October is observed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationwide and according to a recent study, Tennesseans need to be more aware. A new study by the Violence Policy Center found Tennessee ranks fifth in the country when it comes to the number of women being murdered by men in domestic violence situations.
Domestic violence charges can result from a number of instances including domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battery, emotional abuse, economic deprivation, child abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. There are many serious charges that can result from a misunderstanding or from an unfortunate escalation of emotions during an argument.
The penalties for a domestic violence charge in Tennessee can be life altering. Domestic assault is a Class A Misdemeanor, meaning it carries a maximum jail sentence is 11 months 29 days in jail and a maximum fine of $200. It is common for domestic abuse convictions to result in restraining orders, loss of child custody rights, criminal penalties, fines, and a tarnished reputation. Along with jail time, a conviction will also carry supervised probation. The probation will last for 11 months 29 days, although shorter probation periods are up to the discretion of the judge or prosecutor. As part of the conditions of probation, the defendant will be subject to regular and random drug screens and have to pay probation fees and court costs on schedule, which can be as much as $100 per month.
With a domestic assault conviction, the defendant has a prohibition on owning or possessing any firearms, including hunting rifles. If you are employed as a police officer, security guard or other profession where you must carry a firearm, a conviction can thus mean a loss of employment. It may prevent you from getting a job or an apartment.
The state has attempted to reduce the numbers of domestic violence incidents but experts say a common strategy employed elsewhere, merely increasing jail time for perpetrators, will be difficult to institute in Tennessee. Increased jail time supposedly helps because research shows that the perpetrator, once released, goes out and finds another victim and the cycle begins anew. The problem with increasing sentences here is that the state is already spending millions holding existing criminals in overcrowded prisons and cannot afford the millions more it would take to substantially increase domestic violence sentences.
Source: “Is Southern Culture Behind Domestic Violence Increase?
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(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 266-0605.)