Law enforcement’s aggressive position on domestic violence can have a lifetime of impact – regardless of how the charges are resolved.

The term, “domestic violence,” refers to “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Included in this classification are instances of alleged emotional, psychological, economic, sexual and physical abuse. Acts of family violence are defined as but not limited to assault, battery and criminal trespass.

Between 2003 and 2016, 1,671 Georgians lost their lives due to domestic violence, and Georgia has been ranked as high as eighth in the nation for its rate of men killing women. In 2015 alone, law enforcement officers responded to 65,487 incidences of alleged domestic violence in Georgia. That same year, Georgia’s judicial system issued 24,710 protective orders and stalking orders.

The first offense, which is normally classified as a misdemeanor, can result in an additional charge of child cruelty if a minor is in the domicile at the time of the alleged incident. In most cases, the judge will issue a “no-contact” bond which prohibits the two parties from seeing or talking to each other. This provision is generally put in place as a condition of bond. Sometimes, this no-contact provision can be extended to children as well. Not only does this bond create a logistical hardship for the family members, it will force the defendant to move out of the marital home and find other living arrangements. The no-contact bond can be especially cumbersome to navigate if the couple operates a business together.

Defendants in a hurry to put these charges behind them often choose to plead guilty to the first offense. This decision has serious consequences in two areas. First, you are setting yourself up for the next incident to be classified as a felony. Expect the prosecutor in the second case to use your first conviction against you. This first conviction can also be used as leverage in subsequent divorce and custody battles. Secondly, a subsequent domestic violence conviction will ban the defendant from owning firearms for the rest of his or her life.

If you have been arrested and charged with domestic violence, do not take the matter lightly – the courts certainly won’t.