Dayton Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers
Criminal Defense Attorneys Handling Domestic Violences Cases in the Dayton Area
Emotions bring out the best and worst in us, and never is this truer than in your own home. From civil divorce proceedings to criminal domestic violence charges, litigation arising between household members is among the most emotionally complex in Ohio. A domestic violence conviction in Dayton can have serious criminal and familial consequences, including mandatory prison time, loss of child custody, and designation as an Ohio sex offender as applicable. However, Ohio’s domestic violence laws are often misapplied and overzealously prosecuted.
The circumstances giving rise to domestic violence charges in Dayton are seldom black and white. Police may wrongly identify the primary aggressor or make subjective domestic violence arrests based on faulty witness testimony. They may also proceed against the wishes of a victim wishing to instead support the alleged offender through educational and rehabilitative programs.
Compassionate Dayton Criminal Defense Lawyers for Domestic Violence Charges in Ohio
Dayton’s premier domestic violence defense lawyers at the Joslyn Law Firm understand the complex emotions and issues underlying domestic violence charges in Dayton. Dayton police often assume male aggression and make life-altering domestic violence arrests without conducting a thorough factual investigation. Red flags also arise when domestic violence allegations are coincidentally filed during heated divorce and child custody proceedings. Experienced Dayton domestic violence defense attorney Brian Joslyn and his team of compassionate Ohio criminal defense lawyers are ready to hear your side of the story. Call our Dayton domestic violence defense lawyers today at (614) 444-1900 or contact us online to schedule your free, confidential Ohio domestic violence defense consultation.
Dayton Information Center for Domestic Violence Charges under Ohio Code § 2919.25
Understanding what qualifies as domestic violence in Ohio and possible defenses is the first step in avoiding a domestic violence conviction in Dayton. Consult the Joslyn Law Firm’s Dayton Information Center for Domestic Violence Charges under Ohio Code § 2919.25 for an overview of Ohio domestic violence laws, penalties, defenses, and resources. For questions about a specific case, investigation, or prosecution, contact our Dayton domestic violence criminal defense attorneys today at (614) 444-1900 or online to schedule your free Dayton domestic violence defense consultation.
- Overview of Criminal Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
- Defining Domestic Violence in Dayton Pursuant to Ohio Code § 2919.25
- The Mens Rea – Mental State – Required to Sustain Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
- Qualifying Family and Household Members Protected by Ohio’s Domestic Violence Statute
- Types of Harm that Qualifies as Domestic Violence in Ohio
- Direct Penalties for a Dayton Domestic Violence Conviction
- Special Bail Hearings and Indirect Penalties for Dayton Domestic Violence Offenders
- Domestic Violence Temporary Protection Orders & Penalties for Violating Dayton Orders of Protection During Domestic Violence Proceedings
- Common Legal Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
- FAQs Answered by Our Dayton Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys
- Domestic Violence Resources in Dayton
1. Overview of Criminal Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
Domestic violence in Ohio is considered an “offense against the family” as proscribed by Chapter 2919 of the Ohio Criminal Code. More specifically, “domestic violence” is criminalized by Ohio Code § 2919.25 and may be punishable as a misdemeanor or felony in Dayton. Ohio takes domestic violence charges seriously and even provides for mandatory minimum prison sentences in some cases. Ohio’s domestic violence law is primarily designed and applied to protect women (especially pregnant women), children, and vulnerable dependents (elderly parents) from physical harm by household members, but its provisions are gender-neutral. Any qualifying family or household member may file a domestic violence complaint against another family or household member with Dayton authorities regardless of age, relationship, or gender. Further, Ohio has specific provisions addressing bail, temporary protection orders, and mental health evaluations during domestic violence proceedings.
Domestic violence is a distinct crime in Dayton, but it may be charged in addition to an underlying crime of violence such as:
- Sexual Battery
- Making Criminal Threats
- Child abuse and neglect
Just because the offender is acquitted of domestic violence charges under Ohio Code § 2919.25 does not mean he/she can’t be charged with another serious Ohio crime. A Dayton criminal defense attorney with experience defending clients against both violent crimes and domestic violence charges in Ohio is essential for presenting an effective and holistic defense to domestic violence charges in Dayton.
2. Defining Domestic Violence in Dayton Pursuant to Ohio Code § 2919.25
Though Ohio’s domestic violence statute is extensive, it criminalizes only three distinct actions:
- Knowingly or intentionally causing (or attempting to cause) physical harm to a family or household member
- Recklessly causing serious physical harm to a family or household member
- Threatening family or household members such that they believe physical harm is imminent
The offender’s criminal history and the type of harm dictates the ultimate penalties associated with a domestic violence conviction in Dayton but not actual guilt. Anyone who knowingly causes physical harm to a qualifying family member in Dayton, even from throwing a phone or grabbing a wrist, may be charged with domestic violence under Ohio Code § 2919.25. Harm caused unintentionally, accidentally, or negligently is not criminalized under Ohio’s domestic violence statute but may result in civil liability. It may also be charged under another Ohio criminal statute.
For example, recklessly causing even minor physical harm to a child may result in child abuse charges in accordance with Ohio child protection laws but not domestic violence charges. Harm that doesn’t otherwise qualify as “domestic violence” under Ohio Code § 2919.25 may still be prosecuted as simply battery, assault, or as the basis for a civil claim for money damages. Speak with a Dayton violent crimes defense lawyer today to discuss all potential criminal and civil liability associated with a domestic violence arrest in Dayton.
3. The Mens Rea – Mental State – Required to Sustain Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
Domestic violence in Ohio is a specific intent crime. This means defendants are not guilty of domestic violence if the harm was caused accidentally or negligence, i.e., a child slipped on spilled milk. Defeating the mens rea associated with a Dayton domestic violence charge is one of the most effective defensive strategies employed by Dayton domestic violence defense attorneys. A defendant’s mental state will fall into one of the following categories but must be classified as intentional, knowing, or reckless to sustain domestic violence charges in Dayton:
- Intentional/Purposeful: The defendant intended to cause harm to the family member and was certain his actions would result in said harm.
- Knowing: Similar to purposeful but covers when an offender “should have known” or was reasonably certain his actions would cause harm, i.e., an offender should have known throwing a phone at a child would cause bruising even if he wasn’t certain of the result.
- Reckless: Done with carelessness or with disregard to whether harm is caused. An offender throws a vase into a room where her husband is, not caring whether or not it results in harm.
- Negligent: The defendant was less careless than an ordinary person should have been in the situation but did not actually know harm was probable. For example, an offender throws an old chair into his wife’s office, believing she isn’t home but not checking the room first. If the chair hits her, this is negligence but not domestic violence.
- Accidental: Completely unintentional and not due to ordinary negligence, such as if a wife throws a vase into the living room knowing her husband is normally at work, but instead, he had just walked in early.
The mental state is applied to the action, not the harm. Prosecutors will ask whether the defendant intended to throw the punch that caused the harm - not whether the defendant intended to break the victim’s nose as a result. As long as a defendant knowingly or recklessly took certain action that resulted in harm to a qualifying family member, he or she may be guilty of domestic violence in Dayton.
4. Qualifying Family and Household Members Protected by Ohio’s Domestic Violence Statute
The distinction between domestic violence and related crimes in Ohio is the identity of the victim. The victim must be the defendant’s “family” or a “household member,” and these are specifically defined by statute to include:
- The offender’s spouse
- The offender’s ex-spouse
- A person living as the offender’s spouse, which means the parties are in a common law marital relationship, are living together in a romantic relationship, or have lived together in such a relationship within five years prior to the commission of the alleged offense
- The offender’s child or foster child
- The offender’s parent or foster parent
- Any person related to the offender by blood or through marriage, like a sibling or step-parent
- A parent or child of a spouse, former spouse, or someone living as the offender’s spouse, such as in-laws, step-children, or someone living with the offender who is related to his/her spouse by blood or marriage
- A co-parent, including the mother or father of your legal or biological child even if you have never lived with the co-parent or child
An unrelated roommate cannot be the victim of domestic violence in Ohio but may be the victim of another violent crime entitling him/her to a protective order. However, a couple that breaks up but continues to live together as roommates thereafter would qualify as “household members” under the domestic violence statute.
5. Types of Harm that Qualifies as Domestic Violence in Ohio
For Dayton prosecutors to sustain domestic violence charges, the harm caused must have been physical. Emotional, mental, or other psychological harms are not covered by Ohio’s domestic violence statute unless the defendant knows the psychological harm is having a devastating physical effect on the victim. “Harm” under the domestic violence statute includes the following:
- Knowingly causing or attempting to cause any actual physical harm to the victim
- Recklessly causing “serious” physical harm to the victim, i.e., broken bones or injuries requiring hospitalization or continuous treatment
- Threatening to cause physical harm to the victim such that the offender knows the victim believes physical harm is imminent, such as saying, “If you don’t cooperate, I will harm you.”
Recklessly causing minor harm, like throwing a phone in anger that accidently hits your wife and causes bruising, is generally not considered domestic violence in Ohio. However, intentionally throwing your phone at your wife and causing even a minor bruise would be considered domestic violence in Dayton. Examples of qualifying acts of domestic violence include:
- Grabbing and pulling
- Punching, kicking, and slapping
- Throwing items
- Hitting a family member with an item
- Pushing over chairs and otherwise using a proxy item to cause harm
- Setting traps
- Locking family members in a room and/or otherwise controlling their acts with threats of violence
- Corporal punishment causing physical harm
- Causing any harm to a pregnant woman that results in harm to the fetus
Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment against children may technically be prosecuted as domestic violence in Ohio. While this is a controversial political issue, the Ohio domestic violence statute prohibits anyone from causing actual physical harm to a family member. While an experienced Dayton domestic violence defense attorney may argue that corporal punishment is constitutionally protected or utilize the defendant’s intent to mitigate his/her sentence, causing pain, redness, or bruising, however slight, to a child is punishable as domestic violence in Ohio.
6. Direct Penalties for a Dayton Domestic Violence Conviction
Domestic violence may be a felony or misdemeanor in Ohio. The offense level and resulting direct penalties for a domestic violence conviction in Dayton depends on the offender’s intent, criminal history, and severity of harm caused. Dayton offenders found guilty of domestic violence pursuant to Ohio Code § 2919.25 are punishable as follows:
- As a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine up to $1000 for first-time offenders who knowingly or recklessly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a qualifying household member or for third-time offenders convicted of threatening imminent harm to a family member
- As a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 month in prison and/or a fine up to $250 for first-time offenders who threaten imminent harm to a family member
- As a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment and a of $5,000 if the offender has ever been convicted of another violent offense against a family member, whether in Ohio or another state, and he/she causes or attempts to cause physical harm to the victim
- As a misdemeanor in the second degree punishable by up to 3 months in prison and/or a fine up to $750 if the offender has ever been convicted of another violent offense against a family member and is convicted of making threats of imminent violence
- As a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 if the offender has ever been convicted of two or more crimes of violence against a family member, whether in Ohio or another state, and he/she causes or attempts to cause physical harm to the victim
- As a felony in the fifth degree (or the higher applicable penalty for repeat offenders) punishable by at least six months and up to 1 year of imprisonment and a fine up to $2,500 if the offender knew the victim was pregnant and caused or attempted to cause her physical harm
- As a third-degree misdemeanor (or the higher applicable penalty for repeat offenders) punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine for threatening to harm a victim if the offender knows she is pregnant
The judge is required to impose certain mandatory minimum sentences if the prosecution proves the offender knew the victim was pregnant at the time of the offense. Offenders convicted of harming a pregnant victim must serve a minimum of six months in prison. If the offender caused serious harm to the unborn child and/or unlawful termination of pregnancy, the offender must serve at least 1 year in prison in addition to any penalties imposed by the Ohio Code for unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
Offenders convicted of domestic violence may also be ordered to:
- Pay restitution to the victim to cover all direct costs of the offense including medical bills, lost wages, and relocation expenses
- Pay any investigation and court costs
- Attend alcohol/drug rehabilitation or another therapeutic program
- Attend educational programs and counseling sessions
- Serve probation and/or community control
- Stay away from the victim and/or any associated family members or pets
- Perform community service
Dayton judges have discretion in some areas but are bound by the law in others. They are required to impose any mandatory minimum sentence and cannot waive restitution owed, but they are not required to impose certain fines and community restrictions. Consult an experienced Dayton domestic violence defense lawyer to discuss the potential direct penalties of an Ohio domestic violence conviction.
7. Special Bail Hearings and Indirect Penalties for Dayton Domestic Violence Offenders
In addition to the direct penalties associated with a Dayton domestic violence conviction, Ohio law imposes certain procedural requirements on those accused of domestic violence. Ohio Code § 2919.251 requires anyone charged with domestic violence in Ohio to appear before the court for a bail hearing if any of the following are true:
- The victim already had a protection order in place against the offender
- The parties had a valid consent agreement, such as a private contract agreeing to stay away from one another in lieu of a protective order, in place at the time of the offense
- The offender has previously been convicted of any offense of violence against a family member regardless of where the offense was committed and whether it was charged as domestic violence
- The arresting officer indicates any of the following in the police report or affidavit:
- He/she observed physical harm to the victim likely linked to the violence
- The offender had a gun or other deadly weapon on him/her at the time of the offense regardless of whether it was legally owned or used in the commission of the crime
- The officer believes the offender represents a serious, credible threat to the victim or another person
The judge must consider the following factors before setting bail for those charged with domestic violence under these circumstances:
- The offender’s history of violence, especially domestic violence, if any
- The offender’s overall mental health and stability
- The offender’s history of violating court orders or orders from other government entities
- Whether the offender poses a direct threat to the victim or any other person
- Whether the offender has weapons and/or access to weapons and any history of misuse
- Any drug and alcohol abuse
- The severity of the violence that forms the basis of the present offense including the duration of the violent incident, the seriousness of the injuries, any sexual abuse or strangulation, whether the victim was pregnant, whether pets where abused in the process, and whether the offender gained forcible entry to the victim, i.e., broke into her apartment or broke down the bathroom door to do harm
- Whether the parties recently separated or terminated a relationship
- Whether the offender has exhibited obsessive behaviors towards the victim including stalking, surveillance, extreme jealousy, or otherwise psychologically isolated the victim
- Whether the offender has threatened suicide or murder
- Any other information considered relevant and contained in the police report or charging documents
While these factors inform the court during bail hearings, they are often used as the basis for sentencing by Dayton judges. Those sentenced to a felony-level domestic violence offense are also subject to certain collateral consequences applicable to felons including:
- Loss of firearm rights
- Temporary loss of voting rights
- Ineligibility for certain public benefits and housing programs
- Potential domestic relations reproductions such as loss of child custody or visitation
- Sex offender designation and registration with residency restrictions for qualifying Ohio sex offenders
- Job loss, loss/suspension of a professional license, and ineligibility for certain public jobs, like the police or firefighter
- Travel restrictions
- Immigration consequences
Only a qualified Dayton domestic violence defense attorney can inform defendants of the potential scope of direct and indirect penalties associated with an Ohio domestic violence conviction. The only sure way to avoid these penalties is to avoid a domestic violence conviction.
8. Domestic Violence Temporary Protection Orders & Penalties for Violating Dayton Orders of Protection During Domestic Violence Proceedings
Alleged victims of domestic violence, responding officers, and/or Dayton prosecutors often request entry a temporary protection order as a condition to granting the defendant bail. This may be done in the victim’s absence if the victim cannot file the petition, and alleged victims are entitled to have a personal legal advocate represent their interests during protective order hearings. A temporary protection order may only be requested if it’s necessary for the victim’s and/or other family members continued safety and protection from the defendant, and the court must conduct a full hearing on the protective order petition within 24 hours. The protective order may:
- Restrict the defendant from entering or loitering about the victim’s home, including a shared residence, or the home of other family members
- Restrict the defendant from entering or loitering about the victim’s or other family members’ school, workplace, or business
- Prevent the defendant from removing, harming, or hiding a family pet
- Permit the victim or other family members to remove a pet from the offender’s possession
Entry of a temporary protective order is not, and may not be used to support, a finding of guilt, but the defendant is stripped of certain civil rights and is not permitted to possess or purchase a firearm while the order is in place. The victim and/or other family members may not waive the terms of a temporary protection order on the defendant’s behalf, i.e., consent to entry for an offender to collect his belongings. Final protective orders may be entered after a finding of guilt and can be more restrictive than temporary protective orders. This depends on the severity of the offense and the wishes of the victim/family members.
Even though an alleged offender is innocent until proven guilty, those who violate a temporary protective order are subject to harsh penalties in Dayton. Any reckless violation of a temporary protective order, whether issued by an Ohio court, federal court, or another state court, is a misdemeanor in the first degree punishable by up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine up to $1000 for first-time offenders. Second-time violators and those who committed a felony while violating the protective order are subject to felony-level charges.
The court may also impose electronic monitoring requirements for up to five years after the violation and charge the offender the cost of continued monitoring. These penalties do not require a domestic violence conviction. They are the criminal penalties inherent in violating a protective order, even if the offender is eventually acquitted of domestic violence charges in Dayton. It’s essential for Dayton offenders to take protective order hearings seriously and retain a qualified Dayton violent crimes and domestic violence defense lawyer to represent their rights and interests during protective order proceedings.
9. Common Legal Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges in Dayton
While a qualified Ohio violent and family crimes defense attorney will raise every reasonable defense to domestic violence, he will typically focus on defeating the weakest element of the prosecution’s case to force dismissal of Dayton domestic violence charges. The most common defenses to domestic violence (Ohio Code § 2919.25) charges in Ohio include:
- Victim Not Family or Household Member: Domestic violence is a crime against the family in Ohio. As such, Dayton prosecutors have the burden of proving the victim was a qualifying family or household member under the Ohio domestic violence statute. This means a spouse, former spouse, or blood relation of the defendant or spouse currently living in the same household as the offender. If the parties have never lived together as spouses and do not share a child, prosecutors may not be able to sustain domestic violence charges in Dayton.
- Insanity/Involuntary Intoxication: Offenders suffering from insanity and/or unexpected side effects of a new medication, leaving them unable to understand or control their actions may qualify for alternative sentencing.
- Self-Defense/Defense of a Third Person: This is often utilized when the police misidentify the primary aggressor during a domestic violence dispute and/or a physical altercation was necessary to prevent harm to a third person. You are legally allowed to proportionately defend yourself or a family member from harm, including harm threatened by another member of your household. The defense must be somewhat proportional to the threatened harm, however.
- Mistake of Fact: If the victim was playing a practical joke on the offender and/or the offender reasonably believed he was defending himself from a robbery, he may raise this defense. It may have been his intent to punch the victim, but he may have truly believed he was being assaulted from behind based on the facts.
- Lack of Criminal Intent: An offender who did not intend to make contact with the victim either knowingly or recklessly is not guilty of domestic violence in Ohio. Kicking the victim in your sleep or accidentally hitting the victim with the car door do not qualify as domestic violence in Dayton.
Our experienced Dayton domestic violence defense lawyers will perform a case-specific analysis to determine whether any affirmative, constitutional, or procedural defenses are available to Ohio domestic violence charges.
10. FAQs Answered by Our Dayton Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys
The following are general answers to some of the most common questions received by the experienced Dayton domestic violence defense lawyers at the Joslyn Law Firm.
- What is domestic violence in Ohio?
It is a crime punishable by Ohio Code § 2919.25 as an “offense against the family” that prohibits the following:
- Knowingly/intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical harm to a family or household member
- Recklessly causing serious physical harm to a family or household member
- Threatening family or household members such that they believe physical harm is imminent
Household members include co-parents and former romantic partners, even if not living with an offender at the time of the offense.
- What is the sentence for misdemeanor domestic violence in Ohio?
Up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine up to $1,000. This is the maximum, not mandatory sentence for a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction in Dayton. Those charged with additional crimes, such as sexual battery or child abuse, may be subject to additional penalties.
- Can domestic violence be a felony?
Yes. Domestic violence is always a felony if the offender harmed or attempted to harm the victim knowing she was pregnant or the offender had previously been convicted of another violent offense against a family member, whether in Ohio or another state, and he/she causes or attempts to cause physical harm to the victim. The violent crime does not have to be domestic violence. It can be any crime of violence in Ohio or related crime in another state if committed against a qualifying family or household member.
- Will I go to jail for domestic violence?
It depends. Offenders convicted of domestic violence for knowingly harming or attempting to harm a pregnant family member must serve at least six months in jail. Offenders who caused actual harm to the unborn child or an unlawful termination of the victim’s pregnancy must serve at least one year in prison. The judge does not have discretion in these situations as the prison time is statutorily mandated.
Whether the offender will go to jail for any other type of domestic violence conviction depends entirely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense and the offender’s criminal history. Don’t be surprised if the court imposes a short jail sentence for a minor, first-time offense. Even short sentences, i.e., 48 hours to a week, have been proved to deter future domestic confrontations.
- Can a domestic violence charge be dropped?
Yes, but not by the victim. Once domestic violence charges are filed, the prosecution, not the victim, must agree to drop the charges. The victim may recant his/her testimony or withdraw a police report, but such actions are strictly scrutinized in Dayton courts to ensure the victim has not been threatened or unduly influenced by the offender. If the victim no longer wishes to pursue the case, he/she may speak with the prosecutor, and an experienced Dayton domestic violence defense attorney can negotiate either a plea deal or dismissal.
- Can police press charges if a victim doesn’t want to?
Yes. Although it is difficult to convict a defendant of domestic violence without the victim’s cooperation, most victims of domestic violence are reluctant to file charges. Police are often called to the scene by neighbors or other family members, not the victim. Victims of domestic violence are frequently in love with their abusers and/or afraid of retaliation if they file charges. For this reason, police and prosecutors often pursue domestic violence charges and protective orders on a victim’s behalf.
- What happens if a victim doesn’t show up for court?
It depends on the reason why the victim did not appear. If he/she did not appear due to the injuries sustained in the alleged incident or as a result of perceived psychological manipulation and pressure from the alleged offender, the court may proceed with a prosecution and protective order hearing. Contrarily, a victim who does not appear on his/her own violation may be denied a protective order, and charges may be dropped under the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause if the victim refuses to appear after summoned and the defendant is not at fault for the non-appearance.
- What can a Dayton domestic violence lawyer do for me?
Police called to the scene of potential violent domestic conflicts must often make snap determinations about whether physical harm occurred, who the aggressor was, and the nature of the violence. They may subconsciously assume the man was the aggressor, misunderstand the facts, and/or ask the parties’ questions to aid them in making an arrest. Calling a Dayton domestic violence lawyer from the Joslyn Law Firm as soon as practicable may prevent the defendant from unwittingly providing incriminating testimony, agreeing to an unnecessarily restrictive protective order, pleading guilty to domestic violence charges, or otherwise being convicted of domestic violence in Dayton.
11. Domestic Violence Resources in Dayton
Whether you’re concerned about a family member’s behavior, in an abusive relationship, or looking to prevent domestic violence in your home, the following governmental and non-profit resources are available for domestic violence concerns in Dayton:
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network – Provides resources for all parties to domestic violence in Dayton
- Official Dayton Domestic Violence Services & 24hr Domestic Violence Hotline – (937) 461-HELP (4357)
- Dayton Domestic Violence Shelters and Contact Information
- The Ohio Health Sexual Assault Response Network – 24hr hotline and response team for Dayton sex crimes victims.
- RAINN – The National Sex Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-4673
For questions about domestic violence charges in Dayton or to discuss a specific incident of domestic violence and subsequent investigation, contact the experienced Dayton domestic violence criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm. Dayton criminal defense attorneys must maintain the confidentiality of their clients, unlike many non-profit and advocacy groups. Contact the Joslyn Law Firm today online or at (614) 444-1900 for your free domestic violence defense