Being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit can be a horrifying and disorienting experience. The stakes are significantly higher when these allegations involve domestic assault, a crime viewed with severe distaste in our society. In Tennessee, accusations of domestic assault can potentially result in heavy penalties, reputational damage, loss of gun rights, and even strained relationships with loved ones. If you find yourself entangled in such a situation, it is crucial to know your rights, understand the law, and seek expert legal help immediately.
Understanding Domestic Assault Laws in Tennessee
Domestic assault in Tennessee is defined by the law as the act of causing harm, whether intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, to an individual with whom the offender shares a particular kind of relationship. Specifically, Tennessee Code § 39-13-111 outlines these relationships and describes the consequences associated with committing such an offense.
In some situations, both the accused and the alleged victim want the case dismissed, but the state of Tennessee wants to proceed forward with the case. In other circumstances, the alleged victim may have fibbed or lied about what occurred simply to get a leg up in a divorce proceeding or custody battle. It is imperative that your rights are protected because a domestic assault conviction can have long lasting implications, affect your freedom, and your rights to have custody of your children and your gun rights.
The law identifies a “domestic abuse victim” as a person who falls within several possible relationship categories. These include adults or minors who are currently married or were formerly so, individuals living together or who have done so in the past, those in a dating or sexual relationship (excluding mere business or social interactions), and people related by blood or adoption. It also includes those who are or were formerly related by marriage, and the children of any person in these categories.
A conviction for domestic assault in Tennessee carries penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offense. A first offense is generally treated in the same way as an assault under § 39-13-101, but the law does provide for additional punishments under specific circumstances. Domestic assault is punishable as a class A misdemeanor, meaning an individual can be punished for up to 11 months and 29 days in jail; although it is also eligible for probation. A domestic assault conviction also carries a loss of an individual’s gun rights and the disposal of all firearms to the state of Tennessee.
For individuals who commit domestic assault repeatedly, the penalties increase in severity. A second conviction can attract a fine ranging from $350 to $3,500, and a sentence of incarceration for a period of not less than 30 days and not more than eleven months and twenty-nine days. For a third or more convictions, the fine could be anywhere from $1,100 to $5,000, with a similar jail term. Certain categories of relationships between the offender and the victim, if repeated offenses are involved, can even escalate the charge to a Class E felony, which mandates a jail term of no less than 90 days.
However, it’s important to note an exception: If a period of ten years or more has lapsed since the last conviction for domestic assault, the accused may not be subjected to the enhanced penalties.
Apart from fines, the court may impose additional measures, such as mandatory surrender of all firearms, electronic monitoring, and participation in counseling programs that address issues of violence and control.
What to Do if You’re Accused of Domestic Assault
Facing an accusation of domestic assault can be one of the most challenging experiences you ever encounter. It can disrupt your life, impacting your personal relationships, employment, and even your mental health. However, knowing the right steps to take can substantially mitigate the situation and improve your chances of a favorable outcome:
- Stay Calm: It’s natural to feel angry or upset when accused, but it’s imperative to remain calm and composed. Losing your cool could lead to impulsive actions or statements that may inadvertently harm your case. Remember to breathe, take a step back, and do not confront your accuser angrily.
- Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer: Engaging a knowledgeable and experienced domestic assault attorney should be your priority. They will help you navigate the legal landscape, provide valuable advice, and formulate an effective defense strategy.
- Cooperate with Your Attorney: Provide your attorney with a full, truthful account of the incident and any related events. Transparency with your lawyer will help them better understand the case and develop the most effective defense strategy.
- Avoid Direct Contact with the Accuser: It’s crucial to maintain distance from your accuser during this time. Any interaction, even if you believe it’s harmless, can be manipulated against you. If you need to communicate, let your lawyer do so on your behalf.
- Comply with Court Orders: If a protective or restraining order has been issued against you, ensure you understand the conditions and follow them to the letter. Breaching these conditions can lead to additional charges and negatively impact your case.
If you are accused of domestic assault, you will likely be arrested or summoned to court, depending on the nature of the allegations. During an arrest, it is crucial to remember your rights – particularly your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Exercise these rights immediately and avoid giving any statement without an attorney present, as anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
How A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
In the face of domestic assault charges, the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be essential. Here’s how a lawyer can contribute to your case:
- Knowledge and Experience: An experienced lawyer knows the intricacies of Tennessee’s domestic assault laws, along with strategies and techniques to effectively argue your case. They are well versed in courtroom proceedings and legal documentation, which can help expedite the process and potentially improve your outcome.
- Amend Bond Conditions: Your criminal lawyer should immediately start working on your case by working on amending your bond conditions. This is especially true in situations where the victim may want contact with you, but your bond condition includes a no contact order. Your lawyer can file a motion to lift the no contact order so that you can have contact and begin living with your loved one once more.
- Defense Strategy: Each case is unique, and a criminal defense lawyer will carefully analyze the details of your situation to build a solid defense strategy. They can help identify inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, gather evidence, call witnesses, and contest the charges against you.
- Negotiation Skills: An experienced defense attorney will use their negotiation prowess to discuss terms with the prosecution, aiming for a reduction in charges, lesser penalties, or even a dismissal of the case.
- Support and Guidance: Facing a criminal accusation can be emotionally draining. A lawyer can provide reassurance and objectivity, helping you make informed decisions. They can explain potential outcomes, advise on the pros and cons of different strategies, and help you prepare for court proceedings.
- Protection of Rights: Your lawyer will ensure your rights are upheld throughout the process. This includes the right to remain silent, the right to fair treatment, and the right to a fair trial. They can contest any unlawful procedures or evidence, protecting you from a potential miscarriage of justice.
Remember, every case is unique and presents its challenges. However, the knowledge, experience, and commitment of a skilled criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome.
Barnes & Fersten: Trusted Criminal Defense Attorneys In Tennessee
An accusation of domestic assault is a severe, potentially life-altering situation that demands immediate action. The stakes are high—potential jail time, fines, and damage to your reputation are just some of the consequences you might face. The importance of having an experienced legal representation cannot be overstated.
At Barnes & Fersten, our criminal defense attorneys are equipped with the knowledge and experience to aggressively defend your rights and navigate you through this challenging time. We understand the intricacies of the law and have a track record of successfully representing clients who’ve found themselves in situations similar to yours. We’re committed to providing you with the highest level of legal counsel, ensuring your rights are protected, and working tirelessly to seek the best possible outcome for your case.
Don’t let these accusations cast a shadow over your future. Contact us today and let our attorneys help shine a light on the truth.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.