The Difference Between Domestic Violence and Domestic Battery

Ordinary, everyday language is full of words that are more-or-less interchangeable. Lawyer language is not. For the sake of consistency and clarity, attorneys and judges like to use the same terms over and over again. When a lawyer uses a different term, there’s a good chance she’s talking about a different concept. So what’s the legal distinction between Domestic Battery and a “crime of domestic violence?”

Let’s start with Battery, which occurs under Indiana law when someone “knowingly or intentionally touches another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner” (IC 35-42-2-1(c)(1)). Pretty much any unwelcome touching has the potential to be charged as a misdemeanor Battery, and the charge can always increase in seriousness depending on if (or how badly) the battered party was injured.

Domestic Battery works the same way, except that it must occur between two people who either are currently or were formerly involved in a domestic relationship (this can involve marriage, co-habitation, or children in common) (IC 35-42-2-1.3). Domestic Battery is just a particular kind of Battery—one that can only occur between people with a narrowly-defined association.

Now, for the distinction: A “crime of domestic violence” is not something you can be formally charged with in Indiana. Rather, the phrase “crime of domestic violence” refers to a class of criminal offenses (including Domestic Battery) that incur further statutory penalties. Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-78 provides that a “crime of domestic violence” is:

an offense or the attempt to commit an offense that:

(1) has as an element the:

(A) use of physical force; or

(B) threatened use of a deadly weapon; and

(2) is committed against a:

(A) current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the defendant;

(B) person with whom the defendant shared a child in common;

(C) person who was cohabitating with or had cohabitated with the defendant as a spouse, parent, or guardian; or

(D) person who was or had been similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the defendant.

This is clearly a broader category than Domestic Battery, as it makes room for attempted offenses and also includes violence directed at parents and guardians. Thus, if you kick your spouse in the shins, that’s both Domestic Battery and a “crime of domestic violence.” However, if you try and fail to kick your mother in the shins, that’s not Domestic Battery—but it is a “crime of domestic violence.” Certain violent offenses—think Strangulation (IC 35-42-2-9)—can automatically qualify as a “crime of domestic violence,” depending on the relationship of the parties involved. That is to say, if you’re found guilty of Strangulation for trying to choke your father, you have indeed been convicted of a “crime of domestic violence,” regardless of whether the word “domestic” ever appeared in your charging information.

This matters because you don’t need to be charged with Domestic Battery in order to be convicted of a “crime of domestic violence,” the statutory definition of which affects both Compensation for Victims of Violent Crimes (IC 5-2-6.1) and Sealing and Expunging Conviction Records (IC 35-38-9). Additionally, pursuant to Indiana Code 35-47-4-7(a), “a person who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm.”

If you’re facing Battery charges—or if you simply want to find out if a prior conviction counts as a “crime of domestic violence”—the Marc Lopez Law Firm is here to help. Call 317-632-3642 for a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.