How Does the Law Define Domestic Violence?

The repercussions of a domestic violence accusation go far beyond the legal. Such allegations can affect your reputation, relationships, and possibly your job.

We all know domestic violence accusations are bad, but we don’t often stop and ask ourselves what they really mean. What, exactly, is domestic violence? For sure, we all know that someone beating their spouse qualifies. It may surprise you to learn, however, that domestic violence allegations can go far beyond married couples.

Relationships Defining Domestic Violence

Certainly, violence can happen between strangers in a parking lot, and as awful as that may be, it’s not considered “domestic.” After all, the two combatants could be total strangers. A domestic violence charge is defined by the relationship between attacker and victim.

People Who Are Romantically Linked

We’ve already mentioned spouses. It’s common knowledge that violence between marriage partners counts as “domestic.” Many are also aware that this applies to boyfriends and girlfriends, people who live together, and so on. Violence in serious romantic relationships, most of us understand, can be classified as domestic.

However, the relationship doesn’t have to be deep or even current. People who have been on only a few dates with someone could be accused of domestic violence. Someone who had a one-night-stand could as well. If you’re accused of violence against someone you dated years ago and haven’t seen since, that could be labeled domestic.

Broadly, anyone you’ve ever been involved with romantically or sexually, no matter how casual, could accuse you of domestic violence.

People in Your Family

Imagine estranged brothers. They haven’t spoken in years, and they meet with the extended family for a Christmas weekend. One night, the two have too much to drink, and some of those old resentments bubble to the surface. A fight breaks out. When the dust settles, one of these two brothers is accused of domestic violence.

A domestic violence charge can apply to violence against family members. The law can use this term broadly. A fight with cousins, aunts, uncles, and more could qualify. It doesn’t matter if you are close to this person or if you even live in the same state. If you get into a fight with someone in your bloodline, you could be accused of domestic violence.

People in Your Home

You don’t even need a relationship with someone to be accused of domestic violence against them. Anyone you share a living space with, from a roommate to their live-in boy/girlfriend, could accuse you. It doesn’t matter if you spend any time with them outside the house.

Defending Against Domestic Violence Accusations

No matter the criminal charge against you, you have a right to a legal defense. This right is so sacred that the government will pay for your defense if necessary.

Furthermore, you cannot be convicted unless the prosecution has proved these accusations “beyond a reasonable doubt.” There are many ways to create doubt in a domestic violence charge. What follows are some defense strategies you can discuss with your attorney. If any of these apply to your situation, you can confidently use them to defend yourself in court.

You Never Meant to Hurt Someone

For the prosecution to build a strong case, they must show intent. This means that they need to prove that you meant to cause violence and harm against the alleged victim. Cases built on accidents and technicalities are weak, and they can be debunked in court.

In the heat of a dispute, it’s easy for people to raise voices, point, clap their hands, and wildly gesticulate. If you are engaged in such a tiff, you may quickly raise your hand while making a point, accidentally slapping your partner across the face. While you technically made contact, you never meant to physically assault them. In their anger and desire for revenge, they could use this unintentional contact against you, accusing you of assaulting them.

If you accidentally struck someone, with no intention of harming them, you may be able to prove this lack of intent in court.

You Acted in Self-Defense

When there are only two people involved in a situation, it’s easy for one to fabricate stories that make the other look bad. Imagine, for instance, a massive body-builder in an argument with his petite girlfriend. In a rage, she grabs a knife and attacks him. He sidesteps the assault and slaps her in self-defense. Later, she uses the red mark on her cheek to accuse him of domestic violence.

If you must defend yourself from a domestic attack, you should not suffer legal consequences. However, be aware of the legal requirements for a self-defense plea. Your response must be proportionate to the attack. For instance, protecting yourself from a punch may require a punch. It does not call for a full beat down with a baseball bat. If the evidence suggests that your response against the attack was over the top, it may be hard to argue self-defense.

You Didn’t Do It

It bears repeating: A criminal accusation is easy to make when there are only two people involved. This is especially true of domestic violence. Hurt feelings and a need for revenge often lead people to make false accusations.

With any criminal allegation, you could be wrongly accused. If you didn’t commit this act, there are many ways you can challenge the evidence against you.

  • Witness Testimony
    If there was someone else present at the time of the alleged attack, see if your lawyer can get them to testify in your favor. They may be able to verify that they saw no evidence of violence.
  • Alibi
    If you weren’t even present at the time, there are ways you can easily prove this. Use text messages or cellphone pictures that place you somewhere else. Ask neighbors to verify that your car wasn’t present at the scene. Get another person to verify your whereabouts, etc.
  • Medical Records
    Have your attorney investigate the medical records and diagnoses of your accuser. They may not match up with the accusation. For instance, if you’re accused of punching someone with a closed fist, but there is no evidence of severe facial damage, you may be able to prove that the accusation is wrong.

If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, reach out to our firm today for a free consultation. We will listen to your side of the story, and we may be able to prepare a credible defense for you. Our number is (931) 361-4477, and you can contact us online.

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