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An Overview of Criminal Domestic Violence Charges in Tennessee

"We need to add in there though that a conviction for domestic violence causes one to forfeit their right to own or possess a firearm for life, both under Tennessee and federal law."


Domestic violence remains a serious problem in Tennessee and throughout the country. According to a report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, there were 69,385 domestic-related offenses reported in the state in 2020 alone. Of course, not all allegations of domestic abuse are substantiated. The reality is that false allegations happen.

Facing an accusation of domestic violence is deeply stressful. Not only does it harm your good name, you could face serious criminal consequences. It is crucial that you know your rights and your options. In this article, our Nashville criminal defense lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of domestic violence charges in Tennessee.

Understanding the Elements of a Assault in Tennessee

For the purposes of a domestic violence charge, Tennessee uses the same definition of assault as is used in non-domestic violence cases. A person is guilty of assault if they do any of the following three things:

  • Causes unwelcome bodily injury to another person;
  • Puts another person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury; or
  • Makes unwelcome physical contact with another person that would be considered extremely offensive and/or extremely provocative.
What Is Domestic Assault in Tennessee?

Domestic violence is a crime in which there is a special relationship between the alleged offender and the alleged victim. Under Tennessee law (TN Code § 39-13-111), there are six different types of relationships between perpetrator and victim that could justify a criminal domestic assault charge:

  • Current or former spouses (married or divorce);
  • Current of former cohabitants (domestic partners or roommates);
  • Parties with a romantic relationship (dating or sexual);
  • Parties related by blood or a legal adoption;
  • People related due to a current or former marriage; and
  • Adults or children with some form of caretaker relationship.
  • Domestic Assault Can be Charged as a Class A Misdemeanor

In Tennessee, domestic assault can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor offense. While most domestic assault charges are not felony offenses, it would be a major mistake to assume that this means that they are “minor” crimes. A conviction on a Class A misdemeanor domestic assault charge can carry stiff criminal penalties, including:

  • Up to 11 months and 29 days in prison;
  • A maximum $2,500 fine; and
  • The loss of family law rights (custody, unsupervised visitation, etc).

Some domestic assaults are charged as Class B misdemeanors. A Class B misdemeanor is a still serious, but somewhat less severe criminal charge in Tennessee. The maximum criminal penalties for a Class B misdemeanor domestic assault are six months in prison and a $500 fine.

Domestic Violence May Be Charged as a More Serious Crime in Tennessee

Domestic assault is essentially a base-level domestic violence charge. It is far from the only criminal statute that prosecutors use to pursue domestic violence charges in Tennessee. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the specific allegations raised, a defendant facing a domestic violence allegation could be charged with:

  • Aggravated domestic assault;
  • Aggravated domestic assault (strangulation enhancement);
  • Stalking or aggravated stalking; or
  • Kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, or especially aggravated kidnapping.

All of these offenses could potentially be charged as a felony. In Tennessee, a conviction on a felony criminal charge can carry a minimum of one year in prison. Though, a charge from aggravated domestic assault for strangulation or especially aggravated kidnapping could carry far more prison time than that. Under both Tennessee and federal law, a person who is convicted of domestic violates forfeits their right to own or possess a firearm for the rest of their life.

What Should I Do If I Am Accused of Domestic Violence in Davidson County?

Being accused of domestic assault can be stressful, frustrating, and downright scary. It is crucial that you take the right steps to protect your rights and interests. Mistakes in the immediate aftermath of an accusation could make it more difficult for you to clear your name. Here are three steps that you should take if you have been accused of domestic violence in Tennessee:

  • Avoid Direct Confrontations With the Accuser: First and foremost, you should never confront a person directly after they have made a domestic violence accusation. While the impulse is understandable—especially if the actuation is outright false—a confrontation could lead to more problems. This is now a legal matter that needs to be handled in the proper way.
  • Gather and Preserve Any Exonerating Evidence: To the best of your ability, try to gather and organize evidence that helps to exonerate you. To start, write down your version of events, including when you learned of the accusation. Next, text messages, emails, or other pertinent communications. Finally, if there was an eyewitness, make sure you note that fact.
  • Consult With a Nashville, TN Criminal Defense Attorney: If you have been accused of, arrested for, or charged with domestic violence, your future and freedom are at stake. You need strong legal representation. An experienced Nashville domestic violence defense attorney will protect your rights and help you determine the appropriate course of action.
How Our Tennessee Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Can Help

Domestic violence cases are complex. You do not have to go up against the criminal justice system alone. At Baker Associates, we handle these sensitive legal matters with the highest level of care, compassion, and professional skill. When you reach out to our Nashville law office, you will have an opportunity to consult with a top-rated Tennessee criminal defense lawyer who is prepared to:

  • Listen to your story and explain your rights;
  • Answer questions about the Tennessee domestic violence laws;
  • Investigate the case—gathering relevant evidence to support your case;
  • Advise you orders of protection and other related matters; and
  • Devise a comprehensive strategy to help you secure the best outcome.
Contact Our Nashville, TN Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today

At Baker Associates, our Tennessee criminal defense lawyer is an experienced and justice-driven advocate for our clients. If you or your loved one was arrested on domestic violence charges, we are here to help. Contact us today to set up a strictly confidential, no obligation initial consultation. With a law office in Nashville, we provide criminal defense representation throughout Davidson County, including in Belle Meade. Forest Hills, Oak Hill, and Berry Hill.