Like all states, Oklahoma has laws that are aimed at protecting people from domestic violence (also called domestic abuse). This article discusses the types of crimes that qualify as domestic violence misdemeanors and felonies, and the penalties that come with assaulting a spouse, dating partner, family member, or others who are close to the offender.
Domestic abuse in Oklahoma includes crimes of assault, or assault and battery, committed against a victim who is a:
In Oklahoma, assault and battery are two separate crimes but also can be charged as the single crime of "assault and battery." Someone is guilty of "assault and battery" when their assault results in a battery.
Let's break it down. Assault occurs when someone threatens to, or attempts to cause physical harm to another person. The threat must involve physical action like drawing a fist or charging toward a victim. Words alone aren't enough.
A battery is the intentional use of force against another person that causes them harm or offense. For example, punching someone and spitting on someone are both considered batteries.
Threatening to hit a person is an assault. If the offender actually strikes the victim after making the threat, the offender can be charged with assault and battery as one crime.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 641; Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 642 (2023).)
The crime of domestic abuse is an assault and battery against one of the victims listed above. If the crime is a first offense, it's a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000, or both. If the offense is the offender's second or subsequent domestic abuse conviction, it's a felony that carries up to four years in prison or a fine up to $5000, or both.
When other circumstances make the crime more serious, the penalties increase.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 644, 644.1 (2023).)
If a defendant commits domestic abuse and the prosecution proves they have a "prior pattern of physical abuse," the crime is a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison or a fine up to $5,000, or both. The evidence must show that the defendant committed physical abuse against a domestic victim in three different instances within six months of the date of the incident for which he has been charged. The previous incidents need not have resulted in arrests or convictions, but the evidence of the prior acts must be something other than testimony from the victim in the case in which the defendant is charged.
If the domestic abuse is committed in front of a child, the penalty is more serious. For a first offense, there's a minimum sentence of six months and a maximum of a year in jail, or a fine up to $5,000, or both. If the offense is a second or subsequent conviction for this crime, it's a felony punishable by a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years in prison, or a fine up to $7,000, or both.
If the abuse is committed against a pregnant woman and the offender knew of the pregnancy, the penalties increase. For a first offense, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. If the offense is a second or subsequent conviction, it's a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison. If the mother miscarries as a result of the abuse, however, or there's an injury to the unborn child, the crime is a felony that carries up to twenty years in prison.
When great bodily harm to the victim, the offense is a felony punishable by up to one year in jail or up to ten years in prison. Great bodily harm is more serious than a scrape or bruise and consists of significant injury, such as a broken bone, visible disfigurement like a large scar, a serious head injury, or loss of function in some part of the body – a leg or hand or bodily organ.
If a defendant commits assault and battery by strangulation or attempted strangulation with intent to cause great bodily harm, the offense is a felony. A first offense carries one to three years in prison or a fine of up to $3,000, or both. A second or subsequent offense can result in three to 10 years in prison or a fine up to $20,000, or both.
When the offense is committed with the intent to cause great bodily harm and the defendant uses a deadly weapon (also called a dangerous weapon), the crime becomes more serious. An object is a dangerous or deadly weapon if it is designed to inflict life-threatening or great bodily injury, or is used in a manner that could produce such injury. Firearms and knives are deadly weapons by definition, but a large rock, steel-toed boots, and a baseball bat also are deadly weapons because they could be used in a manner that would cause serious harm. Domestic assault, and domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon is a felony punishable by up to one year in jail or up to 10 years in prison. But if the victim is shot, the penalty is up to life in prison.
An officer in Oklahoma can arrest someone (without a warrant) if they have probable cause to believe the person has committed domestic abuse within 72 hours before the arrest, even if the officer didn't see the assault. But the officer can't make an arrest without a warrant unless they see a recent physical injury to the alleged victim or impairment of the victim's physical condition (for example, a limp or hoarseness from strangulation). (Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 60.16 (2023).)
Someone can bail out after an arrest if they meet the criteria for release. The amount of bail they'll have to post will depend on factors such as the seriousness of the charge, the person's criminal record, their connections to the community, and other factors relevant to whether they'll make their court appearances.
For more information on bail generally, see this article Bail: Getting Out of Jail After an Arrest.
If someone is ultimately convicted of a DV offense, they'll likely be subject to the federal ban on firearms that applies to DV convictions.
In any assault or battery case, some general defenses might apply, depending on the circumstances. Self-defense and accident (no intent) are often raised in domestic violence cases. Also, though less common, sometimes a defendant can show that the accusations are false because the victim had it out for the defendant or lied for other reasons.
The defendant also might be able to argue at trial that the prosecutor didn't prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you're charged with domestic violence or any other crime, you should contact an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney right away. A domestic abuse conviction can have serious consequences. An experienced lawyer who regularly practices in the area where your case is charged should be able to tell you how the case will proceed through the system. An attorney can advise you on the strength of the case and any possible defenses. An experienced lawyer should also know whether a good plea deal is possible (or advisable) or if you should instead consider going to trial.