Wisconsin Domestic Violence Laws

Wisconsin doesn't have a specific law prohibiting domestic violence. Instead, the state uses the same statutes, such as battery, sexual assault, kidnapping, and homicide, to prosecute domestic violence situations. The difference here is that the abuser and victim have or had a family or intimate relationship and because of this an arrest and custody may be warranted as well as an extra domestic abuse fee upon conviction.

Domestic Violence Criminal Laws

Wisconsin law defines domestic abuse as an adult engaging in intentional infliction of physical pain, injury, or illness; sexual assault; or physical acts threatening either of those against his or her current or former spouse, current or former co-habitant, or co-parent. A police officer is required to arrest and take into custody a person the officer believes has committed domestic abuse and a crime, when he or she reasonably believes the abuse will likely continue, there's evidence of physical injury to the victim, and the person being arrested is the primary aggressor.

For 72 hours after the arrest for a domestic abuse incident, the arrested person must avoid the alleged victim's home or other places he or she may be, and avoid contacting the person. That is, assuming the arrested person has been released from jail. Intentionally violating the 72-hour no-contact rule can be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or not more than 9 months imprisonment, or both. The alleged victim can sign a waiver with the police department to waive this 72 hour no contact prohibition.

Under Wisconsin Statute Section 973.055, the court assesses a mandatory $100 fee for convictions of various crimes, if the violation was against a current or former spouse, current or former co-habitant, or co-parent. This money is used to provide grants to domestic abuse service organizations. Two of the most common charges in domestic abuse situations are battery and disorderly conduct.

There are three types of battery, varying from least to most serious:

  • Battery - Intentionally causing bodily harm to another without the person's consent, which is a Class A misdemeanor that can be penalized by up to 9 months confinement and a fine up to $10,000.
  • Substantial Battery - Intentionally causing substantial bodily harm to another, which is a Class I felony punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Aggravated Battery - Causing great bodily harm to another, either with the intent to cause bodily harm (Class H felony) or the intent to cause great bodily harm (Class E felony). A Class H felony can be punished by at most 6 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 and a Class E felony can be punished by at most 15 years in prison and a fine of $50,000 fine.

If someone's conduct creates a substantial risk of great bodily harm, it's a Class H felony. A substantial risk of great bodily harm is presumed if the person harmed is 62 or older or has a physical disability. If the battered woman is pregnant, the abuser can be charged with battery to an unborn child. This is also divided into three subdivisions from battery to aggravated battery with the same penalties applying as well.

The other common crime is disorderly conduct or engaging in violent, abusive, indecent, unreasonably loud, or other behavior where the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance. This is a Class B misdemeanor that can be punished by no more than 90 days jail and a fine up to $1,000. For more information, see the Wisconsin Disorderly Conduct article.

Domestic Abuse Restraining Orders

If someone is hurting or controlling you physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually, you should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to talk about it and seek referrals. You can also visit the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for a directory of local Wisconsin programs.

If a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, co-parent, or adult family member or caregiver in Wisconsin has abused you, you may want to consider getting a protection order to help prevent future harm from your abuser. If you need help getting a protection order, see a local domestic violence agency or domestic violence lawyer. Having a protection order in place allows you to call the police if your abuser contacts you or stalks you in violation of the order, and he or she will be arrested for those violations.

If a domestic abuse restraining order has been issued against you in Wisconsin (or anywhere else too!), you should avoid any activity that the order prohibits. The penalty for violating a temporary restraining order or injunction (can be valid for up to 10 years) is up to 9 months in jail or a fine up to $1,000. You can be found guilty of violating it multiple times.

Getting Legal Help

If you're facing a criminal charge related to domestic violence, you should quickly contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney or public defender for help.

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