In Indiana, an incident of domestic violence can result in both criminal charges being filed and an order of protection being issued by a court. Criminal charges can also follow where a person violates the terms of an order of protection. A conviction for a domestic violence offense can carry serious penalties, including jail time and steep fines.
Domestic Violence as a Crime
Indiana law, with the exception of the crime of domestic battery, does not contain separate criminal statutes that deal exclusively with domestic violence. Instead, offenses such as harassment, criminal trespass, kidnapping, and criminal confinement apply to both domestic and non-domestic instances of violence. For example, a person who causes a victim to feel intimidated by engaging in continual harassment commits the offense of stalking, regardless of whether the victim is a family or household member. Similarly, the crime of invasion of privacy applies to violations of domestic violence orders of protection as well as orders of protection not pertaining to domestic violence, such as workplace violence restraining orders.
One statute that specifically applies to offenses involving domestic violence is § 35-42-2-1.3, Indiana’s domestic battery statute. A person commits domestic battery by causing a physical injury through the intentional touching of another person who is a current or former spouse, an individual who lives or lived with the person as a spouse, or an individual with whom the person has a child.
Domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If the defendant commits the domestic battery in the physical presence of a child under the age of 16, or if the defendant has a prior unrelated domestic battery conviction, the new conviction for domestic battery is a Class D felony, which may be punished by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A defendant convicted of a crime involving domestic violence may be required to participate in a batterer’s intervention program.
(Ind. Code §§ 35-33-8-11, 35-50-9-1)
Law Enforcement Duties
Indiana law imposes certain duties upon law enforcement officers when investigating allegations of domestic violence. Officers must use all reasonable means to prevent further violence, including assisting the victim in gathering personal effects, and providing transportation for the victim and any children to a safe place to meet with a domestic violence counselor, family member, or friend. Officers may confiscate firearms and ammunition where they observe such weapons at the scene and believe the weapons were used in committing domestic violence or pose an immediate threat of serious injury to the victim.
(Ind. Code 35-33-1-1.5)
For the purposes of Indiana family law, “domestic or family violence” occurs where one family or household member commits one or more of the following acts:
- causes physical harm or attempts or threatens to cause physical harm to a family or household member,
- places a family or household member in fear of physical harm,
- makes a family or household member engage in sexual activity by force, the threat of force, or duress, or
- abuses or kills an animal, without justification, for the purpose of threatening, intimidating, coercing, harassing, or terrorizing a family member.
For purposes of a civil protection order, the definition of domestic violence is expanded to include stalking and sex offenses.
(Ind. Code § 31-9-2-42)
Obtaining an Order of Protection
A person who is the victim of domestic or family violence may file a petition requesting that a court issue an order of protection. A parent or guardian may file a petition on behalf of a child who is the victim of domestic or family violence. The court may issue an order of protection ex parte, that is, without holding a hearing or notifying the person accused of committing the abuse if, based on the petition, it appears the person (known as the respondent) has committed domestic or family violence. The ex parte order may contain a number of provisions, including ones that require the respondent to move out of the home, to have no contact with the petitioner, and to surrender the use of property such as an automobile to the petitioner, even if the respondent owns the property.
Where a court issues an ex parte order of protection, it must hold a hearing within 30 days of issuing the ex parte order, and the respondent must be notified of the hearing. If the court determines at the conclusion of the hearing that an order of protection is necessary to protect the petitioner from a credible threat of violence, it may issue an order that lasts for two years, unless the court specifies a different duration. The order may contain any provisions found in the ex parte order. The order may also include provisions that set or deny the respondent visitation time with children of the petitioner and respondent, require the respondent to pay for expenses such as the petitioner’s counseling or medical expenses, and prohibit the respondent from possessing firearms.
(Ind. Code §§ 34-26-5-2, 34-25-5-9)
Criminal Stalking & Violation of an Order of Protection
A respondent who commits the offense of stalking while subject to an order of protection is guilty of a Class C felony, although a court may find the respondent guilty of a Class D felony if mitigating circumstances exist such as the respondent not having a prior criminal history. Class C felonies carry up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine, while a Class D felony carries a maximum sentence of three years with a $10,000 fine.
(Ind. Code §§ 35-38-1-7.1, 35-45-10-5, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7)
Consult An Attorney
If you are charged with committing a crime of domestic violence, or if you are accused of domestic violence in a petition seeking an order of protection, you should speak with an attorney experienced in handling such matters. An experienced attorney can evaluate the allegations made against you and provide invaluable guidance while protecting your rights. A conviction for a domestic violence crime can carry serious penalties, and having a protective order issued against you can affect your rights as a parent and a property owner, so it is important that you immediately contact an attorney if you are accused of domestic violence.