You get in an argument with your spouse or significant other. Tempers flare, and the next thing you know, you are facing charges of domestic violence.

Legally referred to as family violence in Georgia, charges can lead to fines, jail time and the loss of parental rights or gun ownership rights. So, you should be aware of situations that can lead to these charges and who has the power to drop the charges.

What offenses can lead to a family violence charge?

In Georgia, domestic violence laws protect against physical, sexual and emotional abuse among family members. The law, called the Family Violence Act, includes violence between family members or unmarried partners and any other people living or formerly living in the same household.

Most people think of domestic violence victims being injured and showing physical evidence of their abuse, typically meaning the abuser committed battery or simple battery. But police can arrest you for family violence for assault and simple assault, which includes an attempt to violently injure someone or put them in a situation where they can be injured. It is not necessary to physically touch the victim to commit simple assault; words can be enough.

Police also can arrest you for family violence if they determine you have committed the following offenses:

  • Stalking
  • Criminal damage to property
  • Unlawful restraint
  • Criminal trespass

They cannot, however, arrest you for “reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint or detention.”

Who files charges of domestic violence?

If you find yourself facing charges of domestic violence, it is important to know that the power to press charges isn’t dependent on the alleged victim.

It might not even be the victim who called the police; a neighbor or another family member may have done so. The police determine if there is enough evidence for a family violence charge, and then the state will determine if it will move forward with the charges or drop them.

So even if the alleged victim later wants the charges dropped or recants their statements to police and investigators, the state can decide to continue with the case using other evidence.

While you might feel the charges are the result of a big misunderstanding, the state may see it another way. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to seek help from an attorney.