There was a time, not all that long ago, when the issue of domestic violence was a taboo topic in the United States. Victims rarely discussed their plight with others, much less reported their abusers. When a victim did find the courage to call the police, law enforcement officers frequently failed to do anything because it was a “family matter.” If an abuser was arrested, he or she could count on nothing more than the proverbial “smack on the wrist” in all but the most egregious situations. That was then – and this is now.
Thanks to campaigns by advocacy groups and government agencies, both societal views and official policies relating to domestic violence have changed considerably in recent decades. In fact, some argue that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, resulting in law enforcement policies that all but require an arrest whenever there is a domestic disturbance call.
To help you understand domestic assault in Tennessee, the criminal defense attorneys at Bennett | Michael Hornsby have put together some helpful information.
Our criminal defense attorneys provide information to help you understand domestic assault in Tennessee.
Call for a free consultation so we can step in and begin fighting for you.
Understanding the Problem
Despite efforts to raise public awareness about the issue of domestic violence across the United States, it continues to happen at an alarming rate. Moreover, domestic violence crosses all racial, ethnic, gender, educational, and socio-economic borders.
To give you an idea of the extent of the problem, consider some of the following findings published by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in a 2016 report:
- 78,100 domestic violence offenses were reported to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS) in 2016
- 68% were simple assaults which includes slaps, punches or kicks.
- Females were 3x more likely than males to be the victim of domestic violence
- Domestic violence resulted in 91 murder victims in 2016
- Domestic violence resulted in 276 murders over the study’s three year period
- Boyfriend/girlfriend relationship were the most frequently reported of all domestic violence offenses reported.
- Almost 10 % of all victims were under the age of 18
- White females were the most common victims of domestic violence, representing 41.2 % of all victims.
- Males accounted for 25.8 % of all victims.
- Both stalking and intimidation offenses increased from 2015 to 2016, with an increase of 6.4% and 3.9 % respectively.
- 4% of all domestic violence offenses were cleared by an arrest
Understanding the Law
The term “domestic violence” is a very broad term. Consequently, the legal definition of domestic violence can vary significantly from one state to the next. In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code 39-13-111 governs domestic violence. According to that statute:
Domestic abuse victim” includes:
- Adults or minors who are current or former spouses;
- Adults or minors who live together or who have lived together;
- Adults or minors who are dating or who have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship, but does not include fraternization between two individuals in a business or social context;
- Adults or minors related by blood or adoption;
- Adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or
- Adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described in any of the above.
Domestic assault is defined as assault against a domestic abuse victim. Assault, governed by Tennessee Code 39-13-101, is defined as:
- Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another;
- Intentionally or knowingly causing another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.
Understanding the Penalties
In Tennessee, simple (non-aggravated) domestic assault is charged as a Class A or B misdemeanor.
- A Class A misdemeanor carries a potential penalty of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 plus a mandatory $250 fine.
- A Class B misdemeanor carries a potential penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500 plus a mandatory $250 fine.
- If convicted of domestic assault at any level, you must immediately forfeit any firearms.
Understanding the Other Side – False Claims of Domestic Violence
Domestic assault is unique among criminal offenses in the way in which law enforcement agencies, and often judges, approach and react to the crime.
In the past, law enforcement officers, and even judges, frequently did not take claims of domestic abuse seriously. Consequently, abusers had little fear of being arrested or punished.
As a result of the campaign to bring public awareness to the issue of domestic violence, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and judges now frequently operate at the other end of the spectrum, using a “better safe than sorry” approach.
Unfortunately, efforts to protect legitimate victims of domestic violence have now made is easy to falsely accuse someone of domestic violence.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 explicitly endorsed a mandatory arrest policy that caused many states to implement policies requiring, or strongly encouraging, law enforcement officers to make an arrest if and accusation of domestic violence was made, even if there was no corroborating evidence.
Every year, 1.5 million restraining orders are issued in the United States that are unfounded or trivial.
As many as 700,000 people are wrongfully arrested for domestic violence every year in the U.S.
If you have additional questions or concerns about domestic assault in the State of Tennessee, please feel free to contact the criminal defense lawyers at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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