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The Basics of a Domestic Assault Charge

Despite popular portrayals in the media, domestic assault charges are not typically black and white. Instead, they often trail from a series of complex events, which inevitably lead to complex penalties. Tennessee's domestic violence laws are split into a number of categories that address incidents including assault of a family member or spouse, a cohabitant or a police officer; the penalties that ensue from each depend on instances of bodily injury, fear of bodily injury and many other factors.

Regardless of the type of domestic assault charge, there also exist possibilities in which an accuser attempts to lie or misconstrue information for various reasons. The Tennessean reports on such a case, where a Nashville developer was dismissed from domestic assault charges on the premise that his ex-girlfriend lied and her accusations were not credible. Of course, there are thousands of valid domestic violence cases in the state, and instances such as this occur but are rare. According to the Tennessean, District Attorney officials in the state claim that fewer than 5 percent of all domestic violence cases are dismissed because of false allegations.

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence provides a legal handbook on the complex details of domestic violence. In the section on domestic assault charges, the Coalition shows that the relationship requirements for domestic assault are consistent with the state's official domestic abuse definition, and include a range of both family and intimate relationships. In addition, the Coalition lists the types of charges that can come with each domestic violence offense (this is not a full list of possible charges):

  • A first conviction of domestic assault and a second or subsequent conviction for domestic assault are punished depending on the incident
  • A second conviction of domestic assault is punishable by a fine of not less than $350 and no more than $3,500
  • A third conviction of domestic assault is punishable by a fine of not less than $1,100 and no more than $5,000, and by confinement in the county jail or workhouse for not less than 90 days, nor more than 11 months and 29 days