Domestic battery is a severe offense in Indiana. It involves harm against a family or household member and may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the conduct. According to Indiana’s data center, in 2018 and 2019 combined, law enforcement officials made over 22,000 domestic battery and domestic violence arrests in the state. Of those, over 7,500 occurred in Marion County and the surrounding areas.
Because of the safety risk domestic battery offenses pose to others, the State takes them very seriously. From the moment the alleged incident is reported to the time the matter is set for trial, authorities will take strict measures to protect the alleged victim and punish the alleged offender.
Although the State may harshly pursue these matters, you are not without options if you have been charged. You have the right to challenge the accusations and seek to avoid or minimize penalties. Developing a defense requires careful consideration and analysis of the facts and knowing what laws to apply. An attorney can help craft your legal strategy and stand up for you throughout your case.
What Is Domestic Battery?
Domestic battery occurs when someone intentionally touches or places bodily fluid on a family household member in a “rude, insolent, or angry manner” (IC 35-42-2-1.3).
Generally, domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of no more than 1 year and/or a fine not to exceed $5,000.
The offense can be elevated to a felony as follows:
- Level 6 felony
- The alleged offender has a prior battery or strangulation conviction
- The offense was committed near a person under 16 years of age
- The alleged victim suffered moderate injuries
- The alleged victim was under 14 years of age, an endangered adult, or had a mental or physical disability
- Level 5 felony
- The alleged victim suffered serious bodily injury
- The alleged offender used a deadly weapon
- The alleged offender caused injury to a person they knew was pregnant
- The alleged offender has a prior battery conviction against the same person
- The alleged offender caused injury to someone under 14 years of age, an endangered adult, or who had a mental or physical disability
- Level 4 felony
- The alleged offender caused serious bodily injury to an endangered adult
- Level 3 felony
- The alleged offender caused serious bodily injury to a person under 14 years of age
- Level 2 felony
- The alleged offender caused the death of a person under 14 years of age or who was an endangered adult
The Arrest Process
An officer responding to an alleged domestic battery incident is authorized to arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that you were the one who committed the offense. They might also take you into custody if there is probable cause that you tried to interfere with the crime being reported (IC 35-33-1-1).
Under IC 35-33-1-1.5, the officer’s duties at the time of the arrest also involve:
- Taking the alleged victim to a safe place.
- Helping the alleged victim collect personal effects from the home.
- Notifying the victim of their rights, such as being told when you have been released from custody or being heard at sentencing proceedings.
- Confiscating firearms or ammunition found at the scene. The officer may take your gun if they believe that continued possession of it places the alleged victim at risk of future harm or it was used during the crime.
If you are arrested for domestic battery, you are required to be held in custody for at least 8 hours. Additionally, the court cannot allow you to be released on bail until the mandatory 8-hour waiting period has passed (IC 35-33-8-6.5). The court may order you to wear a GPS tracking device as a bail condition.
Following your arrest, if the prosecutor has probable cause to believe that a domestic battery offense was committed and you were the one who committed it, they will file formal charges against you. When they pursue a criminal matter, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated every element of the offense.
The elements they must prove include that:
- You acted intentionally,
- You and the alleged victim were members of the same family or household,
- You touched or placed bodily fluids on the alleged victim, and
- You did so in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.
To build their case against you, the prosecutor will rely on various pieces of evidence law enforcement officials collected. The evidence can include testimony from the alleged victim and other witnesses. It can also consist of statements you made during the investigation. That is why it is important to exercise your right to remain silent when interacting with police officers, regardless of their tactics to get you to talk.
Your criminal defense attorney will work to uncover holes in the prosecutor’s case. They will conduct their own investigation and may consult with experts to refute the opposition’s arguments.
Depending on the situation, various defenses can be raised to challenge domestic battery allegations, such as:
- Self-defense or
- Accidental touching
Consult with an Attorney
The criminal process for an alleged domestic battery matter can be complex, confusing, and scary. Having a lawyer on your side is crucial whether you are under investigation or have been arrested or charged. They can provide the guidance you need to navigate your case.
If you need legal representation in Indianapolis, please contact the Law Office of B.D. Williams at (317) 458-9911.