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How to defend family violence crimes in Georgia


Family violence crimes are sometimes nothing more than a fight or argument between two family members, however, under Georgia's laws, an arrest for a family violence crime can carry lifelong consequences if not handled properly.

Who Can Commit Family Violence?

Family violence battery and related crimes carry stiff penalties under Georgia law and can land you in more trouble than the average crime. Under Georgia's Family Violence Act, committing crimes against the following classifications of people can subject you to the law:

  1. past or present spouses
  2. persons who are parents of the same child
  3. parents and children
  4. stepparents and stepchildren
  5. foster parents and foster children
  6. other persons living or formerly living in the same household

As you can see, there is a catchall provision for all people living or even formally living in the same household. This provision can include two people simply dating, if living under the same roof. In fact, many of our cases involve mere boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, even some where the couple has only dated and lived together for weeks. Under the law, it does not matter, as the Georgia Family Violence Act still covers your conduct.

What is a family violence crime?

Certain acts, when committed against eligible parties, can become family violence crimes. The following crimes are family violence related under Georgia law:

  1. Battery- battery involves leaving a visible injury like a bruise or scratches on someone. To be charged with battery family violence, there must be a visible injury on the victim.
  2. Simple Battery- simply battery only requires touching someone in a threatening or offensive manner. So, if you attack someone, yet somehow there are no visible injuries, you could still be charged with simply battery under family violence.
  3. Simple Assault- simple assault simply involves making a threat towards someone, and no contact is required.
  4. Assault
  5. Stalking
  6. Criminal damage to property- damaging property, even jointly owned property can lead to a criminal damage to propery charge. There are both misdemeanor and felony versions of this law.
  7. Criminal trespass
  8. Unlawful restraint

Under Georgia's family violence law, if you are sentenced for a family violence crime, you must attend a family violence intervention program as part of your sentence. A family violence intervention program (FVIP) is typically a 24-week course in Georgia, and you must pay for each session- usually around $25/session. Failing to complete a FVIP course could lead to issues with probation, bond, or your pending case. At Zeliff | Watson, we take a proactive stance on defending our cases, and will discuss whether it would be beneficial to sign up for this class immediately.

Punishments for Family Violence:

Crimes of family violence carry enhanced punishments in Georgia. For instance, while a simple assault crime is a misdemeanor under Georgia law, a family violence simple assault is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, meaning you can be punished more severely. Additionally, family violence battery charges in Georgia are misdemeanors for the first offense, but second and subsequent offenses are felony charges, meaning they carry a minimum of 1 year in prison. Family violence crimes in Georgia can also impact your civil rights, like the ability to own a firearm or get a gun permit.

Defending a Family Violence Charge

When defending yourself against a crime of family violence, it is important to find a lawyer who knows how to handle these specific crimes. Family violence crimes are specialized and often involve your lawyer negotiating with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or an alternative to prosecution. While there are ways to avoid a family violence conviction, if not handled properly, your case can have a lifelong impact on you and your family.

If you have been charged with a crime of family violence, call our offices today to discuss your case and come up with a proactive defense. Both Attorneys Watson and Zeliff have handled many family violence cases and have a track record of success in their field. There is no cost for the consultation and we will cover all aspects of your case including what you can do before court, bond and pretrial issues, your best defenses, possible out of court outcomes, and pricing for your defense. We can be reached 24/7 at (770) 676 1340.

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