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Domestic Violence Terms and Definitions

In order for an alleged offender to be convicted of domestic violence under Ohio Revised Code § 2919.25, a prosecutor must prove that an alleged offender:

  • Knowingly caused or attempted to cause physical harm to a family or household member;
  • Recklessly caused serious physical harm to a family or household member; or
  • By threat of force, knowingly caused a family or household member to believe that the alleged offender would cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.

Several words and phrases in this statute have very specific definitions that need to be satisfied in order for an alleged offender to be found guilty of this crime. It is important to understand the key differences that exist with regards to some of the interpretations of the terms in Ohio’s domestic violence statute.

Lawyer for Domestic Violence Crimes in Cincinnati, OH

Were you recently arrested in Hamilton County for an alleged domestic violence violation? You should not say anything to authorities until you have first contacted Joslyn Law Firm.

Brian Joslyn is a skilled criminal defense attorney in Cincinnati who represents clients all over southwest Ohio, including Montgomery, Reading, Springfield, Symmes, Blue Ash, Colerain, Forest Park, Miami, and several other surrounding communities. Call (513) 399-6289 today to take advantage of a free initial consultation that will let our lawyers review your case and answer all of your legal questions.


Overview of Domestic Violence Terms and Definitions in Ohio


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Family or Household Members in Hamilton County Domestic Violence Cases

Crimes of domestic violence specifically involve alleged victims who are related to the alleged offenders as family or household members. Ohio Revised Code § 2919.25(F)(1) defines a family or household member as the natural parent of any child of whom the alleged offender is the other natural parent or is the putative other natural parent, or any of the following who is residing or has resided with the alleged offender:

  • A spouse, a person living as a spouse, or a former spouse of the alleged offender;
  • A parent, a foster parent, or a child of the offender, or another person related by consanguinity or affinity to the alleged offender; or
  • A parent or a child of a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the alleged offender, or another person related by consanguinity or affinity to a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the alleged offender.

A person living as a spouse is defined as “a person who is living or has lived with the offender in a common law marital relationship, who otherwise is cohabiting with the offender, or who otherwise has cohabited with the offender within five years prior to the date of the alleged commission of the act in question.”


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Degrees of Physical Harm in Cincinnati Domestic Violence Cases

The three divisions of Ohio’s domestic violence statute respectively involve physical harm, serious physical harm, and imminent physical harm. What is the difference between these three variations?

  • Physical Harm — Ohio Revised Code § 2901.01(A)(3) defines physical harm to persons as “any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.” 
  • Serious Physical Harm — Ohio Revised Code § 2901.01(A)(5) defines serious physical harm to persons as any mental illness or condition of such gravity as would normally require hospitalization or prolonged psychiatric treatment; any physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death; any physical harm that involves some permanent incapacity, whether partial or total, or that involves some temporary, substantial incapacity; any physical harm that involves some permanent disfigurement or that involves some temporary, serious disfigurement; or any physical harm that involves acute pain of such duration as to result in substantial suffering or that involves any degree of prolonged or intractable pain. For the purposes of Ohio Revised Code § 2919.25(B), it is also important to note that Ohio Revised Code § 2901.22(B) establishes that an alleged offender “acts recklessly when, with heedless indifference to the consequences, the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person's conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature.”
  • Imminent Physical Harm — In State v. Collie, the First District Court of Appeals quoted the Webster's Second International Dictionary definition of imminent as "threatening to occur immediately" in its analysis of Ohio Revised Code § 2901.22(C). The Tenth Appellate District applied Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary definition of “about to occur at any moment."

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Ohio Resources for Domestic Violence Terms and Definitions

State v. Collie — Randy Collie came home drunk at 5:00 a.m. and said to his wife, "If I had a gun, I would shoot you." His wife left the house and went to the police, after which two officers entered the Collie house and arrested Collie when he was “verbally abusive to the officers.” Collie was convicted of domestic violence and sentenced to 180 days in jail and fined $1,000. On May 29, 1996, the First District Court of Appeals concluded that Collie’s statement constituted a conditional threat rather than an imminent threat and reversed the judgment of the trial court. In its opinion, the court noted:

Collie was charged with a violation of R.C. 2919.25(C), which provides that "[n]o person, by threat of force, shall knowingly cause a family or household member to believe that the offender will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member." Unlike the menacing laws, this provision of the domestic violence statute contains the element of "imminence." "Imminent" means "threatening to occur immediately." Webster's Second International Dictionary (1959) 1245.

The state chose to charge Collie under the domestic violence statute rather than under one of the menacing statutes. While there are very sound reasons for this, since a prior conviction for domestic violence will enhance the penalty on the next offense, the state must prove all the elements of the offense charged. Sections of the code defining offenses must be strictly construed against the state. R.C. 2901.04(A).

On review of the denial of a motion under Crim.R. 29(A), the appellate court construes the evidence in a light most favorable to the state. An entry of acquittal is improper "if the evidence is such that reasonable minds can reach different conclusions as to whether each material element of a crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Bridgeman (1978), 55 Ohio St.2d 261, 9 O.O.3d 401, 381 N.E.2d 184, syllabus.

Under the facts of this case, while Collie could well have been convicted of one of the menacing offenses, the state has failed to prove an essential element of the domestic violence statute with which he was charged, namely the belief of a family member that the offender will cause imminent physical harm. R.C. 2919.25(C). Nevertheless, because of our recognition of the unique nature of domestic violence cases, and our concern for the victims thereof, we today announce a test which the state shall be permitted to use in the future in cases 584*584 brought under R.C. 2919.25(C). We hold that in order to prove the element of the belief of a family member that the offender will cause imminent physical harm, evidence of "other acts" against the same victim will be admissible with appropriate safeguards as herein set forth.

State v. Diroll — Thomas A. Diroll, II, and Katrina Smith had a relationship in which they lived together for a brief time in 2003, with the relationship producing one child. On August 20, 2006, Smith was having a birthday party for her son—unrelated to Diroll—when Diroll left a voicemail message indicating he wanted some of his belongings back. Smith returned Diroll's call after the party, and the two mutually argued during a 16-minute conversation. During the conversation, Diroll told Smith "[i]f [she] would try and contact his oldest daughter again, that he would kick [her] ass." On August 21, 2006, a complaint was filed against Diroll, charging him with a fourth-degree misdemeanor domestic violence violation of R.C. 2919.25(C). Diroll was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, but the Eleventh District Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court because numerous factors—including the fact that Smith called Diroll again after their conversation to tell him to come pick up his belongings—demonstrated that Smith was never in danger of imminent physical harm.


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Joslyn Law Firm | Cincinnati Domestic Violence Lawyer

If you believe that you are under investigation or you were arrested for an alleged crime of domestic violence, it will be in your best interest to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Joslyn Law Firm aggressively defends clients in Harrison, Miamitown, Norwood, Springdale, Sycamore, Anderson, Bridgetown, Delhi, Green, and many nearby areas of southwest Ohio.

Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Brian Joslyn understands the most effective ways to challenge criminal charges under Ohio’s statutory definitions. You can have the lawyers of Joslyn Law Firm provide a full evaluation of your case as soon as you call (513) 399-6289 or complete an online contact form to set up a free, confidential consultation.


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