Ohio Domestic Violence Laws

Learn about Ohio’s criminal penalties and policies that aim to prevent and punish domestic violence crimes and protect victims.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 24, 2024

In Ohio, acts of domestic violence can result in criminal penalties, protective orders, mandatory arrests, and firearm restrictions, among other penalties. This article will discuss Ohio's criminal penalties and policies that aim to prevent and punish domestic violence crimes and protect victims.

What Is Domestic Violence in Ohio?

Ohio defines domestic violence as any of the following acts committed by or against a family or household member:

  • physical or sexual violence
  • attempted or threats of violence, and
  • child abuse.

Who Are Family and Household Members?

Family or household members include (but are not limited to):

  • current and former spouses
  • parents and children
  • persons who share a child
  • persons related by blood or marriage who live or have lived together, and
  • persons who are living together or have lived together within the past five years.

Certain extended family members may also fall under this definition.

Civil Protection Orders (CPO)

A family or household member experiencing domestic violence can ask the court for a Civil Protection Order (CPO). A CPO directs the abuser to stop harming, threatening, or contacting the victim. It can also direct the abuser to move out of a shared home. Violating the order is a crime.

(For current or former dating partners, an abused party can ask for a Dating Violence Civil Protection Order.)

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2919.27, 3113.31 (2024).)

Is Domestic Violence a Crime in Ohio?

Yes, Ohio has a crime called domestic violence. In addition, several other crimes impose enhanced penalties when committed against a family or household member, such as menacing by stalking and strangulation.

Ohio law also specifies factors police and judges should consider when making arrest, pretrial release, bail, and sentencing decisions in domestic violence cases, including whether to issue no-contact orders.

Who Can Face Criminal Charges for Domestic Violence in Ohio?

The crime of domestic violence in Ohio involves violence or threatened violence against a family or household member. Someone commits domestic violence by:

  • knowingly causing or attempting to cause "physical harm" to a family or household member
  • recklessly causing "serious physical harm" to a family or household member, or
  • knowingly causing a family or household member to fear imminent physical harm through threat of force.

Physical harm refers to any injury, illness, or physical impairment, such as bruising, pain, or scratches.

Serious physical harm means any harm that carries a substantial risk of death, substantially or permanently disfigures or impairs a body part or organ, or creates substantial or prolonged pain. Examples can include gunshot or stab wounds, broken bones, severe sprains, swelling or bruising, significant lacerations and scarring, or any injury requiring surgery.

Examples of domestic violence include:

  • a person who punches or kicks their spouse and knowingly causes them pain and bruises
  • someone who recklessly shoves a pregnant girlfriend out of the way, causing her to hit her head on a concrete floor, and
  • a person who raises their fist and angrily approaches their ex.

If the offense involved a weapon, more serious felonious assault charges may apply.

What Are the Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction in Ohio?

Domestic violence can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, the injury caused or attempted, and whether the offender has prior convictions for domestic violence or related crimes.

Ohio imposes harsher penalties for domestic violence that results in harm or involves attempted harm (domestic violence by assault), compared to threats of harm (domestic violence by threats).

Domestic Violence by Assault

Domestic violence that results in harm or involves attempted harm carries first-degree misdemeanor penalties, except in the following circumstances:

  • If the defendant knew the victim was pregnant, domestic violence bumps up to a fifth-degree felony.
  • Defendants with a prior conviction involving domestic violence face penalties for a fourth-degree felony.
  • When a defendant has multiple priors, the offense moves up to a third-degree felony.

A judge must impose a mandatory minimum sentence for committing domestic violence against a pregnant woman. The minimum sentences range from 6 to 36 months depending on the offense level and any harm committed to the unborn child.

Domestic Violence by Threats

Domestic violence that places a victim in fear of harm is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Similar to domestic violence by assault, these crimes carry increased penalties when a victim is pregnant or a defendant has priors.

A defendant who threatens harm to a pregnant victim can face third-degree misdemeanor penalties. If the defendant has one prior conviction involving domestic violence, the crime is a second-degree misdemeanor. Multiple priors result in first-degree misdemeanor charges.

Sentences in Domestic Violence Cases

The penalties for domestic violence range from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Misdemeanors in Ohio carry maximum penalties of 30 to 180 days of jail time and fines from $250 to $1,000.

Felonies come with the possibility of prison time. Fourth- and fifth-degree felonies can mean 6 to 18 months of prison time and maximum fines of $2,500 and $5,000. A person convicted of a third-degree felony faces up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2919.25 (2024).)

Other Domestic Violence Crimes in Ohio

Several crimes under Ohio law impose harsher penalties if a defendant harms a family or household member. Below are just a few examples.

Strangulation Crimes

A person who knowingly tries to impede another's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck or covering their nose and mouth commits strangulation.

This offense carries second-degree felony penalties if the defendant causes serious physical harm and third-degree felony penalties if strangulation created a substantial risk of serious physical harm.

Other acts of strangulation are fifth-degree felonies. However, when committed against a family or household member, the crime starts as a fourth-degree felony. This offense bumps up to a third-degree felony if the victim was pregnant or the defendant has a prior violent felony conviction.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.18 (2024).)

Violating a Protection Order or CPO

As described above, a victim of domestic violence can ask the court for a civil protection order or CPO. The court can issue similar protective orders as part of a criminal case involving domestic violence.

A reckless violation of a protection order is a first-degree misdemeanor. Repeat violations or crimes against the same victim can bump up the charges to a fifth-degree felony. The harshest penalties—a third-degree felony—apply if the defendant committed a felony by violating the order.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2919.26, 2919.27, 3113.31 (2024).)

Menacing by Stalking

A person who repeatedly commits acts aimed at creating fear of harm or mental distress in another commits menacing by stalking. A conviction means first-degree misdemeanor charges. However, a prosecutor can bring fourth-degree felony charges if the offender committed the offense while in possession of a deadly weapon or was subject to a protection order. Fourth-degree felony charges also apply if the defendant has a prior stalking conviction, threatened physical harm, or has a history of violence.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.211 (2024).)

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

On top of incarceration and fines, Ohio law imposes the following conditions and restrictions in domestic violence cases.

Arrest in Domestic Violence Cases

While Ohio doesn't have a mandatory arrest policy in domestic violence cases, the law provides that an arrest is the preferred response. Officers responding to a domestic disturbance that rises to the level of a felonious assault (involving major injuries or a weapon) must arrest the suspect and seize any weapons used or brandished in the alleged crime.

(Ohio Rev. Stat. § 2935.03 (2024).)

Pretrial Release and Bail in Domestic Violence Cases

Certain suspects arrested for committing an offense of violence against a family or household member, including an arrestee who's subject to a protection order, must go before a judge before being released. This requirement also applies if the arresting officer observed physical harm to the victim or believes the suspect used a deadly weapon or remains a threat to the alleged victim.

The alleged victim or police officer may ask the judge to issue a temporary protection order as a condition of pretrial release. The court can also do this on its own without a formal motion.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2919.251, 2919.26 (2024).)

Firearms Restrictions for Domestic Violence Charges and Convictions

Ohio law makes it a crime for anyone convicted of, or facing charges for, a felony offense of violence to possess a firearm. These crimes include domestic violence, assault, strangulation, and menacing by stalking. A violation is a third-degree felony.

Federal law bans possession of firearms by anyone convicted of a felony (first- through fourth-degree felonies in Ohio) or a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Certain persons who are restrained by a domestic violence protection order are also prohibited from possessing firearms.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing charges of domestic violence or were served with a protection order, contact a criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can help you understand the law and what's at stake, defend your case, and protect your rights.

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