Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on September 9, 2022.
Indiana law takes issues of violence between spouses, family members, and significant others seriously. In some instances, the prosecution charges the accused with a misdemeanor. However, there are many different factors that could result in felony domestic violence charges. Below we explain felony domestic violence in Indiana. We believe it’s imperative that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’re facing domestic violence charges.
The Definition of Domestic Violence
Indiana’s law calls domestic violence crimes domestic battery. Domestic battery is when a person knowingly or intentionally does one of the following against a family or household member:
- Touches the person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner; or
- Places bodily fluid or waste on the person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.
Domestic battery is different from regular battery because it involves people with whom the accused has a close or familial relationship. These people are called “family and household members” under the statute.
A family or household member includes:
- A current or former spouse;
- A current or former dating relationship;
- Someone with whom the person has had a sexual relationship;
- A person related by blood, adoption, or marriage;
- A person with whom you share a child; or
- A person with whom there is a legal relationship, like a guardian, foster parent, or custodian.
Plus, if an individual shares a household with someone they’re dating who has a minor child, the child qualifies as a family or household member.
The state may charge a first-time domestic battery offense as a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor is not more than a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. However, certain factors could elevate your first-time misdemeanor domestic violence charges to a felony.
What Makes Domestic Battery a Felony?
You may wonder what elevates a misdemeanor to a felony domestic violence charge. The difference between a felony vs. misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Indiana depends on whether certain aggravating circumstances exist. Under the law, an aggravating factor is a specific fact that allows a court to make a punishment harsher. Several aggravating factors that could raise a misdemeanor domestic battery charge to a felony include:
- Repeat battery or domestic violence convictions (Level 6 felony);
- Domestic battery in the presence of a child under 14 (Level 6 felony);
- The domestic battery of a child under 14 (Level 6, 5, 3, or 2 felonies depending on injuries);
- Domestic battery against someone with a disability (Level 6, 5, or 2 felonies depending on injuries);
- Domestic battery against an endangered adult (Level 6, 5, 4, or 2 depending on the extent of injuries);
- Moderate to serious physical injury (Level 6 or 5 felonies);
- Use of a deadly weapon (Level 5 felony); or
- Death (Level 2 felony).
Even if this is your first time facing a domestic battery charge, if one of the above facts is present in your case, a prosecutor can charge you with felony domestic violence.
What Counts As Repeat Convictions for Felony Domestic Battery?
One of the grounds for felony domestic violence is repeat convictions for a battery or domestic battery offense. If you have a prior conviction for battery or strangulation, your misdemeanor domestic violence charge could be elevated to a Level 6 felony. Plus, if you’ve previously been convicted of a domestic battery charge against the same person, you could face a Level 5 felony.
What Is an Endangered Adult Under the Domestic Battery Law?
If you are accused of domestic battery against an endangered adult, you could be charged with felony domestic violence. When an adult 18 or older is incapacitated by any of the following, they are considered an endangered adult:
- Mental illness,
- Developmental disability,
- Intellectual disability,
- Habitual drunkenness,
- Excessive drug use, or
- Any other incapacity which prevents them from managing their property and self-care.
Additionally, the law considers neglect to be a form of battery against endangered adults.
Penalties for Felony Domestic Violence
The felony domestic violence penalty in Indiana varies significantly. The harshness of the punishment depends on the severity of the crime. Below are Indiana’s punishment guidelines for each domestic battery felony level:
- Level 6 Felony: From 6 months to 2.5 years of imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000;
- Level 5 Felony: From 1 to 4 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000;
- Level 4 Felony: From 2 to 12 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000;
- Level 3 Felony: From 3 to 16 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000; and
- Level 2 Felony: From 10 to 30 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Even though the sentencing statute provides a range of sentencing, it generally advises courts to impose a sentence somewhere in the middle of the range. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the potential sentence you may face.
In addition to the typical punishments for criminal offenses in Indiana convictions crimes for domestic offenses have other implications. Felonies are not eligible for Alternative Misdemeanor Treatment and prevent individuals from possessing firearms under Federal Law.
Potential Defenses to a Felony Domestic Violence Charge
Your criminal attorney will ask you numerous questions to determine if you have defenses to your felony domestic battery charge. Some defenses may include:
- Innocence—you didn’t commit the offense;
- Self-defense—any injury was the result of you defending yourself;
- Accident—the family or household member was harmed accidentally; and
- Misdemeanor activity—the prosecutor is over-charging you with a felony when the harm only rose to the level of a misdemeanor.
A reputable attorney who is knowledgeable about domestic battery defenses is critical to defending you. They’ll examine all of the facts and details of your case, the arrest, and any questioning by the authorities to strategize the best defense for you.
Contact Our Expert Felony Domestic Battery Attorneys
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, you need an advocate that you can trust. You can find that advocate at Eskew Law. We understand that discussing the details of a domestic violence charge with an attorney often includes divulging very personal issues about your relationships. That’s why we work hard to earn your trust and respect, placing our relationship with you at the center of our representation. We’ll work hard to be your best advocate in this serious situation. Contact us today.