Domestic Violence : Evidence or Proof of Domestic Violence

What are some examples of “threats of force” that constitute domestic violence under Ohio’s domestic violence laws?

Some examples of “threats of force” that constitute domestic violence are:

  1. pointing a gun or waving a knife at the victim;

  2. driving or moving car toward the standing victim;

  3. telling the victim, “I’m going to shoot you,” “I’m going to beat you to a pulp,” “You’re going to be a dead person,” “You’re going to be sorry when I get my hands on you,” or making similar verbal threats; or

  4. picking up a bullet and saying, “This is meant for you."

It is impossible to catalog all of the types of physical and verbal threats that might constitute “domestic violence.” However, two points should be kept in mind:

  1. the abuser’s past history of acts or threats of violence toward the victim are relevant to determining whether his more recent threats constitute unlawful “domestic violence”; and

  2. the courts look at each case on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the alleged threats placed the victim in danger or caused her to have a reasonable fear of imminent serious physical harm.

What are some examples of “acts of force” that constitute domestic violence under Ohio’s domestic violence laws?

Such acts as kicking, choking, slapping, pushing, throwing physical objects at a person, pointing a weapon at a person, sexually assaulting a person, physically restraining a person, tearing a person’s clothing, or any other type of hitting or harmful touching to any family household member constitutes domestic violence.

Trying to run over a family or household member with a car or shoving her into the path of a vehicle is also domestic violence.

Any acts of physical violence or attempted physical violence against a family or household member, regardless of whether the victim suffers any visible injuries or requires any medical attention, constitute unlawful acts of domestic violence under Ohio law.

What kinds of threats do not constitute “threats of force” under Ohio’s domestic violence laws?

Vague or ill-defined threats such as “you will be sorry” or “I’ll get back at you for this” generally do not rise to the level of “domestic violence” threats under Ohio law. In addition, so-called “conditional threats” do not by themselves constitute unlawful threats of force under Ohio law. A “conditional threat” means the type of threat where the abuser tells his victim that he will physically harm her IF she does or doesn’t do something that he is demanding of her.

For example, the threat “I will beat you up if you don’t get back home by 6 p.m.” is a conditional threat because the threatened use of force is conditioned on certain action by the victim. However, evidence of conditional threats may be admitted in court to help prove the victim’s reasonable fear of physical harm arising from the abuser’s unconditional threats or acts of physical violence.

Is medical evidence or photographs required to prove domestic violence?

Photographs or medical evidence of actual injuries sustained by the victim are helpful to proving a domestic violence case. However, domestic violence may occur without the abuser inflicting visible injuries or marks on the victim.

The abuser’s actions in using physical force against the victim constitute domestic violence regardless of whether there is any visible or medically verifiable injuries. Therefore, medical evidence or photographs are not always necessary to prove the occurrence of domestic violence.

Is evidence of “other acts” of domestic violence not alleged in the domestic violence criminal complaint or the petition for a domestic violence civil protection order admissible at the domestic violence hearing or trial?

Evidence of “other acts” not alleged in the criminal complaint or the petition for a CPO is sometimes admissible. Typically, where the victim is alleging domestic violence consisting of threats that placed her in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm, she or her lawyer may introduce evidence of prior acts of actual physical violence in order to prove that the victim’s fear arising from the threats of violence is a reasonable fear.

For example, if the victim files a petition for a CPO alleging as grounds for the CPO her partner’s recent threat to “beat her to a pulp,” she could introduce evidence of prior beatings to prove that she had a reasonable fear of imminent serious physical harm based on the recent threat even though those prior incidents may have happened a long time ago and were not mentioned in the domestic violence petition.

For more information on domestic violence visit the Ohio Domestic Violence Resource Center.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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