Indiana Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also known as family violence, is a term used to describe physical abuse or aggressive or violent acts that occur within a domestic setting where the alleged victim is a spouse, domestic partner, family member or household member of the accused. Crimes involving domestic violence are prosecuted and punished harshly under Indiana law and a conviction can follow you for the rest of your life, leaving you with a criminal record and the stigma of an abuser. If you have been arrested for domestic violence in Indiana, you need an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer on your side who will fight for your rights and use every resource at his or her disposal to present the strongest possible defense on your behalf. A reputable criminal defense attorney can evaluate the domestic violence charges against you, ensure that you understand your rights, help you navigate the complex Indiana criminal justice system and improve your chances of reaching a fair resolution to your case.
Indiana Domestic Violence Law
Indiana Code § 35-31.5-2-78 defines domestic violence or family violence as “an offense or the attempt to commit an offense that: (1) has as an element the use of physical force; or threatened use of a deadly weapon; and (2) is committed against a family or household member.” That includes causing or attempting to cause physical harm to another family or household member, placing a family or household member in fear of physical harm, forcing a family or household member to engage in unwanted sexual activity, or even abusing, torturing, mutilating or killing an animal with the intention of threatening, coercing, intimidating or terrorizing a family or household member (IC § 31-9-2-42).
With the exception of domestic battery, Indiana law does not provide separate criminal statutes relating solely to incidents involving acts of domestic violence. Instead, the law states that criminal charges for stalking, harassment, kidnapping, criminal trespass and criminal confinement can apply to both non-domestic cases and cases where the alleged victim is a family or household member of the accused. The one statute that specifically applies to offenses involving domestic violence in Indiana is domestic battery (IC § 35-42-2-1.3), a crime that occurs when a person, knowingly or intentionally (1) touches a family or household member in a rude, insolent, or angry manner; or (2) in a rude, insolent, or angry manner places any bodily fluid or waste on a family or household member.
The key component in domestic violence charges is the relationship between the alleged victim and the accused. Domestic violence charges only apply if the involved parties are family or household members, defined by IC § 35-31.5-2-128 as:
- A current or former spouse,
- A current or former dating partner,
- A person with whom the accused is or was engaged in a sexual relationship,
- A personal related by blood, adoption or (current or previous) marriage,
- A person with whom the accused has a child in common, or
- A person with whom the accused has or previously had an established legal relationship (i.e. guardian, ward, custodian, foster parent).
Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges
Under Indiana law, domestic battery is charged as a Class A misdemeanor and a conviction carries a possible penalty of up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. However, there are certain aggravating factors that can elevate domestic battery to a felony offense, including if the alleged offender has a prior conviction for domestic battery or commits the domestic battery in the physical presence of a child under the age of 16. If these aggravating factors apply, the crime may be charged as a Level 6 felony carrying a possible penalty of up to two and a half years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Other related crimes that may accompany domestic battery charges include intimidation (IC 35-45-2-1), harassment (IC 35-45-2-2), criminal confinement (IC 35-42-3-3) and strangulation (IC 35-42-2-9).
Indiana Domestic Violence Defense
Being charged with domestic battery or another domestic violence-related crime can be stressful and frightening, especially if this is your first encounter with the law. Whatever the circumstances of your criminal charges, a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience handling domestic violence cases in Indiana can help you get the best possible outcome in your case, which may include getting the charges reduced or dismissed altogether. And if your case goes to trial, a good defense attorney will ensure that your rights are protected and work tirelessly to develop a strong defense on your behalf with the goal of securing an acquittal. Remember that in any criminal case in Indiana, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To obtain a guilty verdict in your domestic battery case, that means the prosecution must prove that:
- You knowingly or intentionally touched another person,
- You did so in a rude, insolent or angry manner, and
- The person whom you touched is a member of your family or household.
There are a number of possible defenses your attorney can present in your domestic battery case to challenge the prosecution’s version of events. The following are some of the most common:
- Defense of others
- Insufficient evidence
- Accidental injury
- False allegations of abuse
- Mistaken identity
Get Help from an Indiana Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Domestic and family violence is a real and pervasive problem in Indiana and across the United States, affecting millions of people of all sexes, ages, races, education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. Unfortunately, what makes domestic violence even more challenging is the fact that there are many cases where innocent individuals are falsely accused of domestic abuse, which takes the attention away from actual abuse victims who truly need protection. If you are facing allegations of domestic violence in Indiana, you need to speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience handling domestic violence cases. The sooner you retain the services of a reputable domestic violence defense attorney, the sooner he or she can get to work building a strong defense in your case, so don’t wait to call.