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Domestic Violence

According to information provided by Iowa Legal Aid on Domestic Abuse, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives.  Even more staggering is the fact that over 6,300 reports of domestic violence were made in 2009 alone.  These statistics are shocking to most people.  Domestic assault is a very serious charge and carries extremely serious penalties.  If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse or has been charged with domestic assault in Iowa, it is important to seek competent legal advice and representation as soon as possible.

Domestic Abuse in the Iowa Code

Iowa Code 708.2A address domestic abuse.  It is defined as “a harmful touching or doing something that puts another in immediate physical fear such as pointing a weapon at that person.”  In order to be categorized as a domestic assault as opposed to regular assault, the assault must occur between people where one of the following relationships exist:

  • Family or household members living together at the time of the assault;
  • Married persons, including juveniles who are married;
  • Separated spouses or persons divorced from each other, including juveniles who are or were married;
  • Juveniles and adult biological parents of the same minor child regardless of whether they have ever lived together;
  • Unmarried persons who are co-habitating – co-habitation does not require a sexual relationship but does require something more than merely residing together; or
  • Persons who have lived together within the past year but were not living together at the time of the assault.
  • Persons involved in a dating relationship are not covered under Iowa’s criminal domestic abuse law.  However, if a person in a dating relationship assaults his or her intimate partner and is found guilty, the judge can order that person to attend the Batterers Education Program.

Police Response to Domestic Abuse

HandcuffsIf a report of domestic violence has been made to police, the police have a duty to protect the victim of the abuse.  When a report has been made and there is probable cause to believe that a domestic assault has occurred, in Iowa, a police officer MUST arrest someone if:

  •  The assault resulted in bodily injury to a victim, or
  • The assault was committed by someone intended to seriously injure the victim, or
  • A dangerous weapon was used or displayed in connection with the assault, or
  • The abuser is in violation of an order issued under the domestic abuse statute, a divorce action, or a criminal action.

The police MAY arrest if the officer investigates and has probable cause to believe that domestic assault was committed, although no injury resulted to the victim.

Help for Victims

There are numerous legal actions and resources to aid victims of domestic abuse in Iowa.  Chapter 236 of the Iowa Code, Iowa’s Domestic Abuse Act, protective orders and various anti-domestic violence organizations have been created to assist victims.  Look for more information on these tools in future Iowa Criminal Law Bulletin entries.