The Fox 17 Nashville and YWCA have reported a drastic uptick in domestic violence cases in Nashville since the outbreak of COVID-19 and Mayor John Cooper’s “Safer at Home” ordinance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“As victims of domestic violence and their children become increasingly isolated due to COVID-19 precautions, it creates increased opportunities for abusers to dominate every aspect of that victim’s life," a Metro Office of Family Safety spokeswoman on Fox 17 Nashville said. Notably, there has been an increase in women being prosecuted for such domestic violence assault charges.
NBC News reported that the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s call volume has peaked. During the second half of March, 1,765 hotline callers reported that their abusive partner was leveraging COVID-19 to “further isolate, coerce, or increase fear in the relationship,” according to Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
As a forewarning, the penalties for domestic assault in Tennessee are the same as those for general assault crimes.
Assault is a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail or a fine up to $2500, or both. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine up to $500, or both.
Aggravated assault is a Class C or Class D felony depending on the circumstances – for instance, whether the assault was intentional or reckless. A Class C felony is punishable by 3 to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. A D felony is punishable by 2 to 12 years in prison and a fine up to $5000.
Moreover, the offender will lose his/ her right to carry a firearm permanently, including hunting rifles, and will be required to pay a special fine that is used to fund family violence shelters and shelter programs. Also, the sentencing judge will direct the offender to complete a batterer’s intervention program, and possibly a drug or alcohol treatment program, and/or a counseling program that addresses violence and control issues. In addition, a domestic assault conviction will make it increasingly difficult to find employment or apartment housing.
Under Tenn. Code Ann. 40-35-313 domestic assault charges are eligible for diversion. A Conditional Guilty Plea under T.C.A. 40-35-313, referred to as Judicial Diversion, places the defendant on probation but includes no jail time. This applies to defendants who do not have any prior convictions on their record. Under judicial diversion, the domestic assault can be expunged from your record after successful completion of probation and any other conditions of probation.
Please be mindful and safe during these difficult times.
 See Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-111 for more information.