Legally Separating Domestic Violence from Domestic Abuse

Be careful when using legal terms. It’s easy to confuse one thing for another. Doing so may be okay in casual speech, but in a courtroom, one simple word can make a huge difference.

People often make these mistakes when talking about crimes. They say “robbery” when they mean “burglary,” or they can swap “assault” with “battery.”

The terms “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” are similarly confused by many people outside the legal profession. In an informal conversation, the two phrases essentially mean the same thing. They both describe a scenario where one person is victimizing other in a relationship.

In a criminal charge, though, the two are separate matters. Domestic abuse, for instance, is not an official crime. Domestic violence, however, is.

Here is a broad overview of the difference between the two along with some potential penalties.

Domestic Abuse Is a Set of Behaviors in a Relationship

Abuse comes in many forms. It can be as simple as one person continually lying to their partner. It could be a serial cheater constantly stepping out on their spouse. These behaviors, however, are not illegal.

Some forms of abuse are against the law. Understanding this distinction is important. For instance, imagine an abusive partner who keeps their spouse locked in the home, or maybe they constantly follow and keep tabs on their partner. In a criminal case, these are examples of unlawful imprisonment and stalking, each of which is a crime all on its own.

Domestic Abuse Can Affect the Outcome of a Divorce

If one spouse is the victim of abuse, whether the behavior is legal or illegal, they could receive a favorable outcome in their divorce. The judge could, for instance, force the abuser to pay more in spousal support or make them give up more of the marital property.

Domestic Violence Is a Direct, Criminal Act

Domestic violence and domestic assault are crimes. They are direct acts of violence between two people.

Examples include:

  • Threats of violence
  • Physical violence – punching, kicking, beating with an object, etc.
  • Intimidation – balling your fist at someone, getting in their personal space to yell at them, etc.

Domestic Violence Can Result in Criminal Penalties

Domestic assault punishments depend on the severity of the act. Threats are not as severe as direct violence, and injuries increase the penalties, too.

Utah’s various domestic violence punishments are as follows:

  • Misdemeanor charges range from Class C to Class A. Jail time can last from 90 days to 1 year, and fines range between $750 and $2,500.
  • More severe crimes lie between third-degree and first-degree felonies. Prison time can be between 5 years and lifelong sentences, and fines go from $5,000 to $10,000.

Restraining Orders

For some, restraining orders are a better option than accusing their abuser of several separate crimes. These orders limit many behaviors, including preventing an abuser from even contacting their victim. It is easier for the police to arrest someone for violating an order than it is to create separate charges for each offense.

Nelson, Taylor & Associates, PLLC is here to help protect the victims of abuse. We can work on securing restraining orders, and we can help prove your case in a divorce trial. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us today at (801) 901-7046.