The attorneys at Angel, Coil & Bartlett routinely handle Partner or Family Member Assault charges across the state of Montana. Our firm is based in Bozeman, Montana. Contact our firm for more information as to how we can assist you in your case. Below are some common frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive from our clients.
- What is a Partner and Family Member Assault Charge in Montana?
- What Should I Bring to My First Meeting With Your Office?
- What are the Potential Penalties for Partner or Family Member Assault?
- Can I Lose My Right to Bear Arms?
- What is a No Contact Order?
- Are These the Only Penalties I May Face for Partner or Family Member Assault?
- I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong! Why Did I Get Arrested?
- What Can I Expect From Your Firm?
What is a Partner and Family Member Assault Charge in Montana?
The crime of Partner or Family Member Assault, often referred to as PFMA, is Montana’s version of the generic crime most people think of as domestic violence. One commits the offense of Partner or Family Member Assault if the person purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury or causes reasonable apprehension of bodily injury to a partner or family member, or negligently causes bodily injury with a weapon.
What Should I Bring to My First Meeting With Your Office?
You should bring all of the court-related documents you have received from law enforcement and the Court. This may include the charging document (citation), a copy of your bond conditions if you have seen a judge, any “no contact” orders that have been put in place, and the document informing you of your next court hearing.
What are the Potential Penalties for Partner or Family Member Assault?
A person convicted of a first offense Partner or Family Member Assault faces a sentence of not less than 24 hours in jail and up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. For a second offense, a person faces a sentence of not less than 72 hours in jail and up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. A third or subsequent offense is a felony punishable by not less than 30 days in jail and up to 5 years in the Montana State Prison and a fine up to $50,000. A person convicted of a Partner or Family Member Assault can also be subject to misdemeanor or felony probation for the entirety of his or her sentence.
Can I Lose My Right to Bear Arms?
Yes. The loss of the right to bear arms is perhaps the worst consequence of all for hunters, sportsmen, gun enthusiasts and persons carrying firearms for self defense. A person convicted of Partner or Family Member Assault will lose his or her right to own or possess firearms guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Federal law specifically prohibits a person who has been convicted of a Partner or Family Member Assault or another crime of domestic violence from owning and possessing firearms.
What is a No Contact Order?
A person charged with Partner or Family Member Assault will often be subject to a “no contact order” preventing he or she from having contact with his or her husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or family member involved in the alleged dispute. This can create serious problems if the parties live in the same residence or rely on one another for childcare, financial support or transportation.
Are These the Only Penalties I May Face for Partner or Family Member Assault?
No. Once you meet with one of our attorneys the other possible penalties will be discussed with you in detail in addition to your possible defenses.
Can I Be Required To Attend Counseling and Anger Management?
Yes. A person convicted of Partner or Family Member Assault must complete a counseling assessment with a focus on violence, controlling behavior, dangerousness, and chemical dependency and to comply with the assessor’s recommendations. The person must also complete 40 hours of anger management counseling.
Who is a “Partner” or “Family Member?”
“Partners” is defined under Montana law as spouses, former spouses, persons who have a child in common, and persons who have been or are currently in a dating or ongoing intimate relationship. This definition encompasses, but is not limited to, the accused’s girlfriend or boyfriend, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, husband or wife, or ex-husband or ex-wife. Both men and women can be accused of committing this crime.
The “family member” definition is much simpler. Family members include the accused’s mother, father, children, brother, sister and other past or present family members of a household. The definition includes relationships created by adoption or remarriage. The relationships are considered to continue regardless of the age of the parties and whether the parties reside in the same household.
I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong! Why Did I Get Arrested?
Defending Partner and Family Member Assault charges can be challenging. These types of crimes often boil down to allegations of “he said, she said,” as most of the time the accused and the alleged victim are the only witnesses. Often times these crimes are reported during or after a dispute between two parties when one or both parties contact the police or a concerned citizen calls the police. Once the police confront the parties, they are often separated and asked to explain their “version” of the situation. The police officers involved, not being a witness to the dispute, are usually poorly equipped to make a judgment call, which is often wrong, as to who the victim is or, in the case of mutual aggression, who the “predominate aggressor” is. Often the alleged victim lies to police about the accused’s actions or, out of anger, seeks to have the other arrested despite his or her innocence. Disputes over money, children or unfaithfulness can cause a person to make false accusations about the other that they later regret. Once the police are involved, they often feel obligated to arrest someone, particularly when physical injury is involved. Unfortunately, the police are under no obligation to collect exculpatory evidence or evidence that you acted in self-defense.
Montana law specifically provides guidance under the predominate aggressor statute for whom to arrest in cases of mutual aggression. The statute requires the police to consider: the prior history of violence between the parties, the severity of injuries received by each person, whether an act or threat of violence was taken in self-defense, the relative sizes and apparent strength of each party, the apparent fear or lack of fear between the parties and the statements made by witnesses. This calculus is problematic and can lead a police officer to arrest the wrong person. For example, the police may arrest the victim of the assault because he or she is physically larger and stronger or because he or she is not as emotional as the abuser. Often the abuser convinces the police that he or she acted in self-defense or the victim is arrested because the abuser has more extensive injuries.
What Can I Expect From Your Firm?
You can expect us to represent you at all court-related phases of your case and aggressively advocate on your behalf. Our firm has extensive experience defending Partner or Family Member Assault cases and will work with you to expose the weaknesses and misunderstandings that form the basis of the prosecutor’s case. Often support for your defense is discovered after analyzing the police officer’s written reports, audio and video recordings, or through witness interviews. In limited circumstances, as provided by Montana law, a person is allowed to reasonable force to protect himself or herself, sometimes referred to as “self-defense,” to protect another person, to protect property, or to protect an occupied structure. Our attorneys will investigate your case in search of evidence to support a claim of self-defense. We often employ private investigators in assault cases to search for witnesses and evidence that the police neglected to collect.
If you are accused of committing the offense of Partner or Family Member Assault in Montana, contact our firm to speak to one of our attorneys. Angel, Coil & Bartlett is comprised of a dedicated team of Montana criminal trial lawyers committed to protecting your constitutional and legal rights and helping you navigate the Montana criminal justice system.