These days, many of us have some familiarity with domestic court – divorces and custody changes are rampant. We often see domestic issues bleed into another court: criminal court. Parties in a romantic relationship may find that their divorce case takes morphs into a criminal case if one of the partners is charged with committing domestic assault on the other partner.
As a side note, “domestic assault” doesn’t just apply to violence between romantic partners. In Tennessee, this type of criminal charge can apply to other sets of people, such as siblings, or parents and children. However, most of us think of “domestic assault” as occurring between a romantically involved couple.
If someone is arrested and charged with domestic assault, he may be eligible to be released on bond. (Note that this post is assuming the charged person is a man; this is merely to keep our discussion clear. Women can be charged with domestic assault as well; this crime is no longer seen as perpetrated only by men. See my last blog post about “assuming” if you need a refresher on what “assuming” does.) If that person makes bond and gets out of jail, there will be bond conditions: acts that he must do, or not do, in order to remain out of jail. A “no contact” bond condition is standard in domestic assault cases; that person can have no contact with the alleged victim when he’s out on bond. Zero. Zilch. Which can be hard to swallow, especially when the parties are married or share young children. It can even mean he can’t go home. Generally, the courts don’t give concessions in these situations, and our state legislature agrees: new law states that if a no contact bond condition is violated, the person can be charged with a new, second criminal charge in addition to the original domestic assault charge — another A misdemeanor, to be exact. Further, if convicted of that second criminal charge, that A misdemeanor sentence is presumed to run after any sentence he receives for the original domestic assault. This effectively doubles his sentence.
Lesson learned: be aware of any bond conditions that are put into place, and don’t ignore them. Bond conditions aren’t only important as a means to keep you out of jail currently; your failure to obey these conditions may exacerbate an already-bad situation by adding on additional criminal charges to fight.