Domestic Violence Allegations

The Offense of "Domestic Violence"

Under New Hampshire law, certain crimes are classified under the "Domestic Violence" charging label if committed against a "family or household member or intimate partner." These include assault, criminal threatening, false imprisonment, obstructing the report of a crime, and other offenses. If the offense is committed involve the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon, it can be charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Differences from other Offenses

"Domestic Violence" prosecutions differ from prosecutions of these same types of offenses in other contexts (for example, an assault during a bar fight against a stranger is "simple assault," but it is not "domestic violence."). Here are some of the key differences:

  • 2d Amendment Rights. A person convicted of misdemeanor "assault" does not lose their 2d Amendment rights at all. A person convicted of misdemeanor "domestic violence assault" loses her right to bear arms for life.
  • Most misdemeanor offenses are charged as class B misdemeanors, if the level of violence is not severe and the person does not have a bad prior record. That means no possibility of jail as punishment. But all "domestic violence" prosecutions must be charged as either class A misdemeanors or felonies, and that means up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor, much longer for a felony.
  • Waiting period to petition for annulment: The waiting period before one can petition for annulment in most misdemeanor cases is between 2 and 5 years. For all domestic violence convictions, however, annulment is not available for 10 years.
  • Accompanying civil case: Often, when we defend domestic violence charges filed in criminal court, we also defend a related civil case, such as the accuser's petition for a restraining order or stalking order. This concurrent representation in criminal court, where the accused has the right to remain silent, and civil court, where silence can result in an adverse inference by the factfinder, presents special challenges for the defense lawyers. If there is a concurrent divorce / separation proceeding, or if the civil restraining order case is likely headed in that direction, we refer our clients to a qualified family court lawyer for the civil part of the case.

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Our Role

We represent many individuals accused of "domestic violence" every year, and have taken many of these cases to trial, including jury trials that resulted in acquittals of our clients. We also represent many individuals who face civil petitions for DV restraining orders or stalking orders. We generally limit our role to defending people. We do not help people get a restraining order or stalking order. But we support organizations like 603 Legal Aid that help victims of abuse or stalking get the protection they need from the courts.