Most of the people we help are , even when they come through the door, already aware that there are very serious consequences to any felony conviction. But in the case of misdemeanor charges, people often assume that the relatively minor offense will have limited long term consequences for them. Folks assume, in the misdemeanor context, that the only matters meriting serious consideration are 1) whether there is any jail time associated with the charge; 2) what fines and fees are associated with this charge, i.e., what's it gonna cost me; and 3) how much probation and/or counseling is associated with the charge. Our clients' initial inquiry generally ends after those three questions.
Unfortunately, there are often very serious ancillary consequences associated with misdemeanor charges. This is especially true in the case of any charge that is designated to have arisen in the context of domestic violence (there is often a notation of "DV" written along with the charge on the misdemeanor ticket or on the complaint received in the mail). Two of the most burdensome consequences of a domestic violence charge or conviction, are the loss of firearm rights and the limitation on acquisition or retention of an Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Fingerprint Clearance Card.
Most people we meet are aware that convicted felons lose a substantial number of rights otherwise held under the Arizona and United States constitutions. Those rights forfeited by the convicted felon include the right to vote and the right to own firearms. But most people are not immediately aware that the loss of firearms rights occurs even with misdemeanor convictions if the conviction included a charge designated as a "domestic violence" offense. That is, any person who is convicted of the charge with a domestic violence designation, loses his or her right to own or possess firearms. This is a major consequence as it effectively means that the person convicted of a domestic violence related offense cannot even have firearms present in the residence, regardless of whether or not the firearms are owned by the convicted person. Under the law, possession does not necessarily and at ownership. Instead, it includes simply the ability to maintain dominion or control over the firearm. Thus, if a firearm is in the home and accessible to the convicted person, that firearm, in the eyes of future prosecutors, would arguably be under the convicts dominion or control. Possession of an otherwise legal firearm by a person who's prohibited from possession by Arizona law is a Class 4 felony.
Arizona DPS Fingerprint Clearance Card
In some cases, especially for people not otherwise inclined to own firearms, the most onerous of consequences for a domestic violence conviction is the loss or suspension of an Arizona DPS Fingerprint Clearance Card. Among the list of charges that so damage the fingerprint clearance, in addition to the obvious felonies, are simple misdemeanors that we often see with domestic filings related charges. These charges include assault, endangerment, threatening and intimidating, and even criminal damage.
We speak with many people who, in order to work in their profession, need to have an approval from the Arizona Department of Public Safety via the Fingerprint Clearance Card. The cars are needed for many careers, usually including those that work with or even have contact with children. The careers include the obvious such as school teachers and those state employees from the Arizona DES or DHS that work with children. But the affected careers can also include those professions that contemplate even incidental contact with minors. The cars are often required for things that are part time or perhaps undertaken as a hobby. The requirement can affect everyone from youth sport referees to church nursery workers.
Especially notable in this discussion is the fact that the mere presence of a charge, even in the absence of a conviction, can remove a card-holders approval for as long as the charges are pending. Obviously, a conviction would also remove the fingerprint clearance card approval.
The full list of charges that impact the fingerprint clearance card can be found at A.R.S. 41-1758.03 and 41-1758.03. If the worst happens there are processes through which we can appeal your denial or suspension of fingerprint clearance card approval, to the Arizona Department
To state the obvious, if either firearm rights or the Arizona DPS fingerprint clearance card are important to you, we encourage you must take all appropriate steps to avoid a charge or conviction for a domestic violence offense.