Missouri Domestic Violence Laws

Missouri has several laws to protect spouses, partners, children, and other family members from domestic violence. In addition, the criminal laws that apply to a person's bad behavior to a stranger also apply to that same bad behavior towards a loved one.

Overview of Domestic Violence Laws

Missouri law makes it a crime to commit "domestic assault," that is, to knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical injury to a member of your family or household. Domestic assault is divided into three different levels or degrees for penalty purposes. The first degree or highest level is for killing or causing serious physical injury to your family member. If a person tries or actually causes injury to a family member by using a deadly weapon or strangling, it's domestic assault in the second degree. Domestic assault in the third degree is when a person does any of the following:

  • Tries to or recklessly does physically injury to a family member
  • Negligently injures a family member with a deadly weapon
  • Makes a family member afraid of immediate physical injury
  • Recklessly puts a family member into a situation where there's a high risk of death or serious injury
  • Knowingly offensively touches a family member
  • Knowingly unreasonably isolates the family member from others

Abusers can also be charged with a myriad of other crimes for conduct done to terrorize their victims, including:

  • Stalking - following or harassing another person, higher penalties for violating protection orders and prior domestic violence conviction
  • False Imprisonment - restraining a person without consent to interfere with their freedom of movement
  • Kidnapping - removing someone from one place without his or her consent and confining for a substantial period to inflict physical injury or terrorize the victim
  • Parental kidnapping - depriving the custody right of another person by taking or hiding your child without good cause, i.e. when had no visitation scheduled
  • Elder abuse - 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree depending on severity of physical injuries or actions taken to a person 60 years or older
  • Rape - forcing a person, including your spouse, to have sex with you or having sex with a person who can't consent. Higher penalties for victims under 12, inflicting serious physical injury, or displaying weapons.
  • Child Molestation or Sexual Abuse - forcing a person to have sexual contact with you or sexual contact with a person who can't consent. Higher penalties for younger victims.

Missouri Domestic Violence Laws in Brief

Below you will find key provisions of Missouri's domestic violence laws.

Statutes

Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXX 455 (Domestic Relations)

Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXX 565.072 (Domestic Assault)

  1. A person commits the offense of domestic assault in the first degree if he or she attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to a domestic victim, as the term "domestic victim" is defined in section 565.002.
  2. The offense of domestic assault in the first degree is a class B felony unless in the course thereof the person inflicts serious injury of the victim, in which case it is a class A felony.

Penalties

Sentences range in Missouri, but the maximum penalty for each of the following classes of felony and misdemeanor are:

  • Class A felony - imprisonment for 10-30 years or life imprisonment
  • Class B felony - imprisonment for 5-15 years
  • Class C felony - imprisonment for 7 years or less and/or a fine up to $5,000
  • Class D felony - imprisonment for 4 years or less and/or a fine up to $5,000
  • Class A misdemeanor - jail for 1 year or less and up to a $1,000 fine

The penalties for domestic assault depends on the degree. For the first degree, it's a Class A felony if the defendant inflicts serious physical injury on the victim or has been previously convicted of this crime, otherwise it's a Class B felony. The second degree is a Class C felony. Lastly, the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, unless convicted of domestic violence 2+ times anywhere before, in which case the penalty is upgraded to a Class D felony.

Possible Defenses

  • Innocence or false allegations - You didn't do it. Your current or former romantic partner may want to hurt you by accusing you of domestic violence. Proving you couldn't have done it because you weren't there, i.e. that you have an alibi, will help you defend yourself.
  • Self-Defense - This is often used in the domestic violence context when the abuser was injured when you, the victim, tried to protect yourself from larger harm. This defense has been called "battered woman syndrome" and abused children may have a similar defense.
  • Injury was result of an accident - The injuries observed on your household member were an accident, for example, you didn't intend for your spouse to be hurt, but she did slip off the deck stairs in the rain.
  • Parental rights for child abuse accusations - You exercised your parental rights, such as you spanked in a manner permitted in Missouri or your religion permits you to keep your child from public school, etc, for more information see the Child Abuse Defenses article.
  • Consent - This defense is specifically for sexual abuse related charges such as rape or sodomy, where you can show that the person you had sexual conduct with was capable and did consent to the sexual conduct.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Missouri Codes and Legal Research Options

Related Resources

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