Skilled Domestic Violence Attorney in Morgan County, Georgia

The State of Georgia treats domestic violence charges differently than other battery or assault incidents and punishes convicted offenders more harshly. This makes it imperative that you get competent legal advice immediately if you are accused of a family violence crime. Staying ahead of the process with the help of an attorney experienced in dealing with domestic assault charges is your best chance to minimize the legal consequences of a conviction. These can include paying a fine, no contact provisions with family members, being ordered to participate in the Family Violence Intervention Program or, worst case scenario, serving jail time. 

These two words–domestic violence–can also have serious long-term repercussions for your reputation and social standing after the dust has settled. Neighbors and colleagues might stop speaking to you or give you the cold shoulder. If you have children, you might get a visit from family services. You might not get hired for a job you want, even though you have the qualifications. Even getting accused of this crime can have an ugly ripple effect. 

At Michael Fulcher Law, we understand what’s at stake when a domestic violence charge is filed for all parties involved, including the accused. We are here to protect your legal rights under Georgia State Law and we’ll explore all potential avenues for resolving your case. The public might have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear the words “domestic violence,” but we know that every situation is unique—and that there are many legal options available to you. Contact our domestic violence attorney today so we can get started on your case.

Domestic Violence Laws in Georgia

What is domestic violence? George state law defines it as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse among family members. This last term, family members, refers to persons who are living or have lived in the same household, including:  

  • Current or former spouses (legally married)
  • Current or former intimate partners (not legally married)
  • People who are parents of the same child
  • Parents and children
  • Step-parents and step-children
  • Foster-parents and foster-children
  • Other persons living in the household (currently or in the past)

The bonds between family members do not automatically end when one member moves out of the house, which is why ex-spouses are still considered to be family members in Georgia, even if they are no longer living at the same address.

A common depiction of domestic violence in the media is a wife with a black eye who tells everyone she injured herself when she pulled open a cabinet door too fast. We seldom see men who have experienced this kind of abuse, even though it doesn’t discriminate in real life. At its core, domestic abuse occurs when one family member attempts to overpower or control another family member. Physical assault is just one of several abusive behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, coerce, humiliate, or harm another person. 

Georgia law understands that family violence can involve the following abusive behaviors:

  • Physical abuse: Assault, battery, unlawful restraint, or other bodily harm; Georgia law does not consider reasonable corporal punishment of a child to be physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual assault or rape; forcible or non-consensual sex is a criminal act, even if the parties are in an intimate relationship
  • Emotional abuse: Pattern of behavior intended to cause emotional distress or fear; includes stalking, harassment, and making threats
  • Psychological abuse: Pattern of behavior intended to cause psychological distress or imbalance
  • Financial abuse: Manipulation of household finances as a means to control another family member

When police get a call about a domestic violence incident, the incident reported usually involves physical abuse. Responding officers understand they will probably be walking into a volatile situation that may still be in progress, and to minimize risks, they will follow a very clear protocol for handling the situation: 

  • Separate the parties and any witnesses 
  • Take care of any injured parties
  • Interview the parties and witnesses separately
  • Determine whether there is probable cause that domestic violence occurred
  • If yes, arrest the aggressor and remove this person from the premises

The clients who come to Michael Fulcher facing domestic assault charges are often shocked that they ended up in the back of a police car—the last place they ever expected to be—but Georgia police don’t have the discretion to act differently. If there is probable cause, the aggressive party will be arrested, even if the other party has not pressed charges or tells the police there is no problem. If a weapon has been involved in the altercation, there could be much harsher consequences. If the aggressor violated a protective order, there could be much harsher consequences. 

So many variables! This is why it’s so important to secure the services of an experienced domestic violence attorney like Michael Fulcher Law. Years of practice in Morgan County have given them an in-depth knowledge of how the system—including the courts and the police department—responds to domestic violence accusations. Their goal in these cases is to find solutions that work in the best interest of their clients and their clients’ families.  

Examples of Domestic Violence in Morgan County, Georgia

Domestic violence takes many forms that can include:

  • Simple assault: Attempted violent injury
  • Aggravated assault: Attempted violent injury (murder, rape, robbery) with the aid of a weapon 
  • Simple battery: Physical contact with intent to insult or provoke
  • Battery: Intentionally causing someone visible physical harm 
  • Stalking: Following, surveilling, harassing, or contacting someone against their wishes with the intention of intimidating or harassing that person. Here is an example:

A few weeks after breaking up with the woman he’d been living with for 4 years, the man starts receiving text messages from her. First, these are brief and friendly—“How’s your day going?” “Are you asleep yet? I’m not!”—but then he starts getting 10 a day, then 20. She also messages him on Facebook, commenting on all his posts. “Wow, looks like you and Nick and Chloe had a fun time together the other night.” Finally, he unfriends her and asks her to please stop texting. 

The relationship is over. He blocks her number but starts getting phone calls in the middle of the night from an untraceable number and notices her car parked across the street from the building where he lives. He changes his number, but then she starts making bogus appointments with his secretary at work. Around that time, he starts noticing things out of place in his apartment—books shelved upside-down, one of his favorite sneakers hidden in the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper, a pint of Haagen Das mint chocolate melted in the vegetable bin. He had asked for his keys when she moved out but had she made an extra set? Was she sneaking into his apartment when he was at work? 

When he finally calls to confront her, she admits it, and then tells him that if he doesn’t take her back, he will regret it. He calls a locksmith as soon as he hangs up, but isn’t sure what else to do. The stress of worrying about what she might do next has affected his sleeping and work performance. Some friends advise him to call the police and make a domestic violence stalking complaint. 

On the surface, it may be difficult to see why sitting in a car outside an ex’s new apartment and sending them texts could be considered domestic violence. But it is part of a larger pattern of abusive behavior.

  • Child abuse: Physical abuse involving bodily injury; sexual abuse involving sexual assault, rape, or inappropriate physical contact; exploiting the child for sexual purposes
  • Unlawful restraint: Barring someone from leaving their house, including the use of physical restraints and false imprisonment
  • Criminal Trespass:  Violation of family violence protective order

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When you need a lawyer after being charged with a DUI or criminal offense or as you explore your options for filing a personal injury claim, look no further than Michael Fulcher Law’s impressive background, and ultra-attentive client service. To learn more about how we can help you achieve the best legal solution possible for your circumstances, call our criminal defense law firm at (706) 438-1555 or contact us online, and schedule your free consultation today.

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Georgia’s Family Violence Protection Order

If a Georgia resident has a legitimate concern that they are in danger of possible domestic violence threat or can show that they have been the victim of domestic abuse, they can petition the court to issue a protective order. These orders ban the designated person from having any contact with the person placing the order. The rationale is that putting physical distance between family members will prevent a potential violent offense from occurring. It also alerts the person getting served that their subsequent actions could have severe legal and financial consequences. Unfortunately, not everyone understands how protective orders work. Before they know it, they end up in a judicial quagmire that they might have avoided with the counsel of a qualified domestic violence attorney.

Getting served with a family violence protective order is serious business. In practical terms, the directives and restrictions detailed in these orders can upend your life. You may be required to:

  • Move out of your house
  • Finance alternative housing for the complainant and your children, including moving costs for their possessions
  • Start paying temporary alimony or child support
  • Stay away from your old neighborhood
  • Pay for the protective order filing fees and other legal costs
  • Give up use of a shared vehicle
  • Attend counseling sessions

These disruptions can cause logistic and financial havoc, but the most painful consequences of a domestic violence protective order occur in situations where dependent children are involved. Being banned from having any contact with your spouse or ex-spouse almost always means being banned from any contact with your children—and this can include phone calls. The person making the complaint often gets temporary custody of the kids. You might be thinking that these issues will all get straightened out once you get your chance to tell your side of the story in court, but an experienced domestic violence defense attorney will advise you to proceed with caution and take all possible steps to protect your rights as a parent. 

You also need to understand how the different kinds of protection orders work in Georgia. Every state defines the terms and penalties of these protections differently. The first thing a qualified family violence lawyer in Morgan County will want to know is what type of restraining order you received. 

There are two types in Georgia:

  • Ex parte order of protection – The Latin term “ex parte” means “on behalf of,” and in legal parlance refers to decisions made in the interests of one party only. A judge issues an ex parte protection order on behalf of the complainant—without any input from the accused. The accused often has no warning that a family member is filing an ex parte order against them. You do have the legal right to challenge this restraining order, but not until the designated hearing date. This date must be within 30 days of the issuance of the ex parte order. 
  • Family violence protective order – If the court rules that there is probable cause that the complainant is in danger of any criminal act as defined under Georgia’s domestic violence statute, then it may issue a standard restraining order that codifies the terms for one year. The complainant has the right to ask for an additional two-year extension at that point.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that an ex parte order is less serious than a standard restraining order. You can be arrested for violating the terms of either. Best case scenario—you’ll get a contempt of court charge. This charge will stick even if the domestic violence charge is deemed inadmissible at the hearing. Worst case—you will end up in jail. The court will then determine whether your violation of the protective order is a misdemeanor or felony offense and determine penalties accordingly. If your actions are construed as stalking, you could be looking at a 10-year prison sentence.

So, first order of business – do not ignore a restraining order, even if you are convinced that there is no legitimate basis for the complaint. Get prepared to follow the directives in the order to the letter, for the designated time limit. Second order of business – contact a domestic violence lawyer who is knowledgeable about the legal status of these orders under Georgia state law. Look for a Morgan County law firm with a solid record in this area of criminal defense. You have legal rights, and there may be options for negotiating the terms of the protective order. You also need strong representation on your side at the court hearing.

FAQs 

Over our years of practice, Michael Fulcher Law has offered guidance to clients navigating the emotional and legal challenges of a domestic violence dispute. Some of the most common questions and concerns we hear include the following.

Yes, domestic violence charges remain on the record forever in Georgia.

Georgia recently changed its policy regarding changes to an individual’s criminal arrest record that makes it possible to restrict, or remove, certain misdemeanor offenses with a bill called the “Second Chance Law.” Felony-level convictions must remain, but it is now possible to restrict a conviction for some misdemeanors, provided that the convicted person has served their full sentence, and has not been convicted of any additional crimes in 4 years.

The Second Chance Law does not allow restriction of any crimes that fall under the Family Violence definition. It might be possible to restrict a non-domestic battery or assault charge, but if the incident involved family members, it is not exempt. Nor is misdemeanor family violence stalking. This illustrates Georgia’s policy of punishing crimes that involve a family member more harshly than those that don’t.

If you have been arrested on a family violence charge or have received a domestic restraining order, contact a skilled domestic violence attorney immediately. They may be able to help you avoid any felony charges being filed, and resolve the case in an expedient manner that benefits all parties involved.

Emotional abuse can be a component of a domestic violence case, either as the sole charge or in addition to other types of abuse.

The Georgia Family Violence Act recognizes 5 categories of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial. All involve one person attempting to exert control over a family member with the intent to cause harm. Emotional, and psychological abuse may not appear to be as evident as other criminal behavior, but our current understanding of domestic violence recognizes that emotional abuse can cause serious harm, especially if it persists for a long time.

Distinguishing criminal emotional abuse from ordinary dysfunctional family dynamics is not easy. To rise to the level of domestic violence, the abuse must meet certain criteria:

  • Proof of verifiable severe emotional distress in the claimant
  • Proof that abuser acted with intent to cause harm
  • Evidence that this behavior caused the emotional distress

All domestic violence cases are complicated, and emotional abuse charges add an extra layer. Don’t assume these charges will not be taken seriously in court. Talk to a qualified family violence lawyer about the best strategies for your situation.

The bond amount set for domestic violence depends on the severity of the charge.

The definition of family violence under Georgia law includes numerous different types of charges (assault, battery, sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, criminal trespassing, threats, and unlawful restraint), and several of these can be either misdemeanor or felony charges. The judge setting the bond amount will review the police report, the alleged charge, and whether you had prior offenses.

There is no hard-and-fast formula for what bond will be set, but for a first offense misdemeanor domestic battery charge, it could be between $500, and $1000. The bond for felony charges will be higher, often several thousand dollars. If the incident resulted in serious injuries, the judge may refuse bond, on the basis that the perpetrator is a danger to the community, and should remain in prison. The courts take stalking charges seriously, and tend to be less forgiving when the abuse involves a child.

Judges also don’t like it when someone violates a domestic protection order, and may adjust the bond amount accordingly or order incarceration if they think the accused poses a danger to the accuser.

Once you pay your bond, make an appointment to talk with Morgan County criminal defense attorney with expertise in family violence law.

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“Mr. Fulcher has been tremendously helpful with my case. Since hiring him he has consistently returned my calls as quickly as he can. We discussed an ideal outcome, and I set about doing exactly as he said. Following his advice we were able to get a very favorable outcome. He is always quick to answer any questions, and has stayed very engaged with me throughout this ordeal. Michael provides excellent counsel, and I would recommend him to anyone!”

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