic violence is alleged. Under state law, officers responding to an incident of domestic violence have discretion when deciding whether or not an arrest should be made. This is in contrast to many other jurisdictions where police are required to arrest someone when they are out on a domestic violence call.

The officers will investigate the scene, and determine if there is evidence present that supports the allegation that an incident has taken place. If their investigation, which includes questioning any witnesses at the scene as well as the parties involved in the dispute, uncovers enough evidence to establish that one of the individuals present is the primary aggressor, that person may be arrested.

This does not necessarily mean that individuals accused of domestic violence have an opportunity to explain what happened. They need to know that the information they give police will find its way into reports about the incident, and could be used later at a trial.

3. Courts may order a temporary ex parte order to be put in place until a hearing is held concerning the status of a permanent order of protection. When a person is arrested for domestic violence, it is likely that individual will be facing an order of protection. If the court believes that there is good cause to issue a temporary order, they have the right to issue an order prohibiting contact with the victim, either in person, or via email, text or phone call The offender is not allowed to contest the temporary order. This means the individual will more than likely need to find a new place to live while this process is ongoing.

When a more permanent order of protection is being considered, both parties will have an opportunity to present testimony regarding the incident in question. The courts will then decide if an order should be issued. The amount of time covered by the order can vary, ranging anywhere from 180 days all the way up to one year. Additional orders may be put in place if it is believed that the victim is still potentially at risk.

4. Child custody arrangements can be impact by domestic violence allegations. If the court determines that the victim should receive a permanent order of protection, it is possible the parent could lose the ability to spend time with their child. The court will determine what is in the best interests of the child after the incident has taken place.

In most scenarios, this means the victim in these cases will be allowed primary custody of the child, unless there are specific reasons as to why this should not happen. The offender will be eligible to receive visitation time with the child, but there may be several restrictions in place. This might mean that the parenting time must be supervised, or, limited to very specific time periods.

5. Cases are brought by prosecutors on behalf of the victims, and this may be done even if the victim does not want to press charges. The state does not want to place victims in a delicate situation. If the victim has to decide whether or not to move forward, their emotions could prevent them from bringing charges. Offenders could try to convince the victims not to bring a case, which may make the victim fearful of future abuse. If the offender is charged, it could have a major economic impact on the family.

For these reasons, the state is responsible for deciding whether or not an individual should be facing criminal charges in domestic violence matters. If the prosecutor decides to move forward, there is very little that the victim can do to get the process to stop.

6. While the penalties for a conviction are very harsh, there may be other consequences that also result even if a person is only arrested. While offenders may be facing jail time and fines as a result of a domestic violence conviction, there are other issues of concern that they need to recognize if they are being charged with one of these crimes.

Some of the more serious accusations may lead to felony charges, which could threaten a person's employment status. Those in professional occupations could have their livelihoods jeopardized if they are convicted of one of these crimes. They could lose their ability to work in certain fields, or find their employment options severely restricted after completing their sentences.

7. Offenders may lose their ability to own firearms if convicted of a domestic violence crime. Federal law prohibits individuals from owning guns if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime. There are very specific rules that apply in these situations, so it is important that offenders know and understand their rights before entering a plea to these charges.

If you have been arrested for domestic violence, you need to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can immediately begin investigation the situation to learn more about the accusations you are facing. This ensures that you will be able to present a strong defense to these charges, and protect your rights at such a crucial time.