Something as simple and commonplace as a shouting match can impact your life forever. Imagine the following scenario: You are arguing with your spouse, emotions get heated, and you bump into one other as you push past each other to leave the room. Then, the next thing you know, the cops are at your door and you end up in jail. Later, your spouse admits that no one was actually hurt and the call to the police was made in the heat of the moment. But it’s too late – the government still presses charges. This isn’t like you see on TV. Whether charges are brought is up to the prosecutor and not up to either of you. What started as a simple argument may turn into a conviction that will stay on your record permanently. The consequences for a domestic violence conviction under Georgia law are very serious.

What does domestic violence include?

Under Georgia law, domestic violence primarily includes the following crimes: battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, or any felony. The crimes must occur between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or others living in your house.

So, if you hit, slap, or push your spouse, your live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, or your baby mama, this is domestic violence. Even if you don’t physically harm someone (for example, by leaving a bruise, cut, or scratch) it is still domestic violence. Furthermore, it is domestic violence if you do something that makes the other person scared that you are about to injure him or her (such as getting in their face while screaming threats of violence). It is even domestic violence if you break into your ex-spouse’s apartment or damage his or her property.

What happens if you are arrested for domestic violence?

Initial Jail Time

If you are arrested for domestic violence, you cannot be bailed out until you appear before a judge. This generally means that you will be required to stay in jail for at least 24 hours.

What are the penalties for domestic violence?

First Conviction

A first conviction is punishable as a misdemeanor of a “high and aggravated nature.” This means you could receive a maximum fine of $5000, a maximum jail sentence of 12 months, or both.

Additional Convictions

Each additional conviction is punishable as a felony. This means you could receive a maximum jail sentence of 5 years.

What other consequences might occur?

Protective Orders

If someone files an allegation of domestic violence against you, a judge may issue a temporary protective order against you until a hearing can be held. Within 30 days of a filing, there will be a hearing regarding the allegations, and the judge may grant a Family Violence Protection Order. Such an order lasts for a year, but may be modified to last for three years or become permanent. These orders may require you to do things such as stay away from the other party, move out of your home or provide the other party with another place to stay, and complete a family violence intervention program.

Restrictions on Gun Ownership

Under federal law, if you are convicted of domestic violence or subject to certain types of Protection Orders, then it is illegal for you to possess or own a firearm or ammunition. If you are caught with a gun, you could be sentenced to jail for up to 10 years.

Visitation Limitations

If you commit domestic violence, a judge may limit or place conditions on your child visitation rights. Potential conditions include supervised visits or the completion of a family violence intervention program.

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