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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.” 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). Domestic battery is just a particular kind of battery—one that can only occur between people with a narrowly-defined relationship.

Now, for the distinction: A crime of domestic violence is not something you can be formally charged with in Indiana. The term crime of domestic violence refers to a class of criminal offenses (including domestic battery) that incur further statutory penalties. Indiana law provides that a crime of domestic violence is an offense or the attempt to commit an offense that includes either the use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon against a:

  • current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the defendant;
  • person with whom the defendant shared a child in common;
  • person who was cohabitating with or had cohabitated with the defendant as a spouse, parent or guardian; or
  • 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.

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 and expunging conviction records. Additionally, Indiana law states that a person who’s 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, and remember—always plead the 5th!