Missouri Domestic Violence Laws — Domestic Violence cases are complex and emotional processes for both the victim and the alleged abuser.
In contrast to an ordinary assault, a domestic assault involves individuals that know each other, and are usually quite close. Whether it’s a family member, spouse, ex-spouse, or intimate partner — An altercation is likely fueled by the intense emotions of everyone involved. Once a phone call is made to report the abuse, both the victim and the alleged abuser will have some difficult matters to deal with ahead of them. This is why it is crucial to understand Missouri’s domestic violence laws.
Missouri Domestic Violence Laws — 6 Things You Need To Know
1. History of Missouri Domestic Violence Laws
In the 1970s, the first domestic violence shelter opened its doors and the Missouri Adult Abuse Remedies Law was passed. This created protections for victims of domestic violence and police began responding to these crimes more seriously.
Over the last 20 years, domestic violence laws in Missouri have toughened significantly. Back in 2000, in an attempt to combat the staggering rate of domestic violence in Missouri, new laws were passed to cover these types of assault charges.
The MCADV (Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence) rose to become the sole provider for assistance and education on domestic violence in Missouri. Their programs have been recognized nationally and internationally for services provided to survivors.
2. Domestic Assault Vs. Regular Assault
Although both crimes can demonstrate similar behaviors, there are some key differences between a domestic assault and a regular assault crime:
- Domestic assaults involve family members, roommates spouses, ex-spouses, or those in intimate relationships.
- Another important difference is that many domestic assault cases don’t involve physical violence. Oftentimes these charges are triggered by threatening behavior like stalking, isolating, or controlling.
- The economical and legal penalties can also be much greater with domestic assault charges. Many cases can result in felony charges that carry life long implications for alleged abusers.
Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney to help you achieve the best possible results.
3. Missouri Mandatory Arrest Law
There is NO mandatory arrest law in Missouri. While in other states, if the police show up to a scene for a domestic violence call, they must make an arrest. Here in Missouri, officers can use their own discretion in domestic violence situations.
If no arrest is made — A detailed report must be written following the incident.
If there is more than one call in a 12-hour period — The police MUST arrest the alleged abuser, regardless of circumstance.
4. Victim Statements
Oftentimes even the victims may have a difficult time working with law enforcement. Having called for help in a moment of desperation, many victims are found to be in a situation where they are dependent on the abuser, financially or emotionally, and do not want to see them arrested.
In the state of Missouri, spouses CANNOT be forced to testify against each other in court. This helps protect victims fearing retaliation from their abuser after trial. Instead, courts must rely on third-party evidence such as phone recordings and police or medical reports.
5. Felonies & Misdemeanors
Missouri recognizes 4 different degrees of domestic violence charges, ranging from Class A misdemeanors to Class A felonies. These are similar to regular assault charges, however, the penalties can be far more severe for the accused.
- 1st Degree – The accused has made an attempted murder, had intentions to, or intentionally inflicted serious harm on the victim. Typically a Class B felony, and can easily become a Class A with a repeated offense.
- 2nd Degree – The accused seriously injured or attempted to cause severe harm with a weapon or physical force. This is a Class C felony.
- 3rd Degree – The accused caused harm or intended to cause harm to the victim. This can include purposely placing the victim in an unsafe environment or engaging in reckless conduct that endangers others, stalking, and isolating behaviors. This is a Class E felony.
- 4th Degree – The 4th degree was introduced to Missouri domestic violence laws in 2017 to further prosecute non-physical or non-life-threatening instances of domestic violence.
6. Protective Orders for Victims of Domestic Violence
For additional safety measures, victims can file for a protection order through the courts. While waiting for a hearing it may be necessary to file an ex parte order, to receive immediate, temporary protection.
A protection order will specifically state what locations and methods of communication are prohibited by the accused. It can also assist in matters such as:
- Granting temporary custody for children involved.
- Restricting the abuser from visiting your home, workplace, or school.
- Preventing the alleged offender from communicating with the victim in any form. (phone, email, text)
You can learn more about filing protection orders in Missouri from Eric Schmitt, Missouri Attorney General.
Have You Been Involved In A Domestic Violence Situation?
If you are the victim of domestic violence:
- Get to safety and contact the local authorities immediately.
- If you are injured, seek medical attention. Be sure to document any injuries. (Take photos if possible)
- Find a loved one that can support you and your family during this difficult time.
- Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney for legal advice.
If you have been accused of domestic violence:
- Focus on your safety and de-escalating the situation, remain calm.
- If you have injuries, seek medical attention.
- Avoid answering any questions if possible.
- Call an attorney that is experienced in handling Missouri domestic violence.
If you have been accused of domestic violence in Missouri — Contact our offices immediately for a free consultation.