Indiana Domestic Violence Laws

A person who commits domestic violence can face serious criminal charges that carry jail or prison time and steep fines. A judge can also place certain restrictions on the person through an order for protection.

In Indiana, an incident of domestic violence can result in both criminal charges being filed and a protection order being issued by a civil court. Additional criminal charges can follow where a person violates the terms of a protection order. A conviction for a domestic violence offense can carry serious penalties, including jail or prison time and steep fines.

Domestic Violence Crimes

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. 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, neighbor, or co-worker. Similarly, the crime of invasion of privacy applies to violations of domestic violence protection orders, as well as other protection orders (like workplace violence restraining orders).

Domestic Battery

A person commits domestic battery by the intentional touching of a “family or household member” in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. Family or household members include:

  • a current or former spouse, dating partner, or sexual partner
  • someone related by blood, adoption, or marriage
  • someone who shares a child with the person, or
  • a current or former guardian, ward, custodian, or foster parent.

Domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The penalties increase from there, ranging from a Level 6 felony up to a Level 2 felony. The penalties increase as the level of harm increases, when weapons are used, or when the victim is particularly vulnerable. A Level 6 felony carries between six and 30 months’ incarceration, whereas a Level 2 felony can be punished by 10 to 30 years in prison.

Another statute—domestic violence animal cruelty—makes it a Level 6 felony to kill an animal with the intent of threatening, harassing, coercing, or terrorize a family or household member.

Other Domestic Violence-Related Crimes

The Indiana Code contains a definition that identifies “crimes involving domestic or family violence.” (See Ind. Code § 35-31.5-2-76 (2020).) These crimes include homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, robbery, arson, burglary, trespass, intimidation, harassment, voyeurism, stalking, and family offenses (such as bigamy and child neglect). While these crimes are not limited to domestic violence, if the crime involves a family or household member, the law allows additional consequences such as mandatory arrest holds, firearm confiscation and restrictions, and GPS tracking as a condition of bail.

Law Enforcement Duties

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.

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. A jail must hold a person arrested for a crime of domestic violence for at least eight hours.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-31.5-2-128, 35-33-1-1.5, 35-33-1-1.7, 35-33-8-11, 35-42-2-1.3, 35-46-3-12.5, 35-50-2-4.5 to .7, 35-50-3-2 (2020).)

Protective Orders

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, 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 order for protection, the definition of domestic violence is expanded to include stalking and sex offenses.

Obtaining an Order for 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. This individual is referred to as the petitioner.

The court may issue an order of protection "ex parte," meaning without holding a hearing or notifying the person accused of committing the abuse. (Basically, only one side—the petitioner—is providing information at this time.) The judge can issue the order 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, have no contact with the petitioner, and surrender the use of property such as a vehicle 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 notify the respondent 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, plus 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 §§ 31-9-2-42, 34-6-2-34.5, 34-26-5-2, 34-26-5-9 (2020).)

Violation of an Order for Protection

A respondent who intentionally violates a protective order faces a Class A misdemeanor penalty for invasion of privacy, punishable by up to a year in jail. The penalty increases to a Level 6 felony if the person 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.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-45-10-5, 35-46-1-151, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7, 35-50-3-2 (2020).)

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.

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