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Domestic Violence Conviction Vacated Where Court Found No “Physical Harm”

domestic violence ohio physical violence

Ohio’s Domestic Violence Statute

Ohio’s domestic violence statute is found in R.C. 2919.25(A).

That section states that no person shall “knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family member or household member.”

What Constitutes “Physical Harm” Under the Domestic Violence Law?

There is no requirement under R.C. 2919.25(A) that “physical harm” be of any certain duration or severity.  There is no scale of harm or injury. 

In fact, an offender does not even have to cause injury to his victim to be guilty of domestic violence.  Any attempt to cause harm and any harm is sufficient.  State v. Blonski, 125 Ohio App.3d 103, 114, 707 N.E.2d 1168 (9th Dist.1997). 

Defendant’s Conviction Reversed Finding No “Physical Harm” Where He Pulled the Victim’s Weave in Response to Her Grabbing His Injured Hand 

The issue of what constitutes “physical harm” under the Ohio domestic violence statute came up recently in State v. Davis, 2016-Ohio-694.

Here, the victim (girlfriend) and defendant had a nine-year “on and off” relationship and had four children together.  On the morning of the incident, the girlfriend barred the defendant from the house they shared.

He came back later in the day to get his clothes and ID.  They began arguing as he wanted to stay.  The girlfriend / victim grabbed the defendant’s right hand — a hand that had recently been injured.  Reacting, he “yank[ed]” her weave to get her to stop grabbing his injured hand.  The victim wore a hair weave and when he pulled it, it broke her hair loose and loosened the tracks.  She pulled the weave out the rest of the way herself and threw it in the driveway.

She called 911.  Police arrived, saw the victim’s “wig” on the driveway and did not see any injuries on the victim.  The victim did not complain of any injury other than pulling her hair.  Moreover, during the 911 call, the victim made multiple false statements, such as the claim that the defendant had a gun and had fired shots in the house (which was untrue).

The trial court found him guilty of domestic violence.  On appeal, the court found that the victim was not credible (she admitted to have given false testimony before and lied on the 911 tape), and admitted that she pulled her own extensions out.  Moreover, his incidental pulling on her weave was merely a reaction to her grabbing his injured hand.

As a result, the court found no physical harm and vacated the domestic violence conviction. 

Disagreeing with the majority opinion, the dissent points out the “any injury will suffice” language cited above.  This case may be an outlier given that the victim was discredited and the facts were unique, but it does chip away a bit at the idea that even the slightest minor injury can form the basis for a serious life-long domestic violence conviction. 

If you are facing a domestic violence charge in the Columbus and have questions about your case, talk to one of our attorneys at (614) 361-2804.