Understanding Family Violence Charges in Georgia

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You’ve had your son for the weekend and now it’s time to drop him back off with his mother. She’s warned you to drop him off at the end of the driveway and never to come onto her property. You ignore her request and walk your son up to the front door. She’s asked you to leave and you refuse. Next thing you know, you’re being arrested for committing a “family violence” offense. You two have been divorced for months now. So, why are you being charged with a criminal act against a family member? Just a few weeks ago, your neighbor spanked his son in front of a police officer and he wasn’t even arrested!

How Does Georgia Define Family Violence?

Under Georgia domestic relations laws, family violence means the occurrence of any felony or commission of a battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint and criminal trespass committed between:

  • Past or present spouses
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Parents and children
  • Stepparents and stepchildren
  • Foster parents and foster children
  • Persons living or formerly living in the same household

You’ve criminally trespassed onto your former spouses’ property, in which, you once lived. Your behavior falls within the scope of O.C.G.A. §19-3-1, as outlined above. And, you’re still wondering why your neighbor wasn’t arrested for spanking his son. Well, also under that same code of law, family violence does not include reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint or detention. Simply put, as long as your neighbor did not beat his son black-and-blue or physically harm him in an unreasonable way then the punishment was lawful and viewed—under the law—as reasonable discipline by a parent to correct a child.

Punishment & Penalties of Family Violence…

Criminal acts against family members are punished more severely than those same acts involving people who are not related, in a domestic relationship and/or considered family members under Georgia law. For example, a simple assault or battery not involving family violence is punished as a misdemeanor. A simple assault or battery involving family violence (any of the categories of family relations mentioned above) is elevated to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. Both carry jail time up to 12 months; however, the fine for a high and aggravated misdemeanor carries a steeper fine. O.C.G.A. §16-5-20; §16-5-23.

Family Violence Protective Orders & Violations of an Order…

In Georgia, a person alleging an act of family violence may seek a petition in superior court for a protective order. Also, a person who is not a minor may seek relief on behalf of a minor. The petitioner must allege specific facts and establish probable cause that family violence has occurred and will continue to occur without relief from the Court. At this time, the Court may order a temporary protective order ex parte (in the absence of the other party) as it sees necessary to protect the petitioner or a minor from violence. A hearing will then be scheduled no later than 30 days after the filing of the petition, in which, the petitioner will then have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the allegations are true. O.C.G.A. §19-13-3.

A person who violates a family violence protective order excluding the offender from the residence or directing the person to stay away from the alleged victim(s) and/or to not contact the alleged victim(s) by any means of communication will be convicted of a misdemeanor. O.C.G.A. §16-5-95.

Contact Bixon Law…

If you have been arrested and charged with committing an act of family violence in Georgia, you should call us now. As experienced lawyers, we can evaluate your case and seek to get it dismissed or get the charges reduced. Being charged of any crime is stressful; however, when it involves family it can an extremely difficult situation to navigate. We can help. Call us at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation today.


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