Generally, domestic violence laws in Missouri criminalize violence (or threats of violence) against spouses and family members. The law covers different criminal acts, including assault, battery, abuse, sexual assault and imprisonment. However, it also concerns less physical dealings, such as harassment and coercion.
The "domestic" part
If you have been charged with domestic violence, you should know that the accusation differs from an ordinary assault case. The main difference is that domestic assault has to do with familial or other personal relationships. General assault, on the other hand, often involves people the suspect encounters outside his or her home. In many cases, the penalties for domestic violence are more egregious than those for ordinary assault.
A person is guilty of domestic violence if he or she commits a crime against any of the following individuals:
- A family member by blood or marriage
- A former or current spouse
- A person with whom the defendant has a child
- An individual with whom the suspect lives (or has previously lived)
- A person with whom the defendant has or had a romantic relationship
Contrary to belief, individuals do not have to be married in order to be charged with domestic violence. In fact, parents, stepparents, uncles, partners and more could be victims of the crime.
Could it be something else?
Yes. Even if you are charged with domestic violence, know that you may not be guilty. Remember: This crime involves individuals who are very close to the accused. There is a high level of emotion when dealing with taxing relationship matters, and while disputes may arise, not every heated discussion warrants criminal attention. For example, there are a few defenses to domestic violence charges, including:
- Injury resulting from an accident
- False allegations
- Parental rights
If you want to learn more about these defenses, you should contact a local attorney. Any way you look at it, domestic violence is a very grave matter -- especially because it involves loved ones. If you have been accused, please take this matter very seriously. The consequences of a conviction could disrupt your home dynamic. So, take the time to flesh out what happened with a legal professional. You may be unfairly accused.