The federal Domestic Violence Prevention Act defines “domestic violence” as a non-self defense act that:
- Causes or attempts to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member
- Places a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm
- Causes or attempting to cause a family or household member to engage in involuntary sexual
activity by force, or duress
- Is taken toward a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested.
Domestic violence also is viewed as a learned pattern of physical, verbal, sexual and/or emotional behaviors in which one person in a relationship uses force and intimidation to dominate or control the other person.
What is the definition of "family" or "household member?"
Missouri law defines domestic violence as an action(s) that occurs between the following:
- Former spouses
- Adults related by blood or marriage
- Adults who are residing together or have resided together in the recent past
- Adults who are or have been in a continuing social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature - includes people married or unmarried, heterosexual, gay or lesbian, living together, separated or dating
- Adults who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have resided together at any time.
What types of actions are "domestic violence?"
Domestic violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while.
Examples of a domestic violence assault include:
- Threatening with a weapon
Examples of acts of domestic violence include:
- Emotional abuse – mind games, name-calling, put-downs, belittling comments
- Jealously – signs of possessiveness and lack of trust
- Threats of physical harm to a victim’s family members or friends
- Forced isolation from family or friends – controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees or talks to, where the victim goes, relocating to a remote area, etc.
- Economic abuse – preventing the victim from getting or holding a job, controlling the victim’s access to money, taking the victim’s earned money, giving a victim an allowance, making a victim ask for money
Does the City have specific ordinances that cover domestic violence incidents?
The City does not have a specific domestic violence assault ordinance. Rather, the City has two general ordinances that cover all assaults including those of a domestic violence nature. Those ordinances are set forth as follows:
Section 50-168. Bodily Injury – Attempting
“No person shall, by an intentionally, overt act, attempt to unlawfully inflict a bodily injury or attempt to cause an unlawful, offensive contact upon the person of another.”
For example: Defendant swings a punch at victim but misses. The Defendant may be charged with attempting to cause bodily injury or an offensive contact upon the victim.
Section 50-169. Same – Inflicting.
“No person shall, by an intentional, overt act, unlawfully inflict bodily injury or cause an unlawful, offensive contact upon the person of another.”
For example: Defendant swings and hits victim in the face with defendant’s fist. The Defendant may be charged with assaulting victim.
Sec. 50-47. Violation of an Order of Protection
It shall be unlawful for any person to violate the terms or conditions of a full order of protection entered by a court of the State of Missouri or by any other state, tribe, territory or possession of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia.
For example: Defendant calls the victim. The defendant may be charged with violation of an order of protection.
Cases that are identified at the scene of the incident as domestic violence by the reporting police officer are scheduled in Domestic Violence Court, Courtroom E at 9 a.m. Cases that are not initially identified as domestic violence at the scene but are later determined to be domestic violence may be transferred from the original courtroom to Domestic Violence Court.
Is property damage considered a domestic violence incident?
Yes. Section 50-121(c)(1) of the City’s ordinance make it unlawful for a person to knowingly damage property of another. A family or household member that destroys the property of another within the family or household may be prosecuted in Domestic Violence Court even if the property is owned by both parties.
Is continued harassment considered domestic violence?
Yes. If the parties to the incident are family or household members, an incident may be prosecuted in Domestic Violence Court.
What types of actions are considered harassment?
Section 50-159 of the City’s ordinances defines harassment as:
any action taken by one party for the purpose of frightening, intimidating, causing substantial emotional distress or disturbing another person
any action taken with the result of frightening, intimidating, causing substantial emotional distress or disturbing another person
The term “action” includes:
- Communicating in person, by telephone, in writing, by fax machine, by e-mail and by other electronic communications device a threat that would place that other person in reasonable fear of death, physical injury or financial harm or reasonable fear of the same to a family member or acquaintance
- Making a telephone call(s), or communicating in person, in writing, by fax machine, by e-mail or by other electronic communications device, and using profane language for the purposes stated above
- Making anonymous calls or making calls using a fake name, or sending a written or electronic communication anonymously or by using a fake name for the purposes stated above
- Making repeated telephone calls or sending repetitive written messages to another for the purposes stated above.
Under the City’s ordinance it also is unlawful:
- For a third party to permit a defendant to use the third person’s phone, fax machine, or other electronic communication device to harass a victim
- For a defendant to leave a message, send a fax, post an e-mail, etc., for the purposes stated above.
Does the City have a stalking ordinance?
Yes. Section 50-9 makes it unlawful for a person to stalk another person.
The term stalking is defined as "purposely and repeatedly harass or follow with the intent of harassing another person."
As used in this ordinance "harass" means "engaging in a knowing course of conduct directed at a specific person that serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person."
For purposes of this ordinance there must be a course of conduct "a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose."
Does the City have a witness intimidation ordinance?
Yes. Under Section 50-173 it is unlawful for any person with a pending City ordinance violation to contact a victim/witness "for the purpose of threatening, coercing, intimidating or otherwise discouraging" a victim/witness from appearing in court to testify on behalf of the City. If contacted, make a police report!
Does the City have a violation of a Protection Order Ordinance?
Yes. Under Section 50-47 it is unlawful to violate the terms of a full order of protection.