Kentucky law contains criminal provisions that penalize acts of domestic violence. A person commits domestic abuse by hurting, trying to harm, or threatening a family member or member of an unmarried couple. This article will provide a brief overview of Kentucky's domestic violence and abuse laws that apply to crimes against family members or unmarried couples.
Kentucky law defines what constitutes domestic violence—what acts and by whom. Domestic violence and abuse include physical injury, serious physical injury, stalking, sexual abuse, strangulation, assault, or the infliction of fear of one of these acts between family members or members of an unmarried couple.
Family members include:
Additionally, where the victim is a child, any person living in the same household as the child qualifies as a family member.
Member of an unmarried couple refers to people who have a child or children together. The unmarried couple's children are included in this definition, as are people who currently live or previously lived together.
Common domestic abuse crimes include domestic assault, violating a domestic violence or interpersonal protective order, stalking, and strangulation. For these crimes to fall under domestic abuse, the victim must be a family member or member of an unmarried couple.
Penalties for domestic assaults vary depending on the nature of the offense and the criminal record of the defendant.
Fourth-degree assault. Assault in the fourth degree constitutes a Class A misdemeanor. Such an offense involves an offender intentionally or wantonly causing physical injury to another person or recklessly causing physical injury to another by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. A defendant guilty of fourth-degree assault faces up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.
Repeat domestic assaults. The penalty for fourth-degree assault increases to a Class D felony if it's a third or subsequent assault committed (within a five-year period) against a family member or member of an unmarried couple. A Class D felony carries one to five years' imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
First- and second-degree assaults. Domestic assaults resulting in greater harm (serious physical injuries) to the victim can lead to more severe charges and penalties. The penalties for first- and second-degree assaults carry sentences of 5 to 20 years in prison.
A victim of domestic violence can seek a protection order prohibiting the abuser from contacting or harming them. A person who is in a dating relationship with the abuser can file for a similar order referred to as an interpersonal protective order.
An offender who violates a domestic violence or interpersonal protective order faces a Class A misdemeanor conviction. Such a conviction subjects a guilty defendant to up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.
Stalking starts as a misdemeanor offense. It's considered stalking in the second degree when a person stalks someone and makes a threat (explicit or implicit) with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of sexual contact, physical injury, or death. This Class A misdemeanor carries up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.
Stalking increases to a first-degree offense and felony if any of the following are also true:
First-degree stalking constitutes a Class D felony, which subjects a guilty defendant to one to five years in prison and a $1,000 to $10,000 fine.
Strangulation occurs when a person impedes the normal breath or circulation of the blood of a victim by applying pressure on their throat or neck or blocking their nose or mouth.
This unlawful behavior, if done wantonly, is strangulation in the second degree and constitutes a Class D felony, which carries one to five years' imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. A defendant who acts intentionally commits a first-degree offense and faces a Class C felony and 5 to 10 years in prison.
In addition to imprisonment and monetary penalties, Kentucky law establishes the following conditions and restrictions in domestic violence cases. Whether an offense constitutes domestic violence depends on the factors involved.
Any peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant when the peace officer has probable cause to believe that the person has intentionally or wantonly caused physical injury to a family member or member of an unmarried couple.
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 can include prohibitions on possessing a firearm and consuming alcohol or controlled substances.
If you have been arrested for or charged with a crime of domestic abuse, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction for domestic violence can have serious, long-lasting consequences. A lawyer can help you navigate the court system and discuss potential outcomes in your case based on your unique set of circumstances.
(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 403.720, 403.763, 431.005, 431.064, 508.030, 508.032, 508.140, 508.150, 508.170, 508.175, 532.060, 532.090, 534.030, 534.040 (2022).)