Domestic Violence and the Military

What if I am a victim of domestic violence? 

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you are not in immediate danger, you may file for an Order of Protection. Find more information about requesting an Order of Protection.

Learn about your rights as a victim and resources that may be available to you in Arizona.

Where should I go for an Order of Protection? 

When abuse takes place and there is a service member involved, who has jurisdiction over the matter depends on where the abuse occurred and the status of the victim/offender, 

  • If BOTH individuals are members of the military, a Military Order of Protection (MOP) should be requested, 
  • If the VICTIM has a child with the OFFENDER, and either parent is in the military, the victim may decide if an Order of Protection with the military or the state would be the more effective option. 
  • If the OFFENDER is a service member and the victim is a civilian, who does not live on base, an Order of Protection should be requested through a state court. 
  • If the VICTIM is a service member and the OFFENDER is a civilian, an Order of Protection should be requested through a state court. 
  • If the abuse took place outside of the United States, and EITHER person is in the military, a MOP should be requested.  

What is considered domestic violence in Arizona? 

Domestic violence is more than just physical abuse. In Arizona, a person may also be found guilty of domestic violence by threatening violence or emotionally abusing another person. 

To have an act categorized as domestic violence, there must be a relationship between the offender and the victim, such as marriage or former marriage; current or previous sexual relationship; a child; family member; roommate; or court order. 

Some of the crimes that may fall under domestic violence in Arizona law include:  

  • Any act against a child that is dangerous,  
  • Physical assault,  
  • Endangerment,  
  • Kidnapping,  
  • Sexual assault,  
  • Criminal damage,  
  • Disorderly conduct, and  
  • Cruelty to animals. 

For a complete list of all state laws that include a definition of a crime which may be considered domestic violence, see section A.

What happens when the police are called for domestic violence?  

If police become involved in a domestic violence situation, they have many things to consider that may allow them to make an arrest with or without a warrant. For example: 

  • Whether there is a reason to believe that domestic violence has been committed, 
  • Whether there is reason to believe the person(s) being arrested committed the offense, 
  • Whether the offense is considered a felony or misdemeanor, and 
  • Whether the offense was committed in the presence of the police officer or not. 

What if a weapon such as a gun is in the scene?  

If an officer sees a physical assault or when a weapon is involved, the officer has enough legal reason to make an arrest without a warrant. (A.R.S. § 13-3601(B))   

Officers may also arrest both or multiple people if there is a belief that each person committed an act of domestic violence.  

If a weapon is in plain view or was found after the officer asked for consent to search, and if the officer believes the weapon exposes the victim or other people to danger, they may temporarily take the weapon. (A.R.S. § 13-3601(C)) 

Acts of self-defense may not be considered domestic violence. However, Arizona has rules as to what may be considered self-defense. 

What are the consequences for committing an act of domestic violence in Arizona? 

Those that are convicted of domestic violence, depending on the incident and sentencing, may have to serve jail time and complete a domestic violence offender treatment program.  

Domestic violence offender treatment programs are developed and offered by the Supreme Court of Arizona, the Arizona Department of Health, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program is not free and will require the offender to pay a fee to attend. (A.R.S 13-3601.01) 

If an individual has been found guilty of more than one domestic violence offense in a 5-year period, a judge may order them to be placed on supervised probation and they may also be incarcerated as part of probation. Those who are incarcerated for domestic violence, but are currently employed or in school, may be given permission to exit during employment or school hours (12 hrs. daily maximum) and then must return to jail to complete their sentences.  

Intentional offenses committed against pregnant women may result in a two-year increase of the maximum sentence authorized for that violation. (A.R.S. 13-3601(M)) 

If a person is convicted of domestic violence by a federal court, they may not be allowed to possess a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) 

Military Support for Victims 

The military may seek justice against an offender through its administrative actions or through military courts. However, it is up to the victim to decide which type of report they would like to submit. Nonetheless, the Family Advocacy Program helps victims of domestic abuse no matter the selected report type. 

On a military base, where should I report the abuse? 

If you are in immediate danger, contact the military police. For non-emergency situations, contact the Family Advocacy Program on base. The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) offers services for military members and their families to address domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and problematic sexual behaviors in youth. Through FAP a victim advocate may be assigned to: 

  • Help a victim find shelter, 
  • Assist the victim prepare a safety plan, 
  • Connect the victim with counseling services and other resources. 

What is the difference between unrestricted and restricted reporting? 

There are options for how and when to report domestic violence if the offender is in the military. Understanding the difference may help you decide how to proceed. 

Restricted (Confidential) Reporting 

Through a restricted report, military law enforcement and command are not informed or involved.  

In a restricted report, 3 groups of professionals keep domestic violence confidential: 

Moving forward with a restricted report means: 

  • Law enforcement is not notified, 
  • Command is not involved, but 
  • The victim will have access to all support and assistance offered by FAP services such as counseling and help from a domestic abuse advocate. They will assist with making a safety plan and aiding with taking actions within or outside of the military.  

Unrestricted (Non-Confidential) Reporting 

Unrestricted reporting allows FAP to inform law enforcement and the member’s military command of the offender’s actions. 

Moving forward with an unrestricted report means: 

  • Law enforcement begins an investigation (this includes questioning the offender), 
  • Command is notified, 
  • Victims may begin to get a Military or Civilian Protective Order, 
  • Victims may have access to legal services on military installations, and 
  • Victims may receive financial assistance for moving purposes.  

Are there instances when a person is not allowed to get a restricted report? 

While a victim may want to only get a restricted report, there are situations where they are only able to file an unrestricted report. These are cases where: 

  • The victim is still at immediate risk of serious harm, 
  • Cases where child abuse happened, and/or 
  • It is required by law to report the incident to law enforcement and child protective services. 

What is the risk/benefit of filing a restricted report over an unrestricted report? 

Since the main difference between the two reports is who is made aware of the abuse, this may be its biggest benefit or risk depending on what the victim believes is best for them and their family. 

Restricted Report 

Unrestricted Report 

For victims that may not want a military offender to lose their job or for their military career to be affected, a restricted report will give the victim all the resources available for them without threatening the offender. This could be helpful for the victim if they want access to military help without escalating the situation.  

 

However, by submitting a restricted report, the risk is that there is no process to keep the offender accountable. This may mean that the offender may still interact with the victim(s). 

 

The strength of an unrestricted report is that there is an established process to keep the offender accountable. Part of this process includes the ability to get a Military Protective Order (MPO). An unrestricted report will mean the victim is protected from the offender and that consequences will be decided on for the offender.  

 

Submitting an unrestricted report will also give access to all resources made available to victims. 

 

 

What if a victim tells someone in command about the abuse? 

If a victim tells any military personnel (outside of FAP) about the abuse, an unrestricted report may be filed on their behalf and an investigation may take place. The military chaplain (minister/religious leader) is the only other military personnel where conversations are privileged, confidential. 

What are the military consequences for domestic violence? 

In cases where an unrestricted report is made, the offender’s commander may select one or more of the following consequences: 

  • A full investigation, 
  • Criminal charges, 
  • Imprisonment, 
  • Discharge from service, 
  • Demotion, 
  • Forfeiture of pay, or
  • No action taken. 

If the offender is not in the military but the victim is, it is challenging for the commanding officer to keep the offender accountable since civilians do not follow the Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). However, the commander may still prohibit the offender from entering the military base. 

If my offender is found guilty, would the military remove their right to carry a gun? 

If the offender is found guilty of domestic violence in a state court or military court, then the military may:  

  • Remove any firearms and ammunitions that were issued by the government, and 
  • Suspend the offender’s authority to access government-issued firearms and ammunition.  

This also includes people who are not service members but are employees of the military.  

The military may not take away firearms if: 

  • Offender receives a summary court-martial (less serious offenses) sentence, 
  • The offender was not prosecuted in a civilian court,  
  • The FAP Incident Determination Committee’s rules that the incident did not meet the criteria for abuse, or 
  • The offender receives a nonjudicial punishment, including a Military Protective Order (MPO). 

While a commander may limit an offender’s access to firearms, a Military Protective Order does not legally require guns to be removed.  

Would making a report for domestic violence affect the offender’s position in the military? 

If a restricted report is submitted, the FAP does not disclose this information to the commander or any other military personnel. This would mean that the offender’s job is not at risk. However, as mentioned before, a restricted report may become unrestricted depending on the severity of the harm caused by the offender. This typically happens when the victim is still in immediate harm.  

Even if an unrestricted report is filed, it does not mean the offender will lose their job. When the report is submitted the offender’s command is notified. Depending on the severity of the situation, command has the option of having the offender attend an established treatment program or have a stronger consequence. 

If the service member stops improving or attempts to harm the victim again, the member’s chain of command will revisit consequences.  

What can I do to protect myself and loved ones? 

Depending on which type of report was submitted, there are options for how to move forward.  

If an unrestricted report was filed, then a Military Protective Order (MPO) may be petitioned to keep the offender away from the victim. The MPO may only provide protection at a military installation. For victims that do not live on a military installation or who would also want to be protected outside of a military installation, an Order of Protection may also be filed through a state court. 

Learn more about the requirements, the protections, and how to apply for an MPO or an Order of Protection:

What if I am overseas and need help with domestic abuse?  

The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) continues to provide services even outside of the United States. A victim advocate is placed at every military installation where families are assigned.  

To locate the nearest FAP near you, visit Military One Source installation online search tool. For people looking for organizations that help victims overseas visit National Organizations – International 

For cases where the offender is being relocated overseas, the military does not require the spouse to relocate with them. Typically, the military does not relocate service members with histories of domestic violence overseas because of the increased vulnerability and less access to resources.  

For families that have already relocated overseas but feel at risk, they may request a return stateside through the Early Return of Dependents (ERD) program. 

 


This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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