Disclaimer: In this article, I will often refer to a domestic violence victim as “she” and the abuser as “he.” That is done for simplicity and is based on my client base and the issues I am seeing. I am well aware that there are males who are also domestic violence victims and I, in absolutely no way, mean to minimize their pain or experiences. For the purpose of understanding this article, I invite you to interchange the sexes if necessary in order to understand this information and how it may apply to other situations.
There may be a thought out there that the only penalty for battering a dating partner is a broken relationship or maybe a quick trip to the parish jail. If she is truly tired of it, maybe there will be a restraining order. Well, I would like to take a moment to discuss some of the remedies available under the law that may surprise some about how steep the penalties can actually be.
At an early age, most of us learned that violence against another person is wrong. The law certainly agrees. Violence is one of the main behaviors the law seeks to prevent and punish when needed. This is made clear by the fact that violence is one of the few behaviors that is punishable under both criminal and civil law. Therefore, domestic abusers may face what I call the Triple Whammy.
Violence against a person can trigger a number of criminal charges, depending on the severity of the violence and whether any objects were involved. Charges can range from assault to first degree murder. I won’t attempt to go into them all, so I will stick with the basics.
Battery. The first, and somewhat obvious criminal charge is battery. Hitting another person without permission is a crime punishable by law. That charge can be elevated to aggravated battery if a “dangerous weapon” is used. Now don’t be limited into thinking that only a gun or a knife can be considered a dangerous weapon. Some argue that a floor or a sofa will suffice if it causes injuries to the victim. The charge can be elevated to second degree battery if there is reason to believe the abuser intended serious bodily injury. Guess what, depending on the relationship and living arrangements of the abuser and victim, there is a second charge under the law for domestic violence – domestic abuse battery.
In all cases, the abuser can face financial penalties and jail time. For this article, let’s say $500 in financial penalties.
Assault. In most cases, a victim sees the abuser coming to hit her. Or maybe he threatened her before hitting her. Well, that’s illegal too. The law calls that an assault.
Like the battery example above, a simple assault charge may be elevated to aggravated assault if a weapon is used in the threat. Also like the battery example, there is an additional charge available under some domestic violence situations – domestic abuse aggravated assault.
Again, the penalties may include jail time and financial penalties. We will again say $500
Other crimes. Depending on the nature of the abuse, there may be additional charges. In one case I handled, the defendant was also charged with stalking and attempted burglary because he repeatedly came to my client’s home uninvited and attempted to enter.
Let’s throw another $500 financial penalty, (in addition to jail time), on the stalking charge.
So, without counting the cost of bail, attorney’s fees, and lost wages because of the jail time, the criminal penalties alone can cost $1500. We can assume another $3000 for the other costs. (And that’s probably on the low end).
As I discussed earlier, violence is punishable under both Criminal and Civil law. In the civil law, the defendant is sued for money. The law provides that a battery and assault are causes of action that an abuser can sue for. The damage awards vary greatly depending on the nature of the abuser’s actions and the damages he caused. But the damage calculation can include pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, the victim’s lost time with those she loves, and more.
Let’s be nice and say the award is $2000 for this article.
You probably know that a domestic violence victim can seek a protective order against her abuser. But, did you know that if a permanent protective order is granted, the abuser can be charged with court costs and the victim’s attorney’s fees? If the defendant has an attorney, of course he will need to pay those fees.
I’ll go on the lower end and estimate $2500 for those costs. (By the way, there are other consequences to the protective order. The abuser could lose gun rights and will be entered in a database of abusers.)
So, there you have it. On a relatively low cost day, the price of domestic violence could be as much as $9000 or more!!!
The Message: Hopefully, our childhood training and human decency is enough to restrain us from hurting each other. But, when that fails, be aware that the blows to her can be a blow to your pocket AND your m