The crime of domestic violence in Ohio involves violence or threatened violence against a family or household member. Someone commits domestic violence when he or she

  • knowingly or recklessly caused physical harm to the victim, or
  • threatens a family or household member with physical force, causing that person to fear an imminent physical attack.

This crime can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, the injury caused, and whether the offender has prior convictions for domestic violence.

(Ohio Rev. Code Ann., §2919.25.)

A knowing act is one that is intentional. A reckless act is one that is committed without regard for the outcome. Pushing your spouse out of the way so you can pass through a doorway or enter a house or other building, without intending to injure the person, could be considered recklessly harming that person. If the victim falls and is injured, a charge of domestic violence could follow.

Domestic Violence that Results in Harm

Domestic violence that involves harming another person is a 1st degree misdemeanor, unless the defendant has one or more prior convictions for domestic violence or knew the victim was pregnant. In those cases, domestic violence can be a 3rd, 4th or 5th degree felony, depending on the number of prior convictions and whether the unborn child is harmed.

Domestic Violence as a Threat

Domestic violence that involves threatening another person is a 4th degree misdemeanor, unless the defendant has one or more prior convictions for domestic violence or knew the victim was pregnant. In those cases, domestic violence can be a 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree misdemeanor, depending on the number of prior convictions.

Family or Household Member Defined

A family member or household member is any of the following persons who reside or have resided with the offender:

  • spouse, former spouse or a romantic partner with whom the offender has resided in the last five years
  • the offender’s parent or foster parent
  • a child of the offender
  • an extended family member of the offender
  • a parent or child of the offender’s spouse, former spouse or romantic partner, and
  • an extended family member of the offender’s spouse, former spouse, or romantic partner.

The other parent of any child or alleged child of the offender also is a family member under Ohio law, whether or not she or he lives with or ever has lived with the offender.

Penalties for Domestic Violence in Ohio

A person convicted of domestic violence faces the following possible penalties:

  • for 1st degree misdemeanor, up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1000
  • for 2nd degree misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail and/or fine up to $750
  • for 3rd degree misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500
  • for 5th degree felony, six to twelve months in prison and a fine up to $2500
  • for 4th degree felony, six to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $5000, and
  • for 3rd degree felony, nine months to three years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

If a domestic violence offender knew the victim was pregnant, the court is required to impose a minimum sentence of six months or one year, depending on whether the incident involved harm or a threat and whether the victim’s unborn child was harmed.


A person convicted of domestic violence in Ohio can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property.

Deferred Sentence, Suspended Sentence and Probation

A court in Ohio can impose a deferred or suspended sentence and probation for domestic violence. If a sentence is deferred, the court does not impose any jail or prison time but imposes certain conditions on the defendant, such as probation, counseling,  my elderly mother is consuming my life or other treatment, or community service. At the end of the deferment period, if the defendant satisfies the conditions and completes the period without further criminal activity or arrests, the case is dismissed. The arrest and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record.

For a suspended sentence, the court can suspend all or a portion of the jail or prison sentence as long as the defendant successfully completes probation and any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as treatment, maintaining employment and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.

Pleas and Pre-Trial Options

If you are facing a charge for domestic violence in Ohio, you’ll benefit from having an attorney who can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged, or whether there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options. Prosecutors may negotiate and agree to a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or to the defendant pleading guilty to a different, less serious crime.

The Value of Good Representation

A conviction for domestic violence – even a misdemeanor – becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror (for seven years) and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. A conviction for a violent crime – misdemeanor or felony – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.

Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. Attorney Nemann will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.

Adam Lee Nemann
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Trial and Defense Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University, founder of Nemann Law Offices
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