In Indiana, domestic battery is a crime that is separate and distinct from any other crime, including plain, old-fashioned battery. At its most basic, domestic battery is a knowing or intentional touching of a family member or household member in a rude, insolent or angry manner. There are a couple of big things to unpack here.
Domestic battery can only be committed against a family member or household member.
So what does that mean? The Indiana Code offers super easy guidance. It provides a broad definition of family member or household member that includes:
- a spouse or former spouse;
- someone you have dated or are currently dating;
- someone you currently have a sexual relationship with (or used to have a sexual relationship with);
- a person related by blood or adoption;
- a person related by marriage; or
- a person you have a child in common with.
It boils down to either a family member, someone you cohabitate with, or someone you’re currently (or were previously) in a romantic relationship with. It doesn’t always have to be perfect either. If you’re a guardian, a ward, custodian, foster parent, or something in-between, those will all be considered family member or household member relationships.
Unwelcome touching is battery in Indiana.
The touching can be all sorts of things. Throwing an object, a punch, or even bodily fluids can all qualify as touching under Indiana’s battery statutes. The term bodily fluids includes everything you can think of: sweat, blood, spit, and even breastmilk. If another person is touched in a rude, insolent, or angry manner, it will almost always fit the definition of battery.
So the bottom-line is, if you hit or touch a family member or household member in a rude, insolent or angry manner, that could lead to a charge of domestic battery, which starts off as a Class A misdemeanor. That means maximum jail time of one year and maximum fine of $5,000.
Domestic battery can become a Level 6 felony.
It’s super easy for domestic battery to become a Level 6 felony, which is punishable by a maximum two-and-a-half years in prison and maximum fine of $10,000. Domestic battery can be charged as a Level 6 felony if:
- the defendant has a prior, unrelated conviction for domestic battery;
- the defendant is over 18 and someone who is 16 years or younger is a witness;
- it results in moderate bodily injury—this is a more recent legal standard in Indiana, but it essentially means an impairment of physical condition that causes substantial pain (examples: a split lip that requires stitches or a small fracture in a nose—more than a simple ouch! but less than serious bodily injury (more on that below);
- the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is under the age of 14;
- the victim is an endangered adult (which basically means someone who can’t take care of themselves); or
- the victim has a physical or mental disability and the person who committed the domestic battery is a caretaker (either a voluntary, paid caretaker or a de facto caretaker like a parent, guardian, nurse etc.).
Domestic battery can become a Level 5 felony,
Now, domestic battery can get even more serious if it is charged as a Level 5 felony. That means, if convicted, you face a maximum six years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. A person can find themselves facing down a Level 5 felony for domestic battery if:
- it results in serious bodily injury (permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, extreme pain, loss of a fetus, or any permanent or drawn-out loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ);
- it’s committed with a deadly weapon. (which can include almost anything except for a handful of statutory exceptions for things like tasers or mace that are designed to temporarily incapacitate);
- the victim is pregnant;
- the defendant has been previously convicted of domestic battery and does it again to the same person;
- it results in bodily injury to someone under 14 (this includes a simple ouch!); or
- the defendant is a caretaker, and the victim is an endangered or disabled adult who suffers bodily injury (remember this is just an ouch!).
Domestic battery is an unfortunately common charge.
Unfortunately, domestic battery is one of the most common criminal charges in the State of Indiana. If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic battery, give us a call at 317-632-3642 and remember, always plead the 5th!