Tennessee Domestic Violence
Like other states across the United States, Tennessee prohibits physically violent or abusive acts perpetrated by an intimate partner, family member or household member against another intimate partner, family member or household member. In Tennessee, such acts are charged and prosecuted as domestic assault. Domestic assault is a misdemeanor crime, but even so, the consequences of a Tennessee domestic assault conviction are severe and long-lasting. Even as a misdemeanor, a domestic violence conviction will leave a permanent mark on your criminal record, branding you an abuser for the rest of your life. If you are facing domestic assault charges in Tennessee, there is a great deal on the line. You need a domestic violence defense attorney on your side who has a proven record of success defending clients against domestic assault charges in Tennessee.
Tennessee Domestic Violence Law
Some states have specific criminal statutes that deal exclusively with domestic violence offenses while others use their general criminal statutes to prosecute criminal offenses involving acts of domestic violence. In Tennessee, domestic assault is essentially an assault offense in which the alleged victim has a specific type of relationship with the accused. According to TN Code § 39-13-111(b), a person commits the crime of domestic assault by committing an assault against a “domestic abuse victim,” which includes any of the following categories of people (TN Code § 39-13-111(a)):
- Adults or minors who are current or former spouses
- Adults or minors who live together or lived together in the past
- Adults or minors who are dating or have a sexual relationship or who have dated or had a sexual relationship in the past
- Adults or minors related by blood or adoption
- Adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage
- Adult or minor children of any person in any of the relationships noted above
For the purpose of prosecution, assault (TN Code § 39-13-101) is defined as: (a) intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person; (b) intentionally or knowingly causing another person to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or (c) intentionally or knowingly causing extremely offensive or provocative physical contact with another person.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Tennessee
In most cases, a first conviction for domestic assault is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in a county jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500, except if the offense is committed under subdivision (a)(3), in which case it is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in a county jail and a $500 fine. A second conviction for domestic assault carries a potential penalty of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and up to $3,500 in fines, and a third or subsequent conviction is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
If you are found guilty of assault in Tennessee and the alleged victim of the assault falls under the category of a domestic abuse victim as defined by TN Code § 39-13-111(a), you may be required to pay an additional fine in an amount not to exceed $200, in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court. You may also be required to surrender any firearms in your possession and complete a batterer’s intervention program and drug or alcohol treatment program or a counseling program that addresses violence and control issues.
Domestic Violence Order of Protection
Acts of domestic violence are not taken lightly in Tennessee. Even just being charged with domestic assault can subject you to significant restrictions that could expose you to additional criminal charges and enhanced penalties. In many domestic violence cases, the court will issue a no-contact order, meaning you (the accused) are prohibited from contacting the alleged victim in person, by phone or by email. If you live with that person, you could even be ordered to move out of your own home. Another possible consequence of a domestic violence arrest is a civil order of protection, or domestic violence restraining order, which can remain in effect for one year. If the alleged victim petitions the court for a restraining order, you could be ordered to: stop abusing or threatening to abuse the alleged victim (the petitioner), temporarily relinquish custody of your children to the petitioner, and make child and spousal support payments to the petitioner, among other requirements. If you violate a no-contact order or order of protection, you can be charged with a separate crime and sentenced to jail.
Defense Against TN Domestic Assault Charges
Tennessee’s mandatory arrest law is perhaps the best indicator of how seriously the state treats allegations of domestic violence. If the police respond to a domestic violence incident and they have probable cause to believe that a domestic assault occurred, they are required to make an arrest and take the alleged perpetrator into custody. Unfortunately, this mandatory arrest policy makes it incredibly easy for someone to get their spouse or family member arrested based on domestic violence allegations that are completely false. And once an arrest has been made and charges have been filed, the alleged victim cannot suddenly change his or her mind and decide to “drop” the charges. The decision to prosecute is at the sole discretion of the District Attorney’s Office and criminal charges for domestic violence are rarely dismissed. If you have been arrested or charged based on false allegations of domestic assault, you cannot rely on your innocence alone to get you out of trouble. Domestic violence cases are aggressively prosecuted in Tennessee and you could end up with a criminal record even if you truly did nothing wrong.
Consult a Tennessee Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
In addition to the criminal penalties imposed by the court for domestic violence, there are other lasting consequences that can have a negative impact on your life following a Tennessee domestic assault conviction. First and foremost, domestic assault is one of only a few misdemeanor offenses that can never be expunged from your criminal record, which means anyone who runs a background check on you will see that you were convicted of domestic assault. It is also the only misdemeanor offense that can forever prevent you from owning a firearm. For these reasons and others, domestic assault charges should be taken very seriously. Whether or not you actually committed the assault, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side who understands the law and can help you navigate the criminal court process. Contact an experienced Tennessee domestic violence defense lawyer today to fight for your rights and safeguard your future.