In Mississippi, there are two domestic violence crimes – simple domestic violence and aggravated domestic violence.
Simple Domestic Violence
A person is guilty of simple domestic violence if he commits a simple assault against one of the following victims:
- current or former spouse
- child of a current or former spouse
- person with whom the offender lives or formerly lived as a spouse or a child of that person
- family member who lives or previously lived with the offender
- person with whom the offender has or had a dating or romantic relationship, or
- person with whom the offender has a child.
Under Mississippi law, a person commits a simple assault if he:
- attempts to physically injure another person
- intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another
- negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon, or
- threatens another person, causing that person to feel afraid that he is about to suffer serious physical injury.
(Miss. Code Ann. §97-3-7).
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured.
A negligent act is one which is not intentional but which occurs because the actor fails to exercise reasonable care. An accidental shooting can be a negligent assault if it results from a person not being careful enough when handling or firing a gun.
Aggravated Domestic Violence
A person is guilty of aggravated domestic violence if he commits an aggravated assault against a spouse, family member or romantic partner as listed above or if he strangles or attempts to strangle one of those victims.
A person commits aggravated assault in Mississippi if he:
- attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another person
- intentionally or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another while acting with extreme indifference to human life
- attempts or causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon or by other means likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, or
- causes injury to a child who is in the process of boarding or exiting a school bus if the offender has failed to stop for the bus according to traffic laws.
(Miss. Code Ann. §97-3-7).
To act recklessly is to act with extreme indifference to the value of human life. The actor does not need to intend to injure to the victim. He may intend to shoot a person other than the victim but take no precautions to avoid hurting others. He may shoot a gun into a crowd to appear menacing but without regard for whether he actually injures someone in the crowd. To be reckless or to act with extreme indifference to human life is to act with extreme carelessness.
Bodily Injury and Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is more serious than a cut, scrape or bruise. An assault is an aggravated assault if the offender causes or attempts to cause a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, a serious head injury, or an injury that requires surgery and/or hospitalization.
Bodily injury is any injury to the human body, including minor scrapes and bruises.
Deadly Weapon or Other Means Likely to Cause Death or Serious Bodily Injury
A deadly weapon is any object that, by definition, is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury such as a gun, knife, or sword. An assault with a deadly weapon is an aggravated assault in Mississippi.
An assault also is an aggravated assault if the crime is committed by means that can likely cause death or serious injury. “Means” refers to an object or to the use of the body. An assault is an aggravated assault if the crime is committed with an object that is dangerous because of the way the object is used. For example, a motor vehicle, a rope, a pair of steel boots, and a stick are all objects that can be used in a manner that is likely to cause serious injury. Fists or feet also can cause serious injury. If an offender attacks a person in a manner that is intense and prolonged, the act can be considered an aggravated assault because the use of the hands or feet can be considered a “dangerous means.”
Under Mississippi’s aggravated assault statute, it is important to note that, if a person commits an assault with a deadly weapon or by dangerous means, he need only intend minor injury -- whether injury actually results is irrelevant. Proof that the offender intentionally attacked another is all that the prosecutor needs for a conviction for aggravated assault if a weapon or dangerous means is involved.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes
Simple domestic violence in Mississippi carries the same penalty as simple assault -- up to six months in jail or a $500 fine, or both -- unless the crime is the defendant’s third or subsequent conviction for simple domestic violence (or a similar crime in another state) within five years. In that case, the crime is a felony and is punishable by a minimum of five years in prison and up to ten years.
Aggravated domestic violence is a felony punishable by a minimum of two years in prison. If the crime is the defendant’s third or subsequent conviction for aggravated domestic violence (or a similar crime in another state) within five years, the penalty is a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to 20 years.
If domestic violence is committed in the presence or within hearing of a child under 16 years old who lives with the victim or the offender or in the residence where the crime occurs, the court must consider this fact as an aggravating factor in deciding the length of a jail or prison sentence. An aggravating factor is a basis for increasing the sentence and imposing, for instance, three months in jail instead of one month or three years in prison instead of two years.
If an offender uses a firearm in the commission of aggravated domestic violence in Mississippi, the minimum sentence is five years in prison in addition to any other sentence provided in the domestic violence statute. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-37.)
Intentional assault against pregnant woman
If a domestic violence assault is an intentional assault committed against a pregnant woman and the offender knew of the pregnancy, the offender could be charged, alternatively, with the crime of intentional assault against a pregnant woman which carries more severe penalties than domestic violence if the offense causes a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other injury to the fetus or embryo. (Miss. Code. Ann. §97-3-37).
A person convicted of domestic violence in Mississippi can be required to pay restitution up to $5,000, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment, counseling, or repair and replacement of damaged property. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-3).
Suspended Sentence and Probation
A court in Mississippi can suspend all or a portion of a prison sentence (except minimum sentences) as long as the defendant successfully completes probation and/or any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as domestic violence treatment, maintaining employment and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests. If the defendant violates any conditions set by the Court, he can be required to serve the remaining sentence in jail or prison.
The Value of Good Representation
Any criminal conviction -- even a misdemeanor -- becomes part of your permanent criminal record. Being a convicted felon for a violent crime can seriously impact your life and limit your rights as a citizen. If you are facing a domestic violence charge, you should consider hiring an attorney. An experienced attorney can review and investigate your case and advise you on all the options you have from entering into a plea agreement to going to trial. A knowledgeable attorney will assist you in making decisions about your case and protect your rights.