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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.