Domestic Violence Jail Time

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Every minute that goes by while reading this article, approximately 20 individuals become domestic violence victims in the United States.

The staggering cases of violence between intimate partners are so concerning. Perhaps you’re on this website because you want to know about domestic violence, what crimes are classified under this category, and the associated penalties.

This article discusses the different crimes that constitute domestic violence. It also provides information about the penalties imposed on people convicted of domestic violence, the severity of the charge, and the consequences of having a domestic violence conviction.

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What Is Considered Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is the abusive behavior of one party in a relationship. It happens when one partner attempts to overpower and control another intimate partner through harmful actions.

Most domestic violence cases involve family physical abuse. However, this type of violence can include emotional, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse.

Also, coercion through threats and technological actions is considered violence. In addition, any action that isolates, terrorizes, threatens, hurts, injures, wounds, or frightens an intimate partner can be regarded as domestic violence and abuse.

Is Domestic Violence Considered a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

How domestic violence is categorized depends on the circumstances in which the violence occurred. However, domestic violence is always treated as a misdemeanor at the onset unless specific criteria have been met.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Domestic Violence

A domestic violence case becomes a felony charge when it meets the following criteria:

  • The victim experienced physical injuries, especially severe ones
  • The victim involves a child or a senior citizen
  • A weapon is used to inflict harm
  • A child witnessed the violence
  • There is a pattern or recurring abuse in a domestic setting
  • The assailant has a prior domestic violence conviction
  • The assailant violated a protective or restraining order to commit the crime

States may have additional criteria to determine if a case falls under domestic violence.

Who Can Be Charged With Domestic Violence?

Domestic abuse happens in a domestic setting. It entails violence or abuse perpetrated by family members, housemates, and romantic partners.

  • Family members: This includes spouses, siblings, parents, children, and any relative. You don’t have to be physically living with the victim to be held accountable for domestic violence.
  • Housemates: People living together or household members, even if they are not related or have any acquaintance, can be guilty of domestic violence if one harms another.
  • Romantic partners: People in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, even those in same-sex relations, can be guilty of domestic violence. Even if the relationship has ended, ex-lovers, former spouses, and even mistresses can be victims of domestic violence if their previous partners harm them.

Common Crimes for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is an umbrella term for abusive and harmful actions against someone in a domestic setting.

Here are examples of crimes that fall under domestic violence. Note that the factors involved for a case to be called domestic violence vary per state.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant

A corporal injury is an act of physical harm inflicted on a victim’s body.

In the California Penal Code 273.5, physical damage done by someone who can be classified as a family member, housemate, or romantic partner, is a felony.

You can expect people convicted of this charge to receive a one-year sentence in county jail and up to four years for prison sentences.

Domestic Battery

The word “battery” in legal terms is the intentional touching of another person in a rude, angry, or disrespectful manner.

Furthermore, you can be charged with domestic battery if you pour bodily fluids or waste on another person.

In California, domestic battery is a misdemeanor, and the victim doesn’t need to show any signs of bodily injury. The penalty for this crime in California is fines up to $2,000 and a maximum jail sentence of one year.

Child Abuse

Any action inflicted on a child deemed cruel and unreasonable can fall under child abuse. Disciplinary punishment doesn’t necessarily fall under this category unless it becomes unreasonably harmful.

Child Endangerment

A person intentionally and willfully subjecting a child under one’s care to harm and danger can fall under child endangerment, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

Elder Abuse

Any abuse or intentional infliction of harm to people over 65 can fall under an elder abuse charge. This maltreatment includes physical and emotional neglect, financial abuse, and endangerment. Elder abuse, a misdemeanor offense, is punishable by up to one year of county jail time and up to four years in state prison for felony cases.


States may have different definitions of what defines stalking. However, if the actions cause harm or a deep safety concern for a victim, this stalking can be categorized under domestic violence.

Stalking is a criminal act in all 50 states, and it can escalate quickly into a more serious offense if not resolved.

Criminal Threats

Any threat involving severe harm to a victim is a crime. It falls under criminal threats and can be tried as a misdemeanor charge. In severe cases, such threats may be considered a felony, leading to up to four years in prison.

Aggravated Trespass

Two elements are present in an aggravated trespass. One is that you’re trespassing private property, and second, you’re disrupting the lawful activity of the person residing there.

The charge falls under domestic violence if the person is a relative, romantic partner, or housemate. Aggravated trespass can be tried as a felony, leading to prison time of up to three years.

Damaging a Phone Line

You can get charged with this criminal offense when you intentionally prevent a victim from using the phone when calling or seeking help. A person damaging phone lines can face a maximum of three years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.

Online Harassment

Causing emotional harm to a victim by harassing them online is a form of domestic violence. In California, online harassment is a criminal act.

Revenge Porn

A recent addition to domestic abuse and violence is a form of online harassment called revenge porn. This crime involves going to social media to harm a victim emotionally by distributing sexual images of the victim without consent as a form of revenge.

Penalties vary in different states, but first offenses can lead to a maximum jail time of one year. Subsequent offenses may lead to longer sentences, some reaching 10 years maximum, like in Alabama.

Distributing Harmful Information Online

Another form of domestic abuse is sharing harmful information about a person to harass them. It may be a way of revenge done by a perpetrator. This type of crime can result in maximum fines of $1,000 and maximum jail time of up to one year.

What Happens When You’re Charged With Domestic Violence in the U.S.?

A conviction of crimes under domestic violence laws can be a misdemeanor or felony charge. Misdemeanors can lead to fines or up to one year of incarceration. On the other hand, felonies may result in longer prison terms.

Domestic Violence Penalties in the U.S.

The penalties imposed on domestic violence cases depend on the court and the prescribed penalties suggested by legislation.

How Penalties Are Imposed by the Courts

States rely on the comprehensive law enforcement structure operating in their respective jurisdictions, like police officers.

Once a criminal court convicts a person, full implementation of the law is done by law enforcement, from putting the criminal into custody so they can serve prison time to enforcing the payment of fines and penalties.

First Offense Domestic Violence Penalties in the U.S.

In states like Florida, a first offense will most likely be a first-degree misdemeanor. A misdemeanor charge of this degree means either payment of fines or imprisonment of up to one year in jail. Some states are more lenient or more strict on first-offense convictions.

Misdemeanor Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction

Domestic violence penalties vary by state and are determined by the judge. Misdemeanors typically carry a maximum jail time of one year with fines.

In certain states, first-offense cases may get probation as an alternative to jail time. Such a supervision period requires strict adherence to specific conditions imposed by the court.

What Are the Penalties for Felony Domestic Violence in the U.S.?

Felonies are criminal cases that tend to get prison time of more than one year. The judge determines the prison sentence length depending on the prescribed sentence length, the crime’s severity, and the surrounding circumstances the court deems crucial for a fair decision.

Three-Strike Law

The three-strike law is a California law affecting people with prior convictions. In this law, a person with three felony convictions will automatically get a “25 to life” sentence. It aims to deter people with a previous criminal history from continually committing crimes.

Penalties for Different Types of Domestic Violence

States have different penalties for domestic violence. Here are some state-specific penalties for this type of domestic abuse.

Penalties for Assault Charges

Assault charges may be severe, mainly if they cause injury to the alleged victim of domestic violence. People accused of domestic violence with this severity can get up to four years of prison time, plus fines and penalties if deemed necessary by the judge.

Penalties for Sexual Assault Charges

The definition of sexual assault may differ in each state. However, this type of criminal act entails a range of possible penalties from fines up to $10,000 and incarceration time of up to 48 months in prison.

What May Increase the Severity of Penalties?

Aggravating factors like physical and emotional harm can increase the severity of penalties. There are specific facts that the judge can consider that can determine how severe a sentence will be. These factors include the following:

  • Previous criminal convictions
  • Number of charges against you
  • Whether the defendant violated a restraining order
  • Specific situational circumstances that can increase the severity of the crime

Sentencing for Domestic Violence Offenses

The judge gives this sentence to domestic violence offenses. The severity of penalties ranges from fines to prison sentences. In states like California, the three-strike law sets a limit for the time a felon will repeat a severe crime before one gets an automatic “25 to life” sentence.

How Long Can a Person Be Sent to Jail or Prison if They’re Convicted of Domestic Violence?

For misdemeanors, a person can spend one year in a county jail. A sentence involving more severe charges may go up to three years or more. Depending on the crime’s severity, a first-time offender may experience a lenient sentence.

An example of a severe charge involves the punishment for harming a pregnant spouse and the unborn child. A crime of this nature will automatically face a six-month sentence, minimum.

Sentence Length for Felony Domestic Violence

Felony domestic violence sentences depend on the degree of the offense. For example, a third-degree domestic battery in Ohio is a felony with a five-year maximum prison term.

How Long Will You Stay in Jail for Domestic Violence in the U.S.?

As previously mentioned, domestic violence cases classified as misdemeanors can have jail sentences of up to one year. However, first-degree or second-degree domestic violence is more severe and could result in more than one year of imprisonment.

Can a Defendant Receive Probation Instead of Jail Time?

In some cases, a defendant convicted of domestic violence may receive probation instead of jail time. Factors that determine eligibility for probation include the following:

  • The injuries, if any, are not serious
  • It’s a defendant’s first-time offense

Types of Probation for Domestic Violence Offenses

Probation is an alternative sentence to a jail term mainly given to first-time offenders with less severe crimes. Probation entails community service, counseling, fines, and constant monitoring and reporting to a probation officer. There are two types of probation for domestic violence cases:

Reporting Probation

This type of probation requires the defendant to report regularly to a probation officer. Reporting may require submitting to random drug testing, providing proof of counseling, and completing court-ordered programs. Not completing these requirements may result in criminal charges that may revoke probation, resulting in jail time.

Non-reporting Probation

If an individual is sentenced to non-reporting probation, the alleged offender doesn’t have to report to a probation officer in person regularly. Reports can be done through mail correspondence. The probation requirements can be accomplished remotely, and evidence of completion can be mailed.

Additional Consequences for a Domestic Violence Conviction

A domestic violence conviction can result in consequences that have lasting effects. Here are some consequences that can alter the life of a convict.

Jail Time

It’s a standard penalty for people charged with misdemeanors to serve jail sentences with a minimum of 30 days. Even for first-time offenders, judges may order jail time instead of probation.

Payment of Fines

Another form of punishment or penalty for domestic violence offenders is the payment of fines based on the damages incurred by the abuse. Fines may include covering medical bills, therapy, property damages, and loss of income due to the abuse.

Participation in Batterers’ Course

A consequence of a domestic violence conviction is a 52-week counseling and treatment program requirement. Counseling is usually given to offenders when sentenced to a misdemeanor.

Permanent Criminal Record

One lingering consequence of a criminal conviction is a public criminal record. People like employers and landlords access criminal records to screen their applicants or tenants. Getting a permanent dent on your record could affect your chances of employment or obtaining housing.

Penalties That Affect Your Career and Family

A criminal conviction may limit your ability to find jobs because employers may check your records online and be turned off by your past beliefs. Also, family members may feel the strain of your incarceration and may be alienated from you.

Loss of Child Custody Rights

A parent convicted of domestic violence can lose custody of their child. The judge decides the consequences through their discernment of the case. However, even if custody rights are lost, the parent may still have visitation rights.

Revocation of Gun Rights

Certain states impose gun rights revocation when one is convicted of domestic violence. Some states dole out 10-year bans for convictions. According to federal law, and in states like California, a severe domestic violence charge may result in a lifetime ban from using firearms.

Immigration Consequences

If an immigrant commits domestic violence, they are subjected to the following:

  • Deportation from the U.S.
  • Banning from reentering the U.S. or even applying for a green card

Penalties That Affect Everyday Life

Any penalty the judge imposes upon conviction will affect the defendant’s everyday life. The defendant will either find a way to pay for damages done or spend time in isolation inside a jail or prison facility.

Defending Domestic Violence Charges

When facing a domestic violence charge, it’s best to seek help from law firms specializing in criminal law. They have criminal defense lawyers ready to walk you through this difficult legal situation, from arraignment to the trial itself.

What Are Your Legal Options if Charged With Domestic Violence

Most criminal defense attorneys advise that the defense against charges of domestic violence crime is to establish that you’ve been falsely accused. You should establish the following:

  • It was not you
  • It didn’t happen
  • It was done with consent
  • It was done in self-defense

Another area to look into is how difficult it can be for the prosecution to establish intent in causing harm. Domestic violence hinges on a perpetrator’s intent to harm their family members. Also, the lack of proof pinning you to the crime is a good defense against this kind of case.

Affidavit of Nonprosecution

One way to end a domestic violence lawsuit is for the plaintiff to submit an affidavit of nonprosecution. It’s a legal declaration that the plaintiff is not pursuing the case and dropping all charges.

The plaintiff submitting an affidavit of nonprosecution can become a criminal lawsuit under penalty of perjury if it has false statements and lies.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you have to spend the night in jail after a domestic violence arrest?

Let’s say you got arrested for domestic violence in California for the first time and don’t have a record. The police will likely require you to post bond before release.

If you can post bail immediately, you don’t need to spend the night in jail. However, other states may impose a holding time before release to lower the offender’s likelihood of retaliating against their victim.

2. Are there different kinds of probation for domestic violence?

The court can place you on reporting or non-reporting probation in states like Ohio. Other states may differ in determining what kind of probation you are granted.

3. Where can you learn more about domestic violence punishments in the U.S.?

The best sources of information about domestic violence laws are criminal defense lawyers. These attorneys specialize in this field.

4. How much is the bail or bond for domestic violence in the U.S.?

States laws may vary, but the bonds for domestic violence cases in North Carolina are between $500 and $1,000.

If someone you know goes to prison and you need a convenient way to find and visit them, you can check

Find information on facility regulations, visiting hours, policies for sending money to inmates, and contact details like phone numbers and mailing addresses. You can also get updated on an inmate’s release date to determine when they will rejoin society.


1. National Statistics
2. Domestic Violence
3. Law section. (n.d.).
4. Sexual Assault Sentencing and Penalties

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