What is Domestic Violence?

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by | Oct 12, 2023 | Criminal Law

When many people hear the term “domestic violence,” they have a mistaken understanding of what it means. They assume that it refers only to physical abuse. While inflicting physical injury on your partner is certainly a form of domestic violence, the definition is much broader than that. Domestic violence also includes any conduct against your partner that a reasonable person would consider to be coercive, humiliating, or terrorizing. The following are several examples of behavior that is considered domestic violence.


This is normally what people think of when they hear “domestic violence,” but the legal definition of assault is also more nuanced than many people realize. Of course any physical violence between the parties or by one party against the other would constitute domestic violence. This is further aggravated if a child witnesses or is injured in the exchange. However, assault can also include any words or actions that place the other person in fear of imminent physical harm, such as shaking your fist.

Criminal Damage

Damaging property also constitutes domestic violence. For example, if you become angry with your spouse and punch a hole in the wall, you could potentially be charged with domestic violence. You might argue that you are within your rights to do so because it is the wall of your own home, however a marital residence is considered community property (i.e. it belongs to both spouses jointly), so you would be responsible for damaging property that you own jointly with the other person.


The legal definition of threatening another person is to tell them that you will do something you have no legal right to do. Here is an example: if you tell your spouse that they must do as you say or else you are going to punch them in the face, that would constitute a threat. However, it would not constitute a threat for your spouse to respond that he or she will call the police if you do not stop threatening them, as he or she has a legal right to do so.


Harassment entails a pattern of conduct that would seriously alarm a reasonable person. In order to be considered harassment, there must be a pattern of behavior. For example, if a person continues to sexually proposition another individual after being told that such conduct is not welcome.

Disorderly Conduct

This crime may entail any number of behaviors that are reckless or disruptive in nature. Although disorderly conduct may potentially involve physical violence, it may meet the legal definition without it. Shouting at your partner in a public place or throwing food at them in a restaurant are examples of disorderly conduct.

Interference with Judicial Process

This involves noncompliance with any judicial order from the court, which can range from custodial interference to outright violating an order of protection. If the court orders you to do or not do something, you should follow those orders to the letter. As an example, suppose your spouse files an order of protection against you with the court, but then changes his or her mind and invites you to return home. In that instance, you should wait for the court to rescind the order of protection before you do so. Returning home even with your spouse’s permission would still be considered a violation of the court’s order.

If you are involved in a domestic violence case, then you need an experienced lawyer to help represent your interests. Please contact us at 602-870-9700 and schedule a meeting with attorney Robert Newell today!


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