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Victim pressing charges Wisconsin domestic violence defense lawyers

Even if the alleged domestic violence victim chooses not to testify, someone could still be charged with domestic violence by the state of Wisconsin. Domestic violence are considered an enhancer: disorderly conduct, strangulation or other crimes can be classified as domestic violence.

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Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorneys Produce Winning Domestic Violence Defenses

When you’re facing domestic assault charges in Wisconsin, it’s vital you have a top-rated Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer.

Often, domestic violence charges in Wisconsin are the result of one of two circumstances; either the plaintiff fabricated or exaggerated the story as a means of revenge, anger or resentment, or physical contact was the result of self-defense.

Police investigations typically involve tactics that manipulate or confuse upset defendants into admitting to physical contact, which is often taken as an admission of guilt. The first task in your domestic abuse defense is attaining a Milwaukee criminal defense attorney with a proven record of powerful, winning defenses.

Domestic violence charges

Domestic violence is not a specific crime or charge—it’s an enhancer: there is no crime of domestic violence in Wisconsin.  Other crimes like disorderly conduct, battery, felony strangulation, and others can be classified as an act of domestic violence. See also: surprising domestic violence facts

Charges can be filed for domestic violence in any incident where prohibited conduct occurs with an adult against a: 

  • girlfriend or boyfriend
  • husband or wife
  • former spouse/significant other
  • roommate
  • person with whom the person has a child in common 

Domestic violence charges can depend on your relationship with the boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or husband involved. If the alleged domestic violence victim chooses not to testify, the state of Wisconsin may still charge you with domestic violence.

How Do I Get Domestic Violence Charges Dropped? 

Can you get charges dropped for domestic violence?

There are instances where Wisconsin law enforcement is legally obligated to arrest someone for domestic violence. This is if the officer has reason to believe:

  1. there is evidence of criminal domestic abuse
  2. domestic abuse will continue
  3. physical injury is evident

The person believed to be the predominant aggressor must be arrested on a domestic violence call. This isn’t necessarily the person who started it but is found to be the more significant aggressor. Typically someone will be arrested if there is a domestic violence call.

Having an experienced attorney could be the difference in a domestic violence case. Contact our Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers today to learn how to drop domestic violence charges in Wisconsin

What happens after you’re charged with domestic violence?

There is a specific timeline that typically occurs after domestic violence charges have been filed:

No Contact Order 

The alleged victim in your case has the right to impose a 72 hour no contact order. This will prevent you from having contact with them.

If you live with the boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife involved in your domestic violence case then you will not be allowed to go home for 72 hours. This is in effect even if you own the residence or your name is on the lease.

This no contact order also extends to call, text, email, and social media. The no contact order can also affect visitation with minor children in common with the victim.

Related: How to get a no contact order dropped in Wisconsin

What if the alleged victim violates the order? 

A 72 hour no contact order only applies to the person facing charges. The alleged victim can still call, text & arrive at your house and face no repercussions.

Responding to contact from the victim or even being found in the same place as the victim could lead to new criminal offenses.

Temporary Restraining Order 

A restraining order protects the petitioners from certain behavior of the accused. This order is only in effect until an injunction hearing.

Temporary restraining orders (TROs) require little to no proof and the burden of proof is significantly lower than at a criminal trial.

Challenging these allegations can be done at an injunction hearing but a court will likely issue a TRO if someone makes the required types of allegations and a court finds reasonable grounds to believe them.   

A respondent does not have the statutory right to be present at a TRO hearing.  A court can even issue a TRO against you even if you were not given notice of the TRO hearing.  But a TRO is only a temporary order and you can attend the injunction hearing to challenge the claims made in the TRO petition. 

An injunction hearing follows a TRO.  An injunction is a long-term order from a court that prohibits the respondent from taking certain action as it relates to the petitioner.  The respondent must be served with notice of the injunction hearing.  At the hearing, both sides can present evidence to the court to support why the injunction should be granted or not.   

Harassment Injunction 

A harassment injunction can be ordered when there is harassing behavior alleged between parties.  Harassment includes:

  • physical contact with the petitioner
  • stalking
  • engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which torment or intimidate the person and which serve no legitimate purpose   

The burden of proof at an injunction hearing is less than at a criminal trial.  This often leads to he said/she said arguments. A harassment injunction is generally in place for up to 4 years.   

The penalties for violating an injunction vary depending on the type of order that is violated. Any violation of an injunction can result in jail time and fines.   

Domestic Abuse Injunction

A domestic abuse injunction can be ordered by a court when a person alleges that the respondent has engaged in acts of domestic abuse against the petitioner.  “Domestic abuse” means certain acts engaged in by:

  • a person and that person’s adult family member or household member
  • an adult who is under the care of the person
  • a former spouse
  • an adult with whom the person has or had a dating relationship
  • an adult with whom the person shares a child in common

Acts that qualify for a domestic abuse injunction include:

  • intentional infliction of pain or injury
  • sexual assault
  • stalking
  • damage to property
  • threats to commit any of those acts

A court may grant a domestic abuse injunction if it finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in acts of domestic abuse against the petitioner.   

A domestic abuse injunction can be ordered for up to 4-10 years. Orders are longer if the court finds there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit first or second-degree intentional homicide or sexual assault against the petitioner.   

The burden of proof at injunction hearings is low. The court must only find reasonable grounds to believe the allegations.  

If you are convicted of violating a domestic abuse injunction you face a fine up to $1,000 and up to 9 months in jail. Having an attorney represent you to present evidence and witnesses to dispute claims can help to prevent an injunction from being issued against you. 

What Types of Charges Usually Have Domestic Abuse Added? 

Domestic violence in Wisconsin is not a separate charge.  It is a charge modifier or enhancer—many different offenses can be charged with a domestic abuse modifier in Wisconsin.

These are the most common reasons a domestic abuse modifier is added to a charge:

Misdemeanor Battery

Misdemeanor Battery is charged when one person intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.

Domestic abuse battery is charged when bodily harm is committed on a person that shares a domestic relationship with the person charged. If one spouse hits their former spouse, that could be charged as misdemeanor battery domestic abuse. It could also be charged if a person threw a water bottle at their roommate, striking them and causing a bruise.

Battery is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • up to 9 months in jail
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both
Disorderly Conduct

It can include physical acts, language, or both. Disorderly conduct is any conduct that is violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly and that is committed under circumstances that cause or provoke a disturbance.

This is charged when the alleged disorderly behavior occurs with a person with whom the charged person shares a domestic relationship. If spouses get into a yelling match and the neighbors hear and call the police, a charge of disorderly conduct, domestic abuse is likely on the way. Similarly, if two roommates have a loud argument where they swear at each other than the state may charge one of the roommates with disorderly conduct domestic abuse.

Disorderly Conduct in Wisconsin is a Class B Misdemeanor punishable by:


Strangulation in Wisconsin is charged whenever a person “intentionally impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person.

Strangulation can be charged when there is a physical altercation between two people, and one of those people places their hands around the neck of the other person. A charge of strangulation does not require the victim to lose consciousness. The state can charge a person with strangulation when the victim indicates that their breathing was even slightly impeded.

Charges of strangulation often accompany an arrest for battery domestic abuse and disorderly conduct domestic abuse. The police will ask the victim specific questions to determine if these offenses can be charged. The state may still proceed with charges even if the victim later admits that the statement they made was an exaggeration or even an outright lie.

Strangulation is a Class H Felony, punishable by:
  • up to 6 years in prison
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both
Felony Battery

Felony battery in Wisconsin is charged when one person commits an intentional act inflicting substantial or great bodily harm on another person. The level of harm inflicted will determine what level felony is charged.

If the person that suffers the harm in a felony battery case has a qualifying domestic relationship with the person charged, the state will add a charge modifier of domestic abuse to the felony battery charge. The domestic abuse modifier to a felony battery charge adds additional monetary penalties and other non-monetary penalties if the person charged is convicted. Don’t leave your constitutional rights to chance. Learn how our attorneys can help defend against felony battery charges in Wisconsin.

The lowest possible felony for a battery offense is a Class I Felony which carries a maximum penalty of:

  • 3 ½ years in prison
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both

The highest level of battery charge in Wisconsin is a Class E Felony, punishable by:

  • up to 15 years in prison
  • a $50,000 fine
  • or both
Criminal Trespass to Dwelling

In Wisconsin, any person who intentionally enters or remains in the dwelling of another, without the consent of the owner of the property, under circumstances tending to create or provoke a breach of the peace can be charged with criminal trespass to dwelling.

Prior permission to be on the property may not be a defense to this crime. Even if you have been to the house many times in the past, you can be charged with this offense if you fail to leave when asked. For example, if you normally go inside when you drop your child off at their other parent’s house but this time you are told you may not go inside, you could be charged with Criminal Trespass, Domestic Abuse if you enter the property.

This is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by:

  • up to 9 months in jail
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both
Criminal Damage to Property

Criminal damage to property can be charged to anyone who “intentionally causes damage to any physical property of another without the person’s consent.” One common issue that arises in cases like this is that the property that was damaged belongs to the person who damaged it. For instance, if you and your spouse get into an argument, and you knock your TV off the stand on the way out the door, you can still be charged with this offense. A person can be charged with criminal damage to property of their own property if someone else also has an ownership interest in that property. This could apply to property that was purchased before the marriage occurred.

In that situation you would not only have a charge of Criminal Damage to Property. You would also be facing additional penalties for domestic abuse because you were accused of damaging the property of your spouse.

WI criminal damage to property is a Class A Misdemeanor. Anyone who is convicted of this offense faces a maximum sentence of:

  • 9 months in jail
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both
Intimidating a Witness

In Wisconsin, a person can be charged with intimidating a witness if they “knowingly and maliciously prevent or dissuade or attempt to prevent or dissuade any witness from attending or giving testimony at trial” or other hearing related to a court case.

Intimidating a witness can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the offense depends on whether force is used or threatened, and the degree to which that force is used or threatened. The state will often charge this offense if they believe a person charged with a criminal offense asks a witness not to come to court. This charge often accompanies charges of Disorderly Conduct Domestic Abuse and Battery Domestic Abuse.

A common issue in these types of cases is direct evidence of the intimidation. Often the state will rely on the statement of a witness that claims they were told not to attend court by the person charged with a crime.

If charged as a misdemeanor, intimidating a witness carries a maximum penalty of:

  • 9 months in jail
  • a $10,000 fine
  • or both

Felony level intimidating a witness carries a maximum penalty of:

  • 10 years in prison
  • a $25,000 fine
  • or both

Will My Case Go To Trial? 

Not all domestic violence cases go to trial.  In Wisconsin, only about 4% of all cases go to trial. The State is often relying on testimony from the victim to prove certain elements of the case. The State will often use the alleged victim’s account of what happened, any recordings of the victim’s statement, any photographs or videos taken, and any observations made by the responding officers as evidence to try to convict you of the crimes you are charged with.  

Can I Get a Plea Bargain? 

In most cases, the prosecution will offer a plea bargain to a person charged with domestic violence in Wisconsin to resolve their case without going to trial.  In some situations, accepting a plea bargain can be a good idea.  Depending on the evidence against you and the potential penalties involved, an experienced attorney can negotiate an outcome that will significantly benefit you.   

Plea bargains are not without risk.  Most plea bargains require you to admit to something. That something is not always criminal charges, and it may not be a domestic violence offense.  But most of the time, you will have to admit to some conduct that will lead to a conviction.   

Domestic Violence Penalties

In Wisconsin, Domestic Violence charges range from non-criminal citations up to felony-level offenses with serious penalties: 

  • up to 15 years in prison
  • fines up to $50,000 
  • or both

The impact of a domestic violence conviction doesn’t stop at fines and jail time. You also could:

  • be forced to leave your home 
  • not be allowed to have contact with your children 
  • lose your firearm rights for the rest of your life

How will a domestic violence conviction affect me?

Domestic violence in Wisconsin can have additional consequences beyond just jail time, fines, and probation.  A conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence will cause you to lose your second amendment firearm rights under federal law.  An employer or potential employer may see your conviction and terminate your position. You might also have a difficult time getting a loan, renting an apartment, or finding a new job if you have a conviction for domestic violence on your record.  Most applications ask whether you have any convictions, and a domestic violence case will be reported. 

You may find your personal information shared on social media if someone decides to post about it.  Domestic violence charges can also be used against you in child custody proceedings and divorce proceedings.  The impact of these charges goes far beyond jail time and financial penalties.   

Charges for domestic violence in Wisconsin can have a devastating impact on many aspects of your life.  Your best option to avoid jail time and the significant potential embarrassment that comes from a conviction is to hire an attorney who has the experience and the knowledge to defend your case. 

Contact our team of Wisconsin domestic violence attorneys for a free quote.

In Wisconsin, how long does a domestic violence charge stay on your record?

You can still be charged with domestic violence even if the victim does not testify, and the charges could remain on your record permanently, even if you are not convicted and avoid a 6 year jail term or other penalties.

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