Memphis Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence has been a noticeable problem in the state of Tennessee for many years. You don’t need to take our word for it; the state government’s own statistics tell the stark tale of what kinds of crimes happen in domestic violence situations, and the injuries they cause. Various forms of rape, simple and aggravated criminal assault, stalking, intimidation, and incest that lead to broken bones, lost teeth, internal injuries and worse happen every year. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is critical you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Tennessee law recognizes two types of domestic violence: domestic assault, and domestic abuse. Below, we look at both of these crimes to see what kinds of behavior they outlaw, as well as their respective penalties upon conviction.

Domestic assault

How domestic assault compares to other kinds of assault

Domestic violence is a type of criminal assault under Tennessee law. We provide a general overview of Tennessee’s criminal assault laws elsewhere on our site. Here, we will take a closer look at domestic violence.

How do you define “domestic assault?”

Criminal assault generally consists of intentionally or recklessly either physically harming another person, or making that person believe that you are going to cause bodily harm to him or her. It can also consist of physical contact that does not inflict injury if that contact is provocative or extremely offensive under the “reasonable person” standard.

Domestic assault happens when someone commits a criminal assault against a type of victim that Tennessee law creates a special category for: “domestic abuse victims.” These are not limited to spouses, but include an assortment of people with whom the alleged perpetrator can have a direct or indirect, family or non-family relationships:

  • Current or former spouses, including minor spouses
  • Co-habitants and roommates (adults or minors)
  • People in any kind of dating or non-work-related sexual relationship
  • Blood relatives, including relatives by adoption
  • Former step-relatives or in-laws
  • Children from any of the above relations

What is the punishment for domestic assault?

Domestic violence is fundamentally treated as the same as a criminal assault, which in its simple form is a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction for simple criminal assault can result in a fine of up to $2,500, or a jail sentence for just less than a year (11 months and 29 days), or both.

Note, however, that more serious forms of assault, such as aggravated assault, can also apply to domestic violence situations. Indeed, the aggravated assault statute specifically touches on domestic violence when it makes punishable the intentional or knowing failure of a parent or custodian of a child or adult to protect that person from an assault causing serious bodily harm, or an assault with a weapon, or aggravated child abuse.

Similarly, because domestic violence cases often result in restraining orders, the violation of such an order is another form of aggravated assault punishable as a Class C felony (at least three years in a state prison, with a maximum sentence of 15 years, a $10,000 fine, or both).

A conviction for domestic assault also carries with it some penalties not found in other kinds of criminal assault:

  • The court can issue a protective order against the defendant.
  • The court can require the payment of a fine of up to $200 that goes toward funding family violence shelters. It can also require the defendant to pay restitution to the victim, or to participate in a judicial diversion program in lieu of a jail sentence.
  • Conviction also requires the defendant to be permanently “dispossessed” of any firearms, which means either having to transfer possession of those weapons to someone else or at the very least to have them placed in locked storage that the defendant has no access to.

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse includes the crime of domestic assault within its scope, but its approach focuses more on protecting the alleged victim than with punishing the accused. Some characteristics of Tennessee’s domestic abuse laws are:

  • It defines a victim of domestic abuse in the same way that domestic assault law does.
  • It defines “abuse” to include not only physical injury or the fear of it, but also the act of placing an adult or minor into physical restraint, or damaging that person’s property, or harming or threatening to harm his or her pets or other animals.
  • It specifically includes sexual assault and stalking victims among its protected persons (note that the threat of sexual assault will be enough to trigger application of the law).

Remedies for domestic abuse

Tennessee’s domestic abuse laws allow victims of domestic abuse to petition for a protective order against the alleged abuser. The order can go into effect immediately pending a hearing on the petition. If the court grants the petition, it is effective for up to one year and if circumstances warrant be extended for one-year periods after that.

Penalties for violating a protective order include being held in criminal or civil contempt of court, a $50 fine, and possible arrest, during which you can be detained for up to 12 hours. You can also be deprived of firearms possession, at least during the duration of the protective order.

How domestic assault and domestic abuse interact with other laws

Domestic violence crimes that involve other crimes, such as sexual assault, kidnapping  or even murder, do not preclude being charged separately for those other crimes.

It should now be clear that although domestic assault and domestic abuse have some common ground, they are still distinct offenses. If you stand accused under either or both of these laws, you will need an attorney who understands how their particular statutory provisions work, what their key differences are, and how to select the best strategy to defend you from these and any other charges that the state may bring against you.

Contact an Experienced Memphis Domestic Violence Lawyer

Selecting a lawyer experienced with Tennessee domestic violence cases should be a highly important consideration when you are looking for legal assistance to defend against any accusations of domestic assault or abuse. A criminal defense attorney will help you understand the charges against you and provide you with the assistance you need to defend your case. The earlier you call for help with your criminal case, the easier it will be for your attorney to defend your case. Contact The Hamilton Law Firm today.