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The statistics regarding domestic violence in Oklahoma are staggering. Studies show that the state ranks third in the nation in the number of women killed by men in domestic violence situations, and that 41 percent of all the state’s homicides are domestic violence murders. Certainly, not every case of domestic abuse or violence escalates to the point of murder, but the statistics seem to prove that Oklahoma struggles with intimate partner violence, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence.
In most situations, police responding to a domestic complaint are not walking in to find lethal violence. Typically, a domestic violence case involves an argument or misunderstanding that got too heated. Sometimes, one person is a clear aggressor; often, the situation involves “mutual combatants.” In many situations, law enforcement is forced to make a relatively subjective decision in the face of conflicting stories: they must decide who the domestic violence suspect is and who the domestic abuse victim is.
If you are accused of domestic assault and battery, it is important to find a lawyer who can adequately defend you against the charges, whether that means fighting for a dismissal of unfounded claims or negotiating a reduced charge or lesser sentence that could keep you out of jail and keep you from having a conviction for domestic violence. This is extremely important, as a domestic abuse charge can carry multiple conditions and requirements even for a probation sentence.
Oklahoma domestic violence laws prescribe a range of penalties for assault and battery against a family or household member, depending on the circumstances of the alleged abuse.
The state’s domestic violence laws are found in the same statute as Oklahoma assault laws (21 O.S. § 644). However, while simple assault and battery is punishable by 90 days in jail, domestic assault and battery generally carries a sentence of up to one year on the first offense. However, repeated domestic violence convictions or those occurring under certain aggravating circumstances can bring felony conviction and much steeper penalties.
For example, if someone is charged with domestic violence in the presence of a child, the defendant will face a minimum sentence of six months.
Repeated domestic assault convictions can also lead to more serious penalties. According to 21 O.S. § 644.1, any person convicted of domestic assault and battery who has a “prior pattern of physical abuse” is guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. For the purpose of prosecution, virtually any object that can inflict personal injury may be classified as a dangerous weapon. If your neighbor slaps his wife, he could be charged with domestic assault and battery. If she hits him in the head with a frying pan, she could be charged with domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Likewise, a person who commits domestic assault and battery resulting in great bodily injury to the victim is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The state also levies harsher penalties against someone who commits domestic violence against a woman he or she knows to be pregnant. As a first offense, the crime is punished as a misdemeanor; however, a repeat offense of domestic violence against a pregnant woman is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. If the assault causes injury to the unborn child, the maximum punishment is 20 years in prison.
Another element that enhances sentencing for domestic abuse is domestic assault and battery by strangulation or attempted strangulation. If a person chokes or attempts to choke a spouse, intimate partner, family member, or household member in the course of an argument, he or she is guilty of domestic abuse by strangulation, a felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison on the first offense, and by 3 to 10 years in prison on a second or subsequent offense. While any act of violence in a domestic situation is punishable by law, placing one’s hands, forearm, or foot against the throat of another (or otherwise restricting the person’s airway) carries serious penalties.
As part of the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act, Oklahoma law provides a specific definition of domestic abuse:
"Domestic abuse" means any act of physical harm, or the threat of imminent physical harm which is committed by an adult, emancipated minor, or minor child thirteen (13) years of age or older against another adult, emancipated minor or minor child who are family or household members or who are or were in a dating relationship. (22 O.S. § 60.1)
Often, people consider “domestic violence” to be physical violence against a spouse or a child; however, state law significantly broadens the relationships covered by domestic assault and battery.
Oklahoma domestic violence laws define domestic assault and battery as violence or abuse against one or more of the following people:
Please note: although state law lists a child as a victim of domestic violence, this typically refers to adult children. A person who commits violence against his or her minor child will be prosecuted under the state’s child abuse laws, found in 21 O.S. § 843.5. The penalties for child abuse are typically much more severe than those associated with domestic assault and battery.
Oklahoma offers some protection to victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault through a Victim Protective Order (VPO), commonly called a “restraining order.” A VPO is a court order demanding that the alleged perpetrator avoid contact with the victim.
When law enforcement responds to a domestic violence situation, an emergency VPO may be issued. It is not difficult to get an emergency VPO in Oklahoma; for this reason, an emergency VPO is only temporary and is set for an actual VPO hearing at a date certain. Even though the order is only temporary, it still carries all of the same requirements and restrictions of a permanent VPO while it is in force. The person named in the protective order has the right to defend himself or herself against allegations of assault or abuse, and a lawyer can help get an unnecessary protective order dismissed.
If a Victim Protective Order is granted, it is not a criminal conviction. A VPO is a quasi-civil-criminal action that has the full force of a civil order from a judge but does not carry any potential jail time or punishment commonly associated with a crime. However, if someone who has VPO granted against himself or herself violates the conditions and restrictions of a VPO, he or she could face criminal charges for violating a protective order.
A first offense for violating a protective order is charged as a misdemeanor. It can carry up to a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.00. A second or subsequent VPO violation is a felony charge that carries a punishment range of 1 to 3 years in prison and a max fine of up to $10,000.00.
If you or a loved one is facing a charge for domestic violence, call the Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, P.C. at (405) 778-4800 to schedule a free consultation to discuss all of the law and procedure associated with victim protective orders and domestic abuse charges. Our attorneys specialize in domestic abuse and have likely handled a situation with facts just like yours. We can help you obtain the best possible outcome.