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What Is a Domestic Violence Enhancer?

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What Is a Domestic Violence Enhancer?

Domestic violence is a critical issue that affects countless individuals and families. Intimate partners physically abuse nearly 20 people per minute on average. This equates to more than ten million women and men per year.

One in four women and one in nine men experience severe physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Intimate partners have stalked 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in their lifetime. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.

Frequently, when an individual faces charges related to a crime involving domestic violence, they may face an additional legal component known as a “domestic violence enhancer.”

If you are facing charges, seek immediate representation from a Ohio criminal defense attorney.

How Does a Domestic Violence Enhancer Affect a Criminal Charge?

A domestic violence enhancer is not a separate charge. Instead, it’s a legal term to describe an additional factor attached to a criminal charge. Committing an act of violence or aggression against someone in a domestic setting, such as a partner, spouse, or family member, may lead to the enhancement of the crime due to its domestic nature.

legal consequences of a crime

The presence of a domestic violence enhancer can significantly impact the legal consequences of a crime. It often leads to:

Stricter Penalties

Applying a domestic violence enhancer to a criminal charge occurs when it signifies a serious elevation in the potential consequences faced by the accused. The idea behind these stricter penalties is to underscore the seriousness of crimes committed in a domestic setting and to offer greater protection to victims.

Enhanced charges typically lead to more severe legal repercussions. For instance, a person might face longer jail time than they will for a similar offense without the domestic violence aspect. This extended incarceration is not just a punishment but also a deterrent, reducing the likelihood of future domestic incidents.

Additionally, fines associated with these charges are often higher, reflecting the enhanced nature of the offense. These increased financial penalties serve a dual purpose: penalizing the offender and signaling the gravity of domestic violence in our society.

Mandatory Arrest Policies

The introduction of mandatory arrest policies in domestic violence cases marks a significant shift in how law enforcement handles these situations. In many areas, when police officers respond to a domestic violence incident and find evidence suggesting that an offense has occurred, they are required by law to make an arrest.

This policy aims to immediately address the potential threat to the victim, offering protection that might not be present in other offenses. It also reflects a societal acknowledgment of the often-hidden nature of domestic violence, where victims may be reluctant or afraid to press charges against their abusers.

By implementing mandatory arrest policies, the law aims to guarantee the prompt and effective addressing of these serious allegations, providing an immediate response to a situation that can otherwise escalate.

No-Contact Orders

In cases involving domestic violence enhancers, courts frequently issue no-contact orders. These orders legally forbid the accused from contacting the victim. This can be a protective measure for the victim, especially in cases with a high risk of further harm.

However, issuing a no-contact order can have significant personal implications, particularly when the accused and the victim share a residence or have children together. In these cases, the order can lead to logistical and emotional challenges, as it may require the accused to find alternative living arrangements and can complicate child custody or visitation arrangements.

Mandatory Treatment Programs

Another consequence that often accompanies a domestic violence enhancer is the requirement for the accused to participate in mandatory treatment programs. Designated programs are crafted to tackle the root causes contributing to domestic violence, such as anger management, substance abuse, or relationship dynamics.

Participating in these programs allows individuals to understand and modify their behavior, ideally reducing the risk of future domestic incidents.

This approach reflects a broader understanding of domestic violence as an issue that often requires more than just punitive measures to address effectively. It represents an effort to break the cycle of violence through education and rehabilitation, offering a path towards better outcomes for both the accused and the victim.

Impact of Domestic Violence Enhancers on Bail and Pretrial Release

When an individual faces charges involving a domestic violence enhancer, it often has a significant impact on decisions regarding bail and pretrial release.

Bail is a set amount of money a person charged with a crime can pay to be released from jail while waiting for their court dates. The idea is that paying bail gives the person a financial incentive to return to court and not flee. Pretrial release conditions are rules a person must follow while out on bail, like not traveling out of state or having no contact with the victim.

Now, with the addition of a domestic violence enhancer to a charge, it signals to the court that the case is more serious. The main concern here is the safety of the victim and the community.

Impact of Domestic Violence

Because domestic violence cases often involve harm to a family member or partner, there’s a heightened worry that the accused might harm the victim again if released.

As a result, courts often set higher bail amounts in these cases or, in some instances, might deny bail altogether. The rationale is that a higher bail amount can more effectively ensure that the accused will not flee and will appear at court hearings.

In extreme cases, where the court believes that the accused poses a significant threat to the victim or public safety, they might decide that no bail amount is sufficient to manage this risk and refuse to grant bail.

The presence of a domestic violence enhancer also affects the conditions of pretrial release. For example, the court might order the accused to stay away from the victim or their shared residence. Conditions like electronic monitoring or regular check-ins with law enforcement may safeguard the victim and prevent additional incidents during the pendency of the case.

Each case is unique, and judges have discretion in setting bail and pretrial conditions. They consider many factors, like the severity of the alleged crime, the accused’s criminal history, their ties to the community, and any specific risks posed to the victim or others.

Appeals and Domestic Violence Enhancers

When a conviction in a criminal case includes a domestic violence enhancer, the process of appealing that conviction can be particularly challenging.

An appeal is not a new trial but a legal process where a higher court, known as an appellate court, reviews a lower court’s decision to confirm the fair conduct of the trial and the correct application of legal and procedural aspects. In cases involving domestic violence enhancers, the appeal can involve unique considerations.

One of the primary grounds for appeal in these cases may relate to applying the enhancer itself. The defense might argue that the prosecutor failed to meet the criteria for applying the enhancer or that insufficient evidence justified it. For instance, the authorities applied the enhancer based on the relationship between the accused and the victim, and the appeal might focus on whether that relationship truly met the legal definition required for a domestic violence enhancer.

Another area of focus is the legal procedures and rulings during the trial. This may involve questioning whether the jury received proper instructions about the enhancer and its implications or if handling evidence related to the enhancer was appropriate.

For example, if certain evidence crucial to establishing the domestic nature of the violence was erroneously admitted or excluded, this can form a basis for appeal.

Appellate court proceedings are different from trial court proceedings. There are no new witnesses or evidence; the appeal is primarily a review of the record from the lower court. The prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer both submit written briefs and may present oral arguments to a panel of judges. These judges then review the case to determine if legal errors were significant enough to have affected the trial outcome.

Not every error or issue in a trial results in overturning a conviction. The appellate court looks for substantial errors that violate the legal rights of the accused or fundamentally impact the trial’s fairness. In the context of domestic violence enhancers, this might include errors in how the law defines domestic violence, errors in the application of the enhancer, or other procedural or legal mistakes.

When facing a charge that includes a domestic violence enhancer, a primary defense strategy often involves challenging the application of the enhancer itself. 

The defense might argue that the relationship between the accused and the victim does not fit the legal definition of a domestic relationship as required for the enhancer. For instance, the accused might have been misidentified as a domestic partner when, in reality, their relationship with the victim was different.

Domestic Violence

Disputing the circumstances of the offense is another defense angle. Here, the focus is on the context and specifics of the incident. The defense may argue that the facts of the case have been misinterpreted or exaggerated or that the actions of the accused do not meet the threshold required for a domestic violence enhancer. It might also involve presenting evidence or testimony contradicting the prosecution’s portrayal of the incident.

Mitigating factors play a significant role in defending against a domestic violence enhancer. These are aspects of the situation or the accused’s background that, while not excusing the offense, might reduce its perceived severity.

Examples include the accused’s mental health, history of being abused themselves, or lack of prior criminal record. These factors can influence the court’s view of the enhancer’s applicability and impact on sentencing.

Sentencing Guidelines and Enhancers

An enhancer typically leads to a range of enhanced penalties, meaning that the accused can face more severe punishment than they will for the same crime without the domestic context. This might include longer prison terms, larger fines, or both.

Judges have specific guidelines they follow when determining sentences. These guidelines offer a framework for deciding the appropriate punishment based on various factors, including the offense’s severity, an enhancer’s presence, and the accused’s criminal history.

In cases with a domestic violence enhancer, the judge must consider the additional seriousness implied by the domestic context. The legal justification for increased severity in sentencing stems from the recognition that domestic violence has profound and lasting impacts on victims, often occurring in what should be a safe and trusting environment.

The judge exercises discretion in sentencing, guided but not strictly dictated by these guidelines. They must balance the guidelines’ recommendations with the case’s specifics, ensuring that the sentence is fair and just in the context of the crime and the enhancer.

Impact on Plea Bargaining

The inclusion of a domestic violence enhancer also significantly affects the plea bargaining process.

Plea bargaining is a negotiation between the defense and the prosecution, where the accused may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Prosecutors, aware of the enhanced penalties associated with domestic violence cases, may have greater leverage in negotiations. They might offer to drop the enhancer in exchange for a guilty plea to the underlying charge, which can still be an attractive option for the accused due to the potentially severe consequences of being convicted with the enhancer in place.

Joesph C patituce
Joseph C. Patituce, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

On the other hand, criminal defense attorneys must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of accepting a plea deal. They need to consider the strength of the evidence against their client, the likelihood of a conviction with the enhancer, and the potential consequences of going to trial versus accepting a plea. The decision-making process involves thoroughly analyzing all these factors, keeping the client’s best interests at the forefront.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

A domestic violence enhancer adds a serious layer to any criminal charge. It’s a legal mechanism that acknowledges the unique harm caused by domestic violence.

If you’re facing charges with a domestic violence enhancer, seek legal guidance. Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side is the first step in getting a favorable outcome for your situation through the legal system.