Oklahoma refers to domestic violence as domestic abuse. It’s also sometimes referred to as domestic assault & battery (A&B). It is defined in 22 O.S. § 60.1 as any act of physical harm, or the threat of imminent physical harm which is committed by an adult, emancipated minor, or minor child 13 years of age or older against another adult, emancipated minor or minor child who are family or household members or who are or were in a dating relationship. Assault, defined in 21 O.S. § 641, is the willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force, coercion, or violence to do corporal harm to another. Battery, defined in 21 O.S. § 642, is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another. The primary Oklahoma domestic abuse statute is 21 O.S. § 644. It states that someone is guilty of domestic abuse if they commit any assault or battery against:
- a current or former spouse,
- a present spouse of a former spouse,
- a former spouse of a present spouse,
- a foster parent,
- a child,
- a person otherwise related by blood or marriage,
- a person with whom the defendant is or was in a dating relationship,
- an individual with whom the defendant has had a child,
- a person who formerly lived in the same household as the defendant, or
- a person living in the same household as the defendant.
Note the wide range of possibilities for an assault and battery to be considered domestic abuse. For example, domestic abuse can be committed against any child—not just someone the abuser is related to. When it comes to relatives, domestic abuse could occur when committed against any relative—no matter how remote. The possibilities are endless. Dating relationship, defined in 22 O.S. 60.1, means a courtship or engagement relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context does not constitute a dating relationship.
Punishment for Domestic Violence Crimes
Domestic abuse charges can be misdemeanors or felonies. Whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony depends on how many times someone has violated the statute and the presence of any aggravating factors. Aggravating circumstances can make a first-time offense a felony, and they can increase the severity of the punishment for a second or subsequent offense. A first-time domestic abuse case that does not have any aggravating factors will generally be charged as a misdemeanor. Punishment can be up to one year in county jail. The maximum fine is $5,000. A second or subsequent instance of domestic abuse is a felony. Punishment can be up to four years in the Department of Corrections. The maximum fine is $5,000. There is no requirement that the instances of domestic violence happen within any time period. This is considered a “prior pattern of physical abuse.” 21 O.S. § 644.1 defines prior pattern of physical abuse as two or more separate incidences, including the current incident, occurring on different days and each incident relating to an act constituting assault and battery or domestic abuse committed by the defendant against a current or former spouse, a present spouse of a former spouse, parents, a foster parent, a child, a person otherwise related by blood or marriage, a person with whom the defendant is in a dating relationship, an individual with whom the defendant has had a child, a person who formerly lived in the same household as the defendant, a person living in the same household as the defendant, a current intimate partner or former intimate partner, or any combination of such persons. Proof of each incident prior to the present incident is established merely by the sworn testimony of a third party who was a witness to the alleged physical abuse or by other admissible direct evidence that is independent of the testimony of the victim. It’s important to note that the requirement to charge a second “incident” as a felony does not require a previous conviction of domestic abuse or even a prior guilty plea to that crime. However, a guilty plea under any circumstances would certainly also constitute proof of a prior incident. During trial, a prosecutor cannot introduce previous instances of domestic violence to prove that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence this time. If that evidence is introduced, then it must be for a different reason.