Domestic Violence Laws in Georgia
What is domestic violence? Georgia state law defines it as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse among family members. This last term, family members, refers to persons who are living or have lived in the same household, including:
- Current or former spouses (legally married)
- Current or former intimate partners (not legally married)
- People who are parents of the same child
- Parents and children
- Step-parents and step-children
- Foster-parents and foster-children
- Other persons living in the household (currently or in the past)
The bonds between family members do not automatically end when one member moves out of the house, which is why ex-spouses are still considered to be family members in Georgia, even if they are no longer living at the same address.
A common depiction of domestic violence in the media is a wife with a black eye who tells everyone she injured herself when she pulled open a cabinet door too fast. We seldom see men who have experienced this kind of abuse, even though it doesn’t discriminate in real life. At its core, domestic abuse occurs when one family member attempts to overpower or control another family member. Physical assault is just one of several abusive behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, coerce, humiliate, or harm another person.
Georgia law understands that family violence can involve the following abusive behaviors:
- Physical abuse: Assault, battery, unlawful restraint, or other bodily harm; Georgia law does not consider reasonable corporal punishment of a child to be physical abuse
- Sexual abuse: Sexual assault or rape; forcible or non-consensual sex is a criminal act, even if the parties are in an intimate relationship
- Emotional abuse: Pattern of behavior intended to cause emotional distress or fear; includes stalking, harassment, and making threats
- Psychological abuse: Pattern of behavior intended to cause psychological distress or imbalance
- Financial abuse: Manipulation of household finances as a means to control another family member
When police get a call about a domestic violence incident, the incident reported usually involves physical abuse. Responding officers understand they will probably be walking into a volatile situation that may still be in progress, and to minimize risks, they will follow a very clear protocol for handling the situation:
- Separate the parties and any witnesses
- Take care of any injured parties
- Interview the parties and witnesses separately
- Determine whether there is probable cause that domestic violence occurred
- If yes, arrest the aggressor and remove this person from the premises
The clients who come to Michael Fulcher facing domestic assault charges are often shocked that they ended up in the back of a police car—the last place they ever expected to be—but Georgia police don’t have the discretion to act differently. If there is probable cause, the aggressive party will be arrested, even if the other party has not pressed charges or tells the police there is no problem. If a weapon has been involved in the altercation, there could be much harsher consequences. If the aggressor violated a protective order, there could be much harsher consequences.
So many variables! This is why it’s so important to secure the services of an experienced domestic violence attorney in Morgan County like Michael Fulcher Law. Years of practice in Morgan County have given them an in-depth knowledge of how the system—including the courts and the police department—responds to domestic violence accusations. Their goal in these cases is to find solutions that work in the best interest of their clients and their clients’ families.
Examples of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence takes many forms that can include:
- Simple assault: Attempted violent injury
- Aggravated assault: Attempted violent injury (murder, rape, robbery) with the aid of a weapon
- Simple battery: Physical contact with intent to insult or provoke
- Battery: Intentionally causing someone visible physical harm
- Stalking: Following, surveilling, harassing, or contacting someone against their wishes with the intention of intimidating or harassing that person. Here is an example:
A few weeks after breaking up with the woman he’d been living with for 4 years, the man starts receiving text messages from her. First, these are brief and friendly—“How’s your day going?” “Are you asleep yet? I’m not!”—but then he starts getting 10 a day, then 20. She also messages him on Facebook, commenting on all his posts. “Wow, looks like you and Nick and Chloe had a fun time together the other night.” Finally, he unfriends her and asks her to please stop texting.
The relationship is over. He blocks her number but starts getting phone calls in the middle of the night from an untraceable number and notices her car parked across the street from the building where he lives. He changes his number, but then she starts making bogus appointments with his secretary at work. Around that time, he starts noticing things out of place in his apartment—books shelved upside-down, one of his favorite sneakers hidden in the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper, a pint of Haagen Das mint chocolate melted in the vegetable bin. He had asked for his keys when she moved out but had she made an extra set? Was she sneaking into his apartment when he was at work?
When he finally calls to confront her, she admits it, and then tells him that if he doesn’t take her back, he will regret it. He calls a locksmith as soon as he hangs up, but isn’t sure what else to do. The stress of worrying about what she might do next has affected his sleeping and work performance. Some friends advise him to call the police and make a domestic violence stalking complaint.
On the surface, it may be difficult to see why sitting in a car outside an ex’s new apartment and sending them texts could be considered domestic violence. But it is part of a larger pattern of abusive behavior.
- Child abuse: Physical abuse involving bodily injury; sexual abuse involving sexual assault, rape, or inappropriate physical contact; exploiting the child for sexual purposes
- Unlawful restraint: Barring someone from leaving their house, including the use of physical restraints and false imprisonment
- Criminal Trespass: Violation of family violence protective order