What makes domestic violence different from assault?

Updated For 2021

Two people end up in an altercation in a bar. Someone pushes someone else, punches are thrown and both parties end up sitting in the back of a police car facing charges of assault. In some cases, the parties involved know each other, but not always.

Just because two friends end up in a fight, that doesn’t mean that they face domestic violence charges. Instead, they face charges of assault. So what makes domestic violence charges so different?

Who is involved makes the difference

An assault that occurs inside a home does not always fall into the category of domestic violence. The charge changes to domestic violence when altercations happen among family members or people living in the same household. You don’t have to be married or a parent of the alleged victim. Even if you are just dating the alleged victim, the court may consider an incident as domestic violence. This form of abuse does not have to be between a man and a woman either.

Same-sex couples are not immune to this form of violence either. Most people consider domestic violence as between couples, but any familial relationship could give rise to these charges. For instance, a brother and sister, cousins, or grandparents could face allegations of domestic abuse.

The abuse can take many forms

Nearly everyone understands that physical abuse falls under domestic violence when it meets the stipulations. However, other forms of abuse fall into this category as well. Consider the following:

  • Emotional abuse occurs when one party deflates or invalidates another party’s self-esteem or self-worth.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when one party forces or attempts to force the other party to engage in sexual behavior or contact without the other party’s consent.
  • Economic abuse occurs when one party forces the other to become reliant on him or her for money.

As you can see, these types of abuse do not fall under the definition of traditional assault and battery.

There is much at stake

These charges also often involve much more emotion and interpersonal conflict. Not only could the outcome of the charges affect how you interact with your family and friends, but it could also affect whether you get to see your children. Other potential consequences outside of the criminal penalties you face include the following:

  • You may lose job opportunities. Many employers run background checks on prospective employees, and having a conviction for domestic violence on your record could prevent you from obtaining the job you want.
  • You lose your right to bear arms. A domestic violence conviction precludes you from owning or purchasing firearms.

Much more than just your freedom is at stake if you stand accused of domestic violence. It may be in your best interests to work with an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney in order to reach the best resolution to the charges possible.


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