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Things You Should Know About Domestic Battery

Squabbles among family members are a common occurrence. They can result from sibling rivalry, disagreements between spouses, or teens disagreeing with their parents.

Irrespective of the reason for the disputes, they are never a good thing. When disputes escalate to the physical use of force or unwanted touch, such actions could amount to domestic battery.

Below is an in-depth look at the domestic battery and what you need to know about it if you face charges or are a victim of domestic abuse.

Legal Definition

In legal terms, domestic battery describes a situation where one person uses force or unwanted touch on another person with whom they have a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship refers to two people who have shared a household or lived together. Such relationships include parent-children, romantic partners, husband-wife, or persons in consanguinity relationships.

“Most people consider domestic battery as kicking, hitting, and inflicting bruises and broken bones on another person,” says criminal defense lawyer William Umansky of The Umansky Law Firm. But even more subtle things like shoving, angry touches, pushing, rude gestures, and spitting on another person qualify as domestic battery.

There is a slight difference between domestic assault and battery. For a case to qualify as domestic assault, the only requirement is that the victim fears an impending danger of violence. On the other hand, domestic battery involves acts of violence, making it a more severe charge than domestic assault. Often, cases of domestic battery result from escalated domestic abuse.

Misdemeanor or Felony

Domestic battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Circumstances that determine the classification of domestic battery are the nature of injuries, weapons used, and a person’s criminal record.

For a minor domestic battery conviction, the offender is usually guilty of a misdemeanor. The same applies to a second conviction. However, a third conviction is considered a felony.

Penalties and Consequences

Penalties also vary for misdemeanor and felony convictions. In most jurisdictions, the maximum penalties for a misdemeanor domestic violence include probation and fines of up to $1,000. For felony conviction, the offender could be looking at jail time, probation, and fines.

A conviction for domestic battery affects the offender in many other ways besides probation, fines, and jail time. For example, the offender could lose the right to own or possess a firearm. This rule applies to everyone, including people serving in the military, law enforcement, or security officers. There is also the possibility of losing child custody if the offender’s spouse cites their domestic battery conviction as a reason to deny them custody in court.

Judges consider children’s best interest in a legal custody battle, and a record of domestic battery can be a big spoiler for the offender’s efforts to win custody. Like other criminal records, a domestic battery conviction can also affect a person’s chances of getting a job as it shows up in a background check.

It Is a State Charge

Domestic batteries are filed by the state, meaning that the victim cannot legally drop the case. Dropping or continuing with criminal charges for domestic battery is entirely the prosecutor’s prerogative.

If victims of an alleged domestic battery are uncooperative or unwilling to testify, the prosecution can get a court order to have them testify. However, such cases are rare and only applied where the prosecution believes that harassment, manipulation, coercion, and control could be behind the reasons for failure to testify.