Are you old enough to remember having an old television or radio that worked on tube technology? Sometimes the tubes would become unseated, or they would have to warm up a bit before they worked their best.
Sometimes a healthy tap on the side of the set would make it work a little better. Relationships are not like an old television — you do not strike your partner to make your relationship better. To the contrary, hitting or threatening someone is never the answer and this is especially true in relationships.
When people ask me what types of cases a magistrate hears, I usually describe my civil jurisdiction and then provide an overview of my criminal case responsibilities. Two exceptional highlights I make when explaining my criminal jurisdiction are for driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence cases; both of which, when charged as misdemeanors, are fully decided in my court.
These case types, by Supreme Court rule, are prosecuted by the district attorney and represent a serious concern by the public at the local, state and national level. Because magistrate judges review initial arrests daily, we see trends that develop over time. For instance, in my experience, DUIs increase in the summer months and during holidays.
It has been my experience that domestic violence cases tend to increase in the winter months. The underlying facts have some common denominators. For instance, alcohol and/or drugs are often a factor. Likewise, disputes generally arise from financial issues and relationship concerns.
Domestic violence involves a household member, an intimate partner or someone in a qualifying relationship. This does not simply mean between people who are married but is defined by either federal law or New Mexico state statute. These relationships, to name a few, can include a former spouse, co-parents, persons cohabitating and relationships between parents or in-laws.
Domestic violence crimes are not only cases involving a battery or an assault either. They can also include cases of public affray or criminal damage to property of a household member.
Domestic violence convictions carry a wide range of penalties from 182 days (about six months) in jail to serious prison time for felony offences. If convicted of domestic violence, a person loses their Second Amendment right to bear arms, which would include the ability to own, possess or transport any firearm or ammunition.
There are scholarly studies that demonstrate that intergenerational domestic violence behaviors may exist in some individuals. This is when domestic violence is learned by witnessing abuse of others or from being abused. Likewise, some victims of domestic violence who witnessed domestic violence, now somehow view it as a normal behavior. It is not!
It is never OK to hit or threaten another person or threaten his or her property. And it is never OK to be physically struck or threatened with violence or property damage.
In New Mexico, conviction of battery on a household member includes the requirement to complete a Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) approved domestic violence offender treatment or intervention program. Individuals who complete this program have demonstrated a lower rate of recidivism. The program also goes a long way to breaking generational abusive behaviors.
For victims of domestic violence
If you are in a dangerous situation and believe that you are at risk of domestic violence, leave the scene immediately if possible. If you are not able to leave, seek shelter immediately. In both instances contact 911.
If you have been physically or sexually assaulted, call 911.
For resources, the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence has an easy to navigate website, nmcadv.org/find-nm-resources with an interactive map of New Mexico. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Here in Valencia County, Valencia Shelter Services, provides victims of domestic violence immediate access to shelter and other resources. Its website is, vssnm.org, and it offers a 24-hour crisis hotline at 505-864-1383.
Statistically, women are the primary victims of domestic violence and many of the websites and resources assume a female victim and a male assailant. This is not always true, as male victims are believed to be an underreported population of domestic violence. Same-sex abuse occurs as well and is also believed to be underreported. Regardless of your gender or the gender of your assailant, domestic violence is never OK.
As we enter 2022, many will make New Year’s resolutions. Let us all resolve to do better as a community, state, and nation when it comes to recognizing and addressing the problem of domestic violence.
(Magistrate Judge John R. Chavez is the magistrate in Belen. He is a native of Valencia County and is a retired U.S. Army colonel.)
Judge John Chavez, guest columnist
Magistrate Judge John R. Chavez is the magistrate in Belen. He is a native of Valencia County and is a retired U.S. Army colonel.