Indiana Domestic Violence Laws

Learn how Indiana laws punish domestic violence and deter future acts of violence.

By , Attorney (University of Houston Law Center)
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney (UC Law San Francisco)
Updated January 18, 2024

Under Indiana's laws, it's a crime to use, attempt to use, or threaten to use physical force against a family or household member.

Here's an overview of the penalties for domestic violence in Indiana and the procedures designed to prevent future acts of violence, such as arrest and bail policies, firearm restrictions, and protective orders.

What Is Domestic Violence in Indiana?

Indiana law defines criminal domestic violence by the relationship of the parties. If the victim and perpetrator aren't "family or household members," the offense isn't a domestic violence offense.

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.

Crimes of domestic violence are offenses committed (or attempted) against family or household members that involve the use of physical force or the threatened use of a weapon. Common domestic violence crimes include:

(Ind. Code §§ 35-31.5-2-76, 35-31.5-2-78, 35-31.5-2-128 (2024).

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Battery in Indiana?

The most common domestic violence offense in Indiana is domestic battery. A person commits domestic battery by intentionally touching—or placing bodily fluid or waste on–a family or household member in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.

Misdemeanor Domestic Battery

A domestic battery that doesn't cause injury is typically a class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Examples of misdemeanor domestic batteries include shoving, pulling hair, jabbing, and other types of angry touching.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-42-2-1.3, 35-50-3-2 (2024).)

Felony Domestic Battery

Domestic battery becomes a felony when:

  • the offender has prior domestic battery or strangulation convictions
  • the offender knowingly commits the offense in the presence of a child
  • the offense results in moderate or serious bodily injury
  • the offender uses a deadly weapon
  • the victim has a protection order in place, or
  • the victim is particularly vulnerable (for example, has a mental or physical disability, is pregnant, or is under 14 years old).

Depending on the circumstances, a felony domestic battery can be charged as a Level 6, Level 5, Level 4, Level 3, or Level 2. Level 6 felonies carry a sentence of 6 months to 2 ½ years' imprisonment (advisory sentence of 1 year). A person convicted of a Level 2 felony faces 10 to 30 years in prison (advisory sentence of 17 ½ years).

Learn more about Indiana felony crimes by class and sentences.

(Ind. Code §§ § 35-42-2-1.3, 35-50-2-7, 35-50-2-4.5 (2024).

What Are the Penalties for Other Domestic Violence Offenses?

Domestic violence crimes involve more than battery crimes. Some examples of domestic violence-related crimes include animal cruelty, stalking, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a domestic batterer.

Domestic Violence Animal Cruelty

Indiana law makes it a Level 6 felony to kill an animal with the intent to threaten, intimidate, harass, coerce, or terrorize a family or household member. A person convicted of domestic violence animal cruelty is guilty of a Level 6 felony and faces 6 months to 2 ½ years of incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-46-3-12.5, 35-50-2-7, 35-50-2-6 (2024).)

Stalking

Under Indiana law stalking is defined as a knowing and intentional course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened or threatened and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized or threatened.

If the stalking victim is a family or household member of the alleged perpetrator, stalking is a domestic violence crime.

Stalking is typically a Level 6 felony, but it can be elevated to a Level 5 or 4 under certain circumstances (for example, if a tracking device or weapon is used).

(Ind. Code §§ 35-45-10-1, 35-45-10-5, 35-50-2-7 (2024).)

Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Domestic Batterer

Indiana law prohibits people who have been convicted of domestic battery from possessing a firearm. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a domestic batterer is a class A misdemeanor, subjecting the batterer to up to one year in jail and a fine of not more than $5,000.

People with misdemeanor and felony domestic violence convictions and anyone subject to a domestic violence restraining order are also prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-47-4-6, 35-50-3-2 (2024).)

Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Restrictions in Indiana Domestic Violence Cases

People charged with crimes involving domestic violence face arrest, bail, and pretrial release conditions.

Family Violence and Law Enforcement

Under Indiana law, law enforcement officers can't treat domestic violence as a family problem. Instead, officers must treat it as a crime and use all reasonable means to prevent further violence, including:

  • providing transportation for the victim and any children to a safe place to meet with a domestic violence counselor, family member, or friend
  • assisting the victim in gathering personal effects, such as clothing and medication, and
  • providing written notice of victim rights.

A law enforcement officer must also confiscate and remove a firearm, ammunition, or deadly weapon from the scene if the office has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence crime has occurred and a reasonable belief that the weapon was involved in the crime or puts the victim at immediate risk of serious bodily injured.

(Ind. Code § 35-33-1-1.5 (2024).)

Arrests and Jail Holds for Domestic Battery or Violence Offenses

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. Police don't need a warrant to make a domestic violence arrest and the officer doesn't have to witness the unlawful conduct to make a lawful arrest, even for a misdemeanor.

A jail must hold a person arrested for most domestic violence crimes for a period of at least 24 hours from the time of the arrest.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-33-1-1, 35-33-8-6.5 (2024).)

Bail and Pretrial Release in Domestic Violence Cases

Judges determine the bail amount and bail conditions based on a defendant's flight risk and risk of harm to the victim and others. Conditions may include an order to have no contact with the victim, drug and alcohol monitoring, GPS tracking, and a domestic batterer's program.

(Ind. Code § 35-33-8-11 (2024).)

Indiana Protective Orders for Domestic and Family Violence

In Indiana, victims of domestic violence can go to civil court and petition (ask) the judge for a Protective Order (PO) (also called a "restraining order"). This order directs the alleged abuser not to harm or have any contact with the victim. Even though it's a civil order, violating the order can result in criminal penalties.

What Does a Protection Order Do in Indiana?

A PO stops or restrains the person named in the order from:

  • contacting the protected person directly or indirectly through any means
  • entering the protected person's home, property, or workplace, and
  • harassing, stalking, or threatening the protected person.

POs may also address issues like possession and use of a shared home, possession of an animal, and parenting time after a hearing. POs typically last for two years unless the judge orders otherwise.

A PO is in addition to, and not instead of, criminal proceedings. If a criminal charge is filed, the prosecutor can ask the judge to order that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim as a condition of bail or probation.

(Ind. Code §§ 34-26-5-6, 34-26-5-9 (2024).)

Who Can Get an Order for Protection in Indiana?

Under Indiana's Civil Protection Order Act, victims of domestic violence may request a PO. Victims of stalking, harassment, and sexual assault can also request protection orders, whether or not they are family or household members of the alleged perpetrator.

A parent or guardian can request a PO on behalf of a child who has been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, sexual grooming, or a sex offense.

(Ind. Code §§ 34-26-5-2 (2024).)

Penalties for Violating a Protective Order in Indiana

Even though an order for protection is a civil court order, violating the order can result in both civil and criminal penalties and an extension of the order.

Misdemeanor. A person who knowingly or intentionally violates a PO is guilty of the crime of invasion of privacy. This class A misdemeanor carries penalties of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Felony. The penalty for violating a PO (invasion of privacy) increases to a level 6 felony if the defendant has a prior unrelated conviction for invasion of privacy or stalking. A level 6 felony carries between six months and 2 ½ imprisonment.

Contempt. The court may hold an offender in contempt for willfully violating the order for protection, which can mean posting a bond, as well as jail time and fines.

(Ind. Code §§ 34-47-3-1, 35-46-1-15.1 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're charged with a crime involving domestic violence, consult a 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.

If you've been the victim of a domestic violence crime or would like to seek a protective order, reach out to a domestic violence program. You can also reach out to Indiana Legal Help.

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