Collateral Reasons to Fight a Domestic Violence Charge

Domestic violence convictions are very serious. They carry some of the harshest mandatory penalties for a simple misdemeanor conviction. In Nevada, a misdemeanor first-offense conviction carries, at the very least, the following mandatory-minimum penalties: (1) 2 days in jail; (2) six months of weekly domestic violence counseling classes; (3) 48 hours of community service; (4) a fine of $200; (5) probationary terms; as well as (6) drug/alcohol counseling if drugs and/or alcohol were involved. Domestic violence convictions can also cause immediate collateral consequences to an individual’s life ranging from employment issues to child custody issues.

Ownership of Firearms

“A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person . . . [h]as been convicted in this State or any other state of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence . . .”

Under Nevada law, you cannot petition the Court to seal a domestic violence conviction until seven years after your case is formally closed. Thus, the prohibition on owning/controlling a firearm, including being barred from any employment opportunities that require the carrying/use of a firearm, will last at least seven years. Keep in mind that the only other grounds to be lawfully prohibited from owning a firearm are: (1) having been convicted of a felony; (2) being a fugitive from justice; (3) being an “unlawful user, or addicted to, any controlled substance;” (4) being an individual otherwise prohibited by federal law from having a firearm in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control;” and/or (5) having been adjudicated as mentally ill, having been committed to an any mental health facility by a court, having entered a guilty but mentally ill plea, having been acquitted of a charge by reason of insanity; and/or (6) being found illegally/unlawfully present in the United States.

Child Custody

In addition to being prohibited from owning a firearm, a domestic violence conviction could also affect your child custody rights in a separate family action. Specifically, Nevada law provides:

“A court may award primary physical custody to a parent if the court determines that joint physical custody is not in the best interest of a child. An award of joint physical custody is presumed not to be in the best interest of the child if . . . there has been a determination by the court after an evidentiary hearing and finding by clear and convincing evidence that a parent has engaged in one or more acts of domestic violence against the child, a parent of the child or any other person residing with the child sex.”

Moreover, if both you and the child’s other parent have been found to have engaged in acts of domestic violence, the Court is required, “if possible, t[o] determine which person was the primary physical aggressor.” In determining which party was the primary physical aggressor, the court is required to consider:

(a) All prior acts of domestic violence involving either party;
(b) The relative severity of the injuries, if any, inflicted upon the persons involved in those prior acts of domestic violence;
(c) The likelihood of future injury;
(d) Whether, during the prior acts, one of the parties acted in self-defense; and
(e) Any other factors which the court deems relevant to the determination.

Landlord/Tenant Consequences

Next, a domestic violence conviction could also expose you to substantial liability under a lease agreement. Nevada law provides:

“if a tenant, cotenant or household member is the victim of domestic violence, the tenant or any cotenant may terminate the rental agreement . . .” “A person who is named as the adverse party may be civilly liable for all economic losses incurred by a landlord for the early termination of a rental agreement pursuant to this section, including, without limitation, unpaid rent, fees relating to early termination, costs for the repair of any damages to the dwelling and any reductions in or waivers of rent previously extended to the tenant or cotenant who terminates the rental agreement pursuant to this section.”

Thus, a domestic violence conviction could result with you owing the victim’s former landlord thousands of dollars in damages.

Additional Consequences

In addition to the foregoing liability, there are statutes that provide for the recovery of costs and attorneys fee resulting from damages arising from acts of domestic violence. This means that if you are sued civilly for damages caused by an act of domestic violence (property damage, personal injury, etc.), the plaintiff/victim will also be entitled to recover their costs of suit as well as the attorney’s fees they incurred in prosecuting their claims against you. Finally, if you are not a US citizen, a domestic violence conviction could have significant consequences on your ability to remain in the country. Immigration law treats misdemeanor domestic violence convictions more serious than any other misdemeanor.