Interviewer: You mentioned some of the penalties that happen. What does that look like when someone is being background checked for a job and has a domestic violence-related charge, even if it was dismissed?
Matthew Gunter: Domestic violence charges, even if you’re not convicted or if it’s dismissed, have that stigma about it – that you’re a malicious person, that you’re violent – and what employers may not realize is that someone could be arrested for domestic violence battery for spitting in their spouse’s face. It’s a very weak case, but I’ve seen those types of arrests because technically, that’s still battery under the law.
Anytime someone has a domestic violence charge or arrest on their record, it appears to me that those individuals are looked at with even more scrutiny than an individual who possibly could have been arrested for a felony marijuana charge. Where one person’s a felon for marijuana, they’re not looked at as badly as someone who is arrested for a domestic violence case.
Interviewer: If it’s dismissed, could it be expunged or sealed at a certain point?
Matthew Gunter: It would qualify for a seal or expungement depending on the disposition.
Interviewer: If someone does get convicted and the record is not sealed, that’s going to be on the record during a background check, correct?
Matthew Gunter: That’s correct. If someone is convicted of any offense, when the court convicts them, it’s not eligible to be sealed or expunged.
Interviewer: Let’s say someone was a parent. If the case did not involve a child at all, but they have a child, will the parenting rights still be taken away from that person?
Matthew Gunter: That’s a separate issue that’s not controlled by the criminal courts. That would be something that would be taken up with Department of Children and Families, DCF, and they may get involved. They may do their own investigation and determine whether the child is in danger because of the incident, but the prosecutor has no power over the decisions of the DCF.
Interviewer: If someone was involved in a domestic violence case, and still there are no children involved, but there were children present, can the police officer question the child without consent?
Matthew Gunter: It’s a very interesting question. A lot of times, officers will question them and, depending on the age, they may want to have another officer present, to avoid a one-on-one type of questioning. I’ve seen many cases, though, where a child is present, maybe as a witness, and an officer will take them aside and ask them what happened. It’s always unfortunate when children are party to a case like that and I think on both sides, be it the prosecution or defense, those are the types of cases that are very delicate, and if we can resolve them without getting children involved and reliving that incident, we always strive to do that.
Interviewer: If someone is charged with domestic violence, is it possible that they could still get custody of a child later on down the line?
Matthew Gunter: If you’re referring to a scenario where there’s a domestic violence situation between a husband and wife and they have a child, and ultimately they know that they’re going to be getting a dissolution of marriage, then in the dissolution of marriage trial, they can definitely bring up that incident. A civil judge may want to hear if one party believes that the other party is putting the child in danger or should not be left alone with the child because of anger issues. The judge may take into account that an individual was convicted of a domestic violence case, and rule appropriately when it comes to time-sharing with the child.
Interviewer: When you say dissolution of marriage, is that similar to an actual divorce hearing or is there another term for that?
Matthew Gunter: It’s the same thing. The legal term for divorce would be a dissolution of marriage.