Tennessee Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic violence is illegal in Tennessee. The state prohibits the abuse of current or former family members or romantic partners. The term used in Tennessee for the crime of physical domestic violence is "domestic assault."

What Is Domestic Assault?

Domestic assault is a type of assault (intentionally or recklessly injury of another or causing reasonable fear of bodily injury or offensive physical contact). The difference is domestic assault is committed against an adult or child:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Cohabitants
  • Dating or sexual partners
  • Blood or adoptive relatives
  • Current or former relatives by marriage
  • Adult or minor children of any of the above individuals

Abusers can be charged with any other crimes they commit against the same current or former partner and family member victim(s), including:

Penalties for Breaking Tennessee's Domestic Violence Laws

Penalties include losing your right to possess firearms if you're convicted of domestic assault or someone obtains a protection order against you. If a person is found to have a gun after a domestic violence conviction or while a protection order is in place, it's considered a Class A misdemeanor and each violation is a separate offense (meaning multiple sentences can be imposed). In addition, a fine of up to $200 will be imposed based on the defendant's ability to pay. This fine goes to the Tennessee general fund for family violence shelters and services.

Victim Resources and Protection Orders

If you're a survivor of domestic violence in Tennessee and haven't yet reached out for help, please try contacting the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence.

If you don't yet have a protection order, it may be a good idea to obtain one. You may want to seek the help of a domestic violence lawyer. Having a protection order will allow you to call the police and have your abuser arrested if he or she comes after you in violation of the protection order.

Tennessee Domestic Violence Laws Overview

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

Statutes

Tennessee Code Title 36 (Domestic Relations)

Tennessee Code Section 36-3-608 (Protective Orders)

Penalties

  • (a) All orders of protection shall be effective for a fixed period of time, not to exceed one (1) year.
  • (b) The court may modify its order at any time upon subsequent motion filed by either party together with an affidavit showing a change in circumstances sufficient to warrant the modification.
  • Knowingly violating a protection/ restraining order (Class A misdemeanor) in Tennessee subjects a person to arrest and a 12-hour holding period. The violator can post bond and be released before the trial.
  • Multiple violations can result in multiple sentences to be served consecutively unless the judge specifically orders them to be served concurrently.
  • Civil and criminal contempt penalties, including a $50 contempt of court civil penalty that goes to the domestic violence education fund.
  • Penalties for domestic assault: Same as for regular assault. For a Class A misdemeanor (bodily injury or reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury), defendants can receive up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 fine.
  • If it is only offensive or provocative physical contact, it's a Class B misdemeanor. For a Class B misdemeanor, it is not more than 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.
  • If the offense is committed against a cop, then the maximum fine increases to $5,000.
  • Losing the right to possess firearms.

Possible Defenses

Self-defense via a mutual combat situation with your intimate partner

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.

Tennessee Codes and Legal Research Options

Related Resources

Free Attorney Match

Being convicted of a domestic violence crime in Tennessee can mean jail time, fines, or losing your gun rights. If you are facing domestic abuse charges, then it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled defense attorney who can assess your options. You can start by getting a free attorney match. You will be paired with an experienced Tennessee attorney. Then you can determine the best way to proceed with your case.

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