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Domestic Enhancers: Explanation & Consequences

As a local criminal defense attorney, this is by far the most common question I get: why am I being charged with domestic abuse for a verbal argument with my significant other? I don’t blame anyone for asking this question because it is confusing, so I’ll clear it up for you today.

In Wisconsin, any offense committed against a present or former spouse, against an adult with whom the person resides with presently or formerly, or against an adult with whom the person has a child in common, is by definition a domestic abuse incident. Wis. Stat. 968.075.

Let’s break that down a little bit with an example or two. Bob divorced his wife Lisa in 2002. They run into each other at Country USA in 2016 and a fight ensues. Even though Bob and Lisa are no longer in a “domestic” relationship by common definition, they still fall within the definition under Wisconsin statutes. As a result, both Bob and Lisa are charged with Domestic Battery. A second example: Sue and Stan share custody of their 3 year old son. During a drop off at a public park, Sue yells at Stan in a profane manner. Guests of the park are offended and contact the authorities. Sue is charged with Domestic Disorderly Conduct. Because Sue and Stan share a child, they have a domestic relationship.

Now that we understand what qualifies as domestic abuse in Wisconsin, let’s talk about the consequences of this qualification. There are two primary consequences of the domestic abuse enhancer in Wisconsin. First is that in the event of a conviction, there’s a mandatory domestic abuse surcharge the individual will be required to pay. Presently the surcharge is $100 for each domestic offense but as we all know these costs can change at any time. The second primary consequence is that if an individual has two separate prior domestic offenses, they are considered a domestic abuse repeater for the third (and all subsequent offenses). Why this matters is because the enhancer for a domestic repeater actually changes the maximum penalties for the offense and, if the offense in question is only a misdemeanor, if the person is a domestic abuse repeater the status changes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Do you need legal assistance with a domestic offense? Attorney Britteny LaFond and the rest of the legal team at Petit & Dommershausen is here to help. Call 920-739-9900 for your confidential consultation.

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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

What is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

A judge or circuit court commissioner may grant an injunction, also known as a restraining order, that orders a person to refrain from committing acts of domestic abuse against the petitioner, to avoid the petitioner’s residence, or any other location temporarily occupied by the petitioner or both, or other remedies under law.

A Court may grant such an injunction if all of the following occur:1. The petitioner files a petition alleging the necessary elements 2. The petitioner serves upon the respondent a copy or summary of the petition and notice of the time for hearing on the issuance of the injunction, or the respondent serves upon the petitioner notice of the time for hearing on the issuance of the injunction.3. After hearing, the judge or circuit court commissioner finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in, or based upon prior conduct of the petitioner and the respondent may engage in, domestic abuse of the petitioner.

What is domestic abuse?

Wisconsin Statutes for the Entry of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order provide the following definitions. 

“Domestic abuse” means any of the following engaged in by an adult family member or adult household member against another adult family member or adult household member, by an adult caregiver against an adult who is under the caregiver’s care, by an adult against his or her adult former spouse, by an adult against an adult with whom the individual has or had a dating relationship, or by an adult against an adult with whom the person has a child in common:1. Intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness.2. Intentional impairment of physical condition.3. A violation of s. 940.225 (1)(2) or (3).4. A violation of s. 940.32.5. A violation of s. 943.01, involving property that belongs to the individual.6. A threat to engage in the conduct under subd. 1.2.3.4., or 5.(b)

“Dating relationship” means a romantic or intimate social relationship between 2 adult individuals but “dating relationship” does not include a casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in a business or social context. A court shall determine if a dating relationship existed by considering the length of the relationship, the type of the relationship, and the frequency of the interaction between the adult individuals involved in the relationship.

“Family member” means a spouse, a parent, a child or a person related by blood or adoption to another person.(c) 

“Household member” means a person currently or formerly residing in a place of abode with another person.(ce) 

“Reasonable grounds” means more likely than not that a specific event has occurred or will occur.(cj) 

Do you need legal assistance with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Attorney Nathan J. Wojan and the rest of the legal team at Petit & Dommershausen is here to help. Call 920-739-9900 for your confidential consultation. We have assisted many people through these difficult proceedings and we can help you.