In Indiana, an incident of domestic violence can result in both the prosecutor filing criminal charges and a civil court issuing a protection order (sometimes called a restraining order). Additional criminal charges can follow where a person violates the terms of a protection order.
Domestic violence crimes can include domestic battery, stalking, invasion of privacy, unlawful possession of a firearm by a domestic batterer, and other offenses. This article will discuss Indiana's criminal penalties for domestic violence offenses.
For information on civil protective orders, check out Understanding Indiana's Domestic and Family Violence Orders for Protection.
Indiana law criminalizes domestic violence under several sections of law. Domestic battery pertains specifically to a crime against a family or household member. Other criminal statutes don't apply exclusively to domestic violence but rather apply to both domestic and non-domestic crimes, such as harassment, criminal trespass, kidnapping, and homicide.
Crimes of domestic violence. Indiana defines crimes of domestic violence to include incidents where the defendant uses or attempts to use physical force or threatens to use a deadly weapon against a family or household member.
Family or household members include:
Certain protections under the law trigger when a police officer believes or a judge finds that an offense is a crime of domestic violence. (See below for information on arrest, bail, and firearms restrictions.)
The most common domestic violence offense is domestic battery. Domestic battery involves an offender who intentionally touches a family or household member in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. An act that places bodily fluid or waste on the victim also constitutes battery.
Domestic battery constitutes a class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. This offense level doesn't require that any bodily injury result. Shoving, pulling hair, jabbing, or other types of angry touching are criminal acts.
Domestic battery becomes a felony when:
These more severe penalties range from a level 6 felony up to a level 2 felony if death results. A level 6 felony subjects the defendant to six to 30 months of incarceration, whereas a level 2 felony carries ten to 30 years in prison.
(Ind. Code §§ 12-10-3-2, 35-31.5-2-76, 35-31.5-2-78, 35-31.5-2-128, 35-31.5-2-292, 35-42-2-1.3, 35-50-3-2 (2021).)
Domestic violence crimes involve more than battery crimes. Related offenses include domestic violence animal cruelty, stalking, invasion of privacy, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a domestic batterer.
A victim of domestic or family violence can seek an order of protection that prohibits the abuser from contacting or harming the victim. An abuser who knowingly or intentionally violates a protective order commits the crime of invasion of privacy. This class A misdemeanor carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The penalty increases to a level 6 felony if the defendant has a prior unrelated conviction for invasion of privacy. A level 6 felony carries between six and 30 months' incarceration.
If the violation involves stalking—repeat or continued harassment that causes a victim to feel frightened or threatened—the penalty increase to a level 5 felony offense. A person convicted of a level 5 felony faces one to six years in prison.
Indiana law makes it a level 6 felony to kill an animal with the intent of threatening, harassing, coercing, or terrorizing a family or household member. A convicted defendant faces six months to two and a half years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
Indiana law prohibits firearm possession by a person who's been convicted of domestic battery. Unlawful possession constitutes a class A misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
(Ind. Code §§ 35-45-10-5, 35-46-1-15.1, 35-46-3-12.5, 35-47-4-6, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7, 35-50-3-2 (2021).)
The law imposes additional consequences, such as mandatory arrest, jail holds, bail conditions, and firearm confiscation and restrictions, for domestic or family violence crimes. Domestic or family violence crimes include not only those that specify the victim is a family or household member (such as domestic battery), but also certain crimes where a family or household member was involved. These crimes include homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, robbery, arson, burglary, trespass, intimidation, harassment, voyeurism, stalking, and family offenses (such as bigamy and child neglect).
Indiana law imposes certain duties upon law enforcement officers when investigating allegations of domestic or family 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.
A law enforcement officer may arrest a person when the officer has probable cause to believe the person committed a domestic battery or certain other domestic violence-related offenses. The officer can make the arrest regardless of the crime's severity and even if they did not witness the unlawful conduct.
A jail must hold a person arrested for a crime of domestic violence for at least eight hours from the time of the arrest.
Pretrial release conditions in domestic violence cases typically include restrictions such as ordering the offender to stay away from and not contact the victim. Judges determine the bail amount and any conditions based on a defendant's flight risk and risk of harm to the victim and others. Conditions may include drug and alcohol monitoring, GPS tracking, and a domestic batterer's program.
Indiana law imposes certain duties on law enforcement officials when they investigate allegations of domestic violence. 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.
Anyone convicted of domestic battery or a crime of domestic violence is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state law. Federal gun bans may also apply.
(Ind. Code §§ 30-50-9-1, 31-9-2-42, 34-6-2-34.5, 35-31.5-2-76, 35-31.5-2-78, 35-33-1-1.5, 35-33-1-1.7, 35-33-8-11, 35-47-4-7 (2021).)
If you've been arrested for or charged with committing a domestic violence crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the allegations made against you and provide valuable 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.