Domestic violence charges jeopardize many important rights beyond the possible criminal penalties. These other consequences beyond penalties and fines beyond the criminal charges are referred to as collateral consequences. These in some case can be much more harmful than the criminal penalties.
Allegations of domestic abuse or domestic violence whether filed in civil court as an order of protection or in criminal court should be take very seriously.
Civil v. Criminal Domestic Violence Charges
As noted, the collateral consequences often apply whether the charges are brought in civil court or criminal court. It is important then to understand the difference between the two.
Civil court proceedings are brought in the form of a Petition for Order of Protection against Domestic Abuse. These are heard in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho by domestic violence hearing officers. There is no jury. The hearing involves only the parties and their attorneys. Unfortunately, many respondents (alleged abuser) do not take the charges seriously and do not have an attorney present. Rest assured if there is an attorney on the other side, a finding of domestic abuse is very likely. With the finding comes an Order of Protection and all the collateral consequences.
The charges may also be brought in criminal court. These are then handled by the courts like any other criminal case in terms of criminal process and procedure. However, there are often very serious and severe conditions of release set on the defendant. The conditions of release are the conditions set by the judge that allow the defendant to remain out on bail. The most important is the no-contact order which means no contact with the alleged victim. This in turn means not returning home. Violation of this provision often results in jail time and sometimes additional criminal charges, including felony stalking.
Collateral Consequences of Domestic Violence Finding or Conviction
In either the criminal or civil court, a finding of domestic violence has numerous and very negative consequences. The most important are the following:
1. Employment consequences. Many employers will not hire individual found guilty of domestic violence. In New Mexico, this is even more pronounced than many other states due the issues of security clearances and the many labs and military bases.
2. Immigration consequences: These are perhaps most severe. A finding of domestic violence is a removable (deportable) offense. The criminal penalties on a first time conviction are typically probation for no more than one year. The order of protection is usually 6 months. Removal or deportation is often permanent.
3. Gun rights: Under the Brady Act, those found guilty of domestic violence whether in civil or criminal court are permanently prohibited from gun ownership. There are exceptions but it is not easy recovering your gun rights. This is bad enough for gun enthusiast and hunters. It is often financially devastating for those who must possess weapon for employment purposes.
Seek Legal Guidance Right Away
The collateral consequences are severe. It is extremely important to take these allegations seriously even if only in civil court. Many make the mistake of thinking they don’t want contact anyway so no harm, no foul. This could not further from the truth.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. The Albuquerque attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can help. We can be reached at (505) 242-5958.