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Criminal Damage Charges in Arizona Domestic Violence Cases

We often see clients that come to us with misdemeanor charges that have the added designation of "DV" or "Domestic Violence." The domestic violence categorization is something to be avoided whenever possible. Any domestic violence conviction in Arizona, even if it's simply a misdemeanor offense, involves negative consequences that don't come along with the ordinary misdemeanor offense. Those consequences include substantial counseling requirements and the loss of the right to own a firearm.

The charges upon which the DV or Domestic Violence designation can be added are set forth in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3601. Those charges include one we commonly see in misdemeanor domestic violence cases – criminal damage. The police often render a criminal damage charge in cases where no actual assault or disturbing the peace has occurred, and a criminal damage charge is all that can be arguably sustained by the evidence. However, there are, under certain circumstances, good defenses to criminal damage charges under Arizona law.

The Arizona law on criminal damage reads that a person is guilty of criminal damage for "defacing or damaging property of another person." Note the italicized words – of another person. The key factor that the prosecutor must show in order to prove a criminal damage charge is that the property in question belonged to a person other than the defendant.

While this may be easy to show in some cases, e.g. where a husband and wife are involved in an argument or when parents and children are involved in the argument (because of joint ownership of property), in other cases it is harder to prove.

You cannot be held responsible for damaging your own property, unless that property is jointly owned by the victim. Thus, if you have been accused of breaking your own stuff, you have a good defense to the charge.

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