What Is Domestic Violence?
In Tennessee, domestic violence is referred to as domestic assault, which is an assault against a “domestic abuse victim.” Domestic disputes that escalate to matters of domestic assault typically involve:
- Current or ex-spouses
- People who have lived or currently live together
- People who have dated or are dating
- Those related by marriage (or previous marriages)
- Those related by blood or marriage
- Children of any of the previously mentioned individuals
There are two types of assault in Tennessee—assault and aggravated assault. According to TN Code § 39-13-101, a person commits assault when they recklessly or knowingly cause:
- Bodily harm to another person
- Another person to reasonably fear they will be harmed
- Physical contact with another person, that a reasonable person would view as offensive or confrontational
Aggravated assault is defined as an assault that, in addition to the actions outlined in TN Code § 39-13-10, also meets one or more of the following:
- Results in severe injuries
- Leads to the death of another
- Involves the use (even by threat only) of a deadly weapon
- Involves the attempt or act of strangulation
Facing Domestic Violence Charges
When charged or suspected of abuse, the way you act and treat people is under a microscope, even if you have been falsely accused. In fact, false accusations of domestic assault are common, both from people within the relationship as well as close friends and family considered to be observers.
Aside from false accusations made intentionally to spite another, it’s not uncommon for someone to incorrectly believe that abuse is happening because they are working from a limited – and sometimes biased – scope of information. For example, some people may view the following behaviors as signs of an abusive partner:
- The destruction of property, such as throwing or hitting objects, breaking family heirlooms, or vandalism
- Acts of anger or jealousy, such as making big gestures, getting loud or menacing in arguments, or acting overprotective or “controlling”
- Any language that can be misconstrued as threatening or demeaning, such as name-calling or the use of obscene language
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you should:
- Avoid confronting your accuser. After an accusation has been made, any interactions you have can be used against you in court. If your accuser has a protective order against you, any attempted contact could put you at risk of penalties for violating the order. If your accuser reaches out to you, avoid contact as much as possible; you should also keep a record of all interactions.
- Gather evidence to prove your innocence. To disprove the allegations, you can use witness testimonies, GPS data, social media (or other online) records, or camera footage.
- Hire a trusted attorney. A criminal defense attorney can help you build a solid defense strategy, gather evidence, and navigate the legal system.
Penalties of Domestic Violence Convictions
Domestic assault convictions are typically Class A misdemeanors, which carry penalties of up to 11 months and 29 days of imprisonment and/or fines of up to $2,500. Domestic aggravated assault convictions are Class C felonies, which are punishable by up to 15 years in jail and $10,000 in fines.
With either charge, second-time and subsequent offenses carry additional penalties if convicted. Convictions are life-altering and can affect your life and freedoms, including:
- Losing your right to bear arms
- Having the conviction appear on background checks, which can affect housing and employment opportunities
- Being restricted from certain areas because of permanent restraining orders
- Losing support of friends and family members (even in instances of false accusations)
- Carrying the stigma of a domestic violence conviction, which can affect your reputation
Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges
Accusations of domestic violence are taken very seriously. Even if the accuser decides to stop pursuing charges, the prosecution may still move forward with the case. In court, an attorney can defend you against these allegations by showing that:
- You lacked intent
- You acted in self-defense
- You have been falsely accused
- The allegations can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt
- The charges should be dropped because of investigative errors made by the police
If you are facing domestic assault charges, you need legal representation. At Eldridge & Blakney, we want to hear your side of the story and are prepared to help you fight these charges.
To protect your reputation and freedoms, reach out to our legal team at (865) 544-2010 or online.