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December 15, 2023
Matthew C. Bangerter

Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dismissed in Ohio?

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Domestic violence is a serious and devastating crime that profoundly affects individuals and families. In Ohio, like many other states, the struggle against domestic violence is ongoing, with an alarming increase in reported incidents. 

While it is critical to address the root causes of domestic violence and offer comprehensive support to survivors, it is equally important to ensure fairness and due process in the legal system, especially for those accused of such charges. This balance is vital in safeguarding the rights of all involved.

Can domestic violence charges be dismissed in Ohio? This pressing question often weighs heavily on the minds of those accused. In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that can influence the possibility of dismissal, providing insights into the complexities of these cases and the importance of skilled legal representation.

How Does Ohio Law Define Domestic Violence?

In Ohio, the definition of domestic violence reflects the state’s serious approach to these cases, born out of the severe impact and tragic outcomes, including serious injuries and fatalities, often associated with such offenses. 

Understanding this definition is crucial, as it underpins the rigorous legal process, where skilled advocacy is needed to balance victim protection with the rights of the accused. Domestic violence in Ohio encompasses any of the following acts committed against a family or household member:

  • Knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm. This means that the person was aware that their conduct would probably cause physical harm to the victim 
  • Recklessly causing serious physical harm. This means that the person committed the crime with "heedless indifference" to the consequences. In other words, they were aware of the risk of serious harm but chose to disregard it 
  • By threat of force, placing a family or household member in fear of imminent serious physical harm. This means that the person made a threat of force that caused the victim to believe that they were in imminent danger of being harmed 
  • Committing any act with respect to a child that would result in the child being an abused child, as defined under Ohio law 
  • Committing a sexually oriented offense 

Additional Forms of Domestic Violence

In addition to the physical acts listed above, domestic violence in Ohio also includes emotional abuse, stalking, and financial abuse. Next, let's examine some specific examples that Ohio law covers.

Having established how Ohio law characterizes domestic violence, let's now clarify who falls under the definition of a “family or household member,” as this plays a crucial role in these cases.

A Family or Household Member Defined

In Ohio, the terms "family or household member" encompasses a range of relationships, specifically including:

  • Spouses and Partners: This includes the person you are currently married to, anyone you are living with in a common law marital relationship, and anyone you were previously married to. 
  • Immediate Family Members: This refers to your parents (including adoptive or foster parents) and your children (including adopted or foster children). 
  • Extended Family Involving Spouses and Partners: This covers the parents and children of your current or former spouse or partner. It also includes those relatives who are connected through marriage, such as in-laws, and those related by blood to your spouse or partner. 
  • Dependents: Anyone who relies on you, your spouse, or your partner for support, such as children or elderly relatives, is also included in this definition.

Examples of Domestic Violence

Some specific examples of acts that may be considered domestic violence in Ohio include:

  • Physical assault, such as hitting, slapping, or kicking 
  • Sexual assault, such as rape or forced sexual contact 
  • Emotional abuse, such as threats, intimidation, or verbal abuse 
  • Stalking, such as repeatedly following, harassing, or contacting a person 
  • Financial abuse, such as controlling someone's finances or preventing them from accessing their own money 

Now that we've explored what domestic violence may entail, we turn our focus to the critical question: under what circumstances might these charges be dismissed in Ohio?

Factors Affecting Dismissal of Domestic Violence Charges in Ohio

While domestic violence charges are serious and should not be taken lightly, there are instances where dismissal of these charges may be possible. 

Dismissal Process

First, it’s important to be aware that only the prosecuting attorney or the judge can dismiss domestic violence charges in Ohio. The victim cannot drop the charges, even if they recant their original statement or accusation. This means that the decision of whether or not to dismiss charges ultimately rests with the prosecution or the court.

Factors in Favor of Dismissal

Several factors may increase the likelihood of having domestic violence charges dismissed. These factors include:

  • Lack of Evidence: If the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to support the allegations, the charges may be dismissed. This could involve inconsistencies in witness statements, a lack of physical evidence, or credible alibi testimony. 
  • Self-Defense: If the accused can demonstrate that they acted in self-defense or defense of another person, the charges may be dismissed. This requires establishing that the accused had a reasonable fear of imminent harm and used an appropriate level of force to protect themselves or others. 
  • Lack of Probable Cause: If the initial arrest was made without probable cause, the charges may be dismissed. This could involve a lack of evidence to support the officer's belief that a crime had been committed or that the accused was the perpetrator. 
  • Procedural Errors: If law enforcement or prosecutors made procedural errors during the investigation or arrest process, the charges may be dismissed. This could involve violating the accused's Miranda rights, conducting an illegal search or seizure, or failing to follow proper procedures. 
  • Diversion Programs: In some cases, individuals facing domestic violence charges may be eligible for diversion programs, which offer alternatives like counseling, anger management classes, or community service; however, it’s important to note that in Ohio, entering a diversion program requires pleading guilty, with the plea held in abeyance during the program, leading to case dismissal upon successful completion, but resulting in immediate sentencing without trial options if the program is not completed.

Factors Against Dismissal

While the factors listed above may increase the likelihood of dismissal, it is important to note that domestic violence charges are taken seriously and prosecutors will often pursue them vigorously. Factors that may make dismissal less likely include:

  • Prior Criminal History: A prior history of domestic violence or other criminal offenses may make dismissal less likely. Prosecutors may view such a history as an indicator of a higher risk of reoffending. 
  • Severity of Allegations: The severity of the alleged domestic violence may make dismissal less likely. Charges involving physical injuries, threats of violence, or psychological harm are often viewed more seriously and may be less likely to be dismissed. 
  • Credibility of Witnesses: The credibility of witnesses, both for the prosecution and the defense, can significantly impact the outcome of the case. If witnesses for the prosecution are deemed credible and provide consistent testimony, dismissal may be less likely. 
  • Strength of Evidence: The strength of the prosecution's evidence will also play a crucial role in determining whether charges are dismissed. If the prosecution has strong evidence, such as physical evidence, witness testimony, or medical records, dismissal may be less likely.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Even if the prosecutor or judge later determines that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction, you may still face the stigma and negative consequences of having been accused of domestic violence. This reality is compounded by the fact that in Ohio, a conviction for domestic violence is permanent and cannot be expunged from your record. 

Such a lasting impact makes it imperative to seek out an experienced Ohio criminal lawyer immediately if you are facing these charges. An attorney can help you understand your rights, protect your interests, and advocate for the best possible outcome in your case. 

Former Prosecutor Now Defending Your Rights in Domestic Violence Cases

Facing a domestic violence charge in Ohio is not just a legal challenge; it can be a life-altering situation that can have profound implications on your future. The shadow of a conviction hangs heavy, often bringing with it the potential for jail time, significant fines, and lasting impacts on personal and professional relationships. At times like this, it’s crucial to have a defense that understands both sides of the legal system.

As a former Assistant Prosecutor in Lake County, Ohio, domestic violence attorney Matthew Bangerter understands the legal system from both sides. Armed with a scientific background and extensive experience in criminal defense, Matthew is well-equipped to scrutinize every piece of evidence in your case.

The decision to dismiss domestic violence charges often rests with the prosecutor, making Matthew's former role a key advantage in your defense strategy. Instead of searching online for “domestic violence lawyers near me,” call us today at (440) 340-1740 for a comprehensive case evaluation, or start building your defense by filling out our online form.

At Fortress Law Group, we're dedicated to defending good people accused of bad things, using our unique legal background to strive for the best outcome in your case.

Copyright © 2024. Fortress Law Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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