What’s a “Domestic”, anyway?

The Term “Domestic”

Domestic violence. The phrase conjures up strong images for most people. The term, commonly abbreviated to DV, has become prevalent in the media. In Wisconsin, we have a fairly specific, but quite broad, definition of domestic, and it encompasses any two people who reside together, including roommates, parents, siblings, spouses and domestic partners. Domestic disturbances here also trigger mandatory arrest laws, which require police to remove one party from the home at the time of initial police contact. This is done with the hope that it will prevent the situation from escalating, to help encourage reporting of DV, as well as provide resources to victims. Having an offense carry the of the term “domestic” with it has far reaching legal implications. While domestic violence is frequently a topic in the community, terms like “domestic enhancer” and “domestic incident” have received less attention, and when they arise in many people’s cases, they are unsure of the meaning– both in definition, and what consequences they may have on the results of a case.

A “Domestic Incident”

A domestic incident can cover a wide variety of situations, as well as lead to a wide variety of charges, including battery, disorderly conduct, intimidation of a victim, and many more. In it’s most basic sense, a domestic incident is an occurrence between two or more individuals who are either in a relationship together, or who reside together. In the eyes of the law, domestic violence can occur between two roommates, just as easy as it can between a boyfriend and girlfriend. Because of this, the term domestic incident would cover any individuals who are living or staying together, whether that be in a house, or an apartment. “Domestic Incident” has evolved from its original days, when the term was used to specifically describe an act of violence committed by one person in the relationship against another. In the same way the terminology has advanced to include different types of relationships, it also has advanced in terms of conduct. Obviously an act of violence would still fall under this category, but also included could be acts of theft, prevention from calling the police, or even screaming matches between two individuals. With few exceptions, the term domestic incident now refers to almost any type of confrontation between two people who are living together.

Domestic Enhancers

When someone is charged with a crime, there is a possibility that crime will also have an enhancer with it. An enhancer serves to denote certain types of crimes, and also can increase the maximum sentence, or conditions of a charge. For example, someone that commits a robbery of a gas station with a pistol, will typically have a charge of robbery with a weapon enhancer. Similarly, charges such as battery or disorderly conduct, can have domestic enhancers added to them. The enhancers can increase the amount of exposure one may have at sentencing, but in some cases serve to denote a particular set of circumstances. For example, a disorderly conduct is a type of catch-all charge in Wisconsin. It has a vague definition, which essentially boils down to something like inappropriate behavior in public or private. Because a conviction of a charge does not denote the factual circumstances, there is no indication if it was urinating in an alley or screaming at an officer, an enhancer often serves as an indicator of the type of defense. If someone has multiple Disorderly Conducts, but two have domestic enhancers, this would serve to demonstrate a person may have frequent domestic related issues.

What Does This Mean For Me?

Domestic crimes or enhancers can affect your life. In some circumstances you may face a stigma, being categorized as a person who commits acts of violence, when you simply had an argument get to loud. A common concern is that a domestic enhancer on a misdemeanor can cause the offender to lose his or her right to possess a firearm. Fortunately, there are ways to attempt to minimize these consequences, including having criminal complaints reissued to remove a domestic enhancer and/or to negotiate a plea to charges that do not include domestic elements. If you or someone you know is facing domestic charges, or charges with domestic enhancers, contact a Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney (preferably at our office) for a free consultation