Avoiding Mandated Domestic Abuse Counseling

If you are charged with a domestic abuse offense – i.e. domestic assault or terroristic threats against a family or household member – you may be required to complete domestic abuse counseling or education program. Minn. Stat. Sec. 518B.02, subd. 1 reads:

If the court stays imposition or execution of a sentence for a domestic abuse offense and places the offender on probation, the court shall order that, as a condition of the stayed sentence, the offender participate in and successfully complete a domestic abuse counseling program or educational program.

Because you are almost always on some form of probation following a plea or conviction to a domestic abuse crime, a court will impose this condition at sentencing.

The statute dictates that the counseling or educational program must be a minimum of 24 sessions or 36 hours. As you can see, the programming is intensive. As a result, it may be beneficial to some clients to try to avoid this programming. For one, a client may not need it if the charges are trumped up. Or the client may need alternative programming – such as anger management or chemical abuse counseling – to address an issue that led to the charges. Or the client may want to take the initiative to do any programming on their own time to better control what is required of them.

Even though the statute mandates this as a condition of probation, there are a couple of things you can do to try to avoid this.

First, if you face a plea or conviction to a domestic abuse crime, you may consider taking the initiative and enroll in some programming prior to the plea or sentencing. This could include anger management or chemical abuse counseling in lieu of a domestic abuse related program. You’d be wise to talk with the prosecutor in advance as to what type of programming he or she wants you to complete in exchange for their agreement not to request the statute-required programming as a term of the plea deal. If you do enroll in any type of programming in advance, be sure to take it seriously so that you can not only get a certificate of completion, but also request the program leader for some sort of letter explaining your commitment to the program. The latter could prove instrumental to avoiding the mandated domestic abuse programming.

Second, if you plea to a non-domestic abuse crime, the Court is no longer required, by statute, to order that you complete domestic abuse programming. A common plea negotiation includes pleading to a disorderly conduct, instead of the charged domestic assault. In such a situation, the Court would not be required to order you to complete the domestic abuse programming. Still, you may very well have to do so if a pre-sentence investigation is completed and probation recommends the same.

There is no guarantee that taking either of these steps will result in you not having to complete the domestic abuse programming. But, they will put you in a much better position to avoid doing so. Having an experienced Minnesota domestic abuse defense attorney to guide you through this process will help you as well.