In life, we use colorful language. We use terms to describe multiple things, or we say multiple terms to describe the same thing.
In legal matters, our language must be more precise. For instance, we can’t say “robbed” when we mean “burgled.”
Such is the case with the terms “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence.” When we’re talking to our friends, we can usually just say one or the other, and the listener understands our meaning. We may even use the word “violence” to describe acts such as yelling or threatening someone.
Legally, however, this is a clear distinction between these two terms. Each describes a different kind of action, and the potential penalties are far different as well. Most of the time, it takes a different court to handle one or the other.
Here is a broad legal description of each term along with their potential penalties.
Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also called “domestic assault,” is a direct, physical act. It involves kicking, striking, punching, or otherwise attacking someone. It can also be an act of intimidation, such as threatening someone, balling up your fist at them, and so on.
Domestic Assault Penalties in Tennessee
Simple domestic assault, defined as a “provocative or offensive” act, is a Class B Misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $500.
Domestic assault that causes or threatens injury is a Class A misdemeanor, the highest in the state. Convicts could face up to 11 ½ months in jail and fines as high as $15,000.
Repeat offenders can face higher penalties.
Defining Domestic Abuse
From a legal perspective, domestic abuse has more to do with how one person treats another. It can involve belittling someone or humiliating them. Gaslighting, where one person makes another doubt their experience, is a form of domestic abuse. One person may isolate another from their friends or family, another form of abuse.
Many forms of domestic abuse are not, in and of themselves, illegal. They are, instead, signs of a toxic relationship. Make no mistake. Domestic abuse still involves an attacker and their victim, and the abused individual should escape this relationship and seek help.
Penalties for Domestic Abuse
Family courts generally deal with such matters. An alleged abuser could lose more property than normal in a divorce. They could also be forced to pay more for spousal support. The court could also issue a restraining order against them, keeping them from their family and home.
When Is Domestic Abuse Illegal?
Some forms of domestic abuse are crimes by themselves. For instance, someone who keeps their spouse locked in the house could be accused of kidnapping or wrongful imprisonment. Other crimes like stalking or harassment are also examples of domestic abuse.
Charges like these are separated, spread out into multiple acts. That’s why many alleged victims choose to handle them all at once in a divorce trial. They could be granted a restraining order, which simply keeps their alleged abuser away. Doing so can be much simpler than pursuing each charge.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Accused?
Recent studies suggest that as many as 20 million Americans have been falsely accused of domestic violence. If you are facing similar allegations, you should speak to a good defense attorney right away. You deserve a chance to preserve your freedom and your reputation.
Patton & Pittman Attorneys can help defend you against domestic assault charges. For a free consultation, contact us right away by calling (931) 361-4477 or filling out our online contact form.