Georgia’s Domestic Violence Laws – All You Need to Know

Most people think domestic violence can only occur between romantic couples, but in the state of Georgia, the legal definition of domestic violence is actually much broader. If you’ve been accused of or charged with domestic violence, don’t wait.

What is Domestic Violence?

The legal definition of domestic violence can vary from state to state. Georgia’s Family Violence Act (O.C.G.A. 19-13-30 – 19-13-34) defines domestic violence as battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, and/or any felony committed by one household member against another.

Basically, any crime committed against a household member can be considered domestic violence. However, while one of these crimes may be required in order for someone to be convicted of domestic violence and charged, there are a range of other forms of abuse that can result in serious consequences. For example, abuse of the verbal, emotional, psychological, or financial persuasion may lead to a Temporary Protective Order (TPO), which is essentially the same as a Restraining Order.

Who Can Commit Domestic Violence?

A common misconception is that domestic violence only occurs between spouses or significant others who live together. While these situations do make up a large portion of domestic violence cases, they are not the only circumstances that qualify as domestic violence.

Georgia law refers to domestic violence as perpetrated against a “household member.” The Georgia Family Violence Act goes on to describe a household member as any person living or formerly living in the same household. This can include current or former significant others, as well as parents, children, and siblings (including step-relations, grand-relations, foster-relations, half-relations, etc).

It’s important to note that the Georgia Family Violence Act broadens domestic violence to include former household members as well as current, along with former relations. So, for example, an ex-partner abusing the ex-partner they no longer live with would still be considered domestic violence.

An exception to this rule would be parents of the same child. One parent can commit domestic violence against another regardless of whether or not they currently or have ever lived together.

What Are the Consequences of Domestic Violence in Georgia?

Domestic violence is, unfortunately, a broad category. The sentencing for convicted domestic abusers depends heavily on the type of abuse committed, as well as how many previous convictions the defendant has, if any. First offenses are usually treated less severely, and sentencing may mirror that of the crime committed without any differences on account of the domestic violence component. Any further offenses, however, will often result in harsher punishments than repeat offenses of the ‘regular’ form of the crime would warrant.

For example, when battery is committed against a household member, the offense is actually called family battery. As with regular battery, family battery convictions are considered a misdemeanor for the first offense. Sentencing for family battery is the same as that for regular battery, which may consist of fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to 12 months.

However, unlike regular battery, any further convictions of family battery would be considered a felony – even if committed against a different household member than the first conviction. As such, sentencing for a repeat family battery charge could be punishable with up to 5 years in jail.

What About Restraining Orders?

As mentioned, a common recourse for domestic abuse victims is a Temporary Protective Order (TPO), which, in the state of Georgia, is basically a Restraining Order.

TPOs are court orders designed to protect victims from their abusers by barring the abuser from contacting them in any way. To do so, the victim files a petition in civil court that, if granted, may require the accused (also called the respondent) to vacate the home they share with the filer and make child custody arrangements, if applicable. Violating a TPO can result in a fine up to $1,000 or even up to 12 months in jail.

In the case of abuse of a minor, a parent or other legal guardian may file such a petition on behalf of the minor.

What to Do If You’re Accused of Domestic Violence in Georgia

Domestic violence incidents are always complicated, involving a lot of personal context and extenuating circumstances. A simple misunderstanding shouldn’t lead to charges on your permanent record. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, or suspect you may be charged with domestic violence, it’s time to talk to a lawyer.

Jarrett Maillet, J.D., P.C., is a seasoned criminal defense attorney with experience on both sides of the courtroom. As such, you can rest assured your case is in good hands. Contact us to schedule a consultation so we can start building your case today.

Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C.

210 E 31st St

Savannah, GA 31401