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Explaining the Arizona Domestic Violence Statute

Domestic violence is a broad umbrella of crimes committed against people who are close to the perpetrator. Per the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, “domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, or other abusive behavior as a part of a systematic pattern of power and control by one partner against another.” Domestic violence is a common crime, with many statistics to back it up. For example, 1 in 4 men and 1 and 3 women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, while every 44 minutes in Arizona, one or more children witnesses domestic violence take place. This article will only focus on explaining the Arizona domestic violence statute, A.R.S. 13-13601, not delving into specific penalties for offenses.

Defining Domestic Violence

Arizona domestic violence laws are governed by the statute A.R.S. 13-13601. Under this statute, “domestic violence means any act that is a dangerous crime or offense, if any of the following applies”:

  • The relationship between the victim and the defendant is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household
  • The victim and the defendant have a child in common
  • The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party
  • The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order
  • The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant
  • The relationship between the defendant and victim is currently or was a romantic or sexual relationship

These are broad categories that serve as a catch-all for most close human bonds created during life. One addendum is that there are factors for determining if a victim and a defendant were or are in a sexual or romantic relationship, including: the type of relationship, the length of relationship, the frequency of interaction, and the length of time since the relationship terminated. There may be situations in which a very brief relationship that was terminated a long time ago would be determined not to be a relationship for the purposes of the domestic violence statute. 

Capabilities and Responsibilities of Police Officers

The domestic violence statute prescribes specific rights and abilities for peace officers. Firstly, a peace officer may, with or without a warrant, make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe domestic violence occurred. Probable cause is generally, “when there is a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed, or when evidence of the crime is present.” Probable cause for domestic violence might be visible injuries to the victim.

Second, an officer may have the capacity to make a dual arrest of two partners if there is probable cause both parties independently committed domestic violence. Importantly, self-defense is generally not deemed to be an act of domestic violence. Therefore, if both partners have injuries but one partner acted in self-defense, only one arrest would be made.

Third, an officer may be able to seize firearms on the premises if they are in plain view or found pursuant to a consent to search. A consent to search means that someone has voluntarily waived their Fourth Amendment rights and allowed officers to conduct a search.

Lastly, a peace officer must provide in writing the victim with resources and procedures, including:

  • An order of protection, an injunction and an injunction against harassment
  • Emergency telephone number for the local police agency
  • Telephone numbers for emergency services in the local community
  • Websites for local resources related to domestic violence

Should you be involved or otherwise implicated in domestic violence, contacting a lawyer immediately is important. This article only touched upon the basics of domestic violence, an attorney will help you understand specific offenses, penalties and outcomes not laid out here.

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