criminal laws


There are a variety of statutes in Kentucky which may be invoked when an act of domestic violence occurs, such as assault, felony assault, terroristic threatening, menacing, wanton endangerment, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, and manslaughter/murder. The elements of these crimes can be found in the various provisions of the Kentucky penal code, contained in chapter 500 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes. See http://www.lrc.ky.gov/krs/titles.htm

However, there are some statutes which specifically address domestic violence crimes. The first of these is KRS 403.763, violation of a protective order. See http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/403-00/763.PDF. Violation of either an Emergency Protective Order, a long term Domestic Violence Order, or a foreign protective order (one issued in another state, territory or tribal land) is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500.00 fine and 12 months in jail. Kentucky does not have a mandatory arrest law for the initial act of domestic violence; there is however a mandatory arrest statute upon probable cause for a violation of an order. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/403-00/760.PDF; http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/403-00/7529.PDF

Kentucky law also provides for enhancement of an assault from a misdemeanor to a felony if it is the third conviction within three years by the same defendant upon a family member or member of an unmarried couple as defined in the protective order statutes. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/508-00/032.PDF

Kentucky law authorizes the presence of a victim’s advocate at all court proceedings, including all phases of a criminal prosecution. KDVA member programs throughout the state can provide advocates to accompany victims to court during the prosecution of the abuser. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/421-00/575.PDF Most Commonwealth Attorney’s offices and many County Attorney offices also have victim’s advocates on staff. However, victims should be aware that these advocates work for the prosecutor and not necessarily on behalf of the victim themselves. Shelter based advocates are trained to provide support to victims whereas prosecutor based advocates are there mainly to assist the prosecutor in moving the case along.

Unfortunately, simply being a victim of abuse may lead the victim themselves to be incarcerated, sometimes for a serious assault upon or homicide of the abuser. The Kentucky legislature has recognized that in such cases the history of abuse should be a mitigating factor in either the presentation of a ‘non-traditional’ self defense case or, after conviction, in the victim of abuse’s parole eligibility. A specific exemption from the Kentucky ‘violent offender’ statute, which effects parole eligibility for certain serious violent crimes, had been enacted for victims of domestic violence.
http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/439-00/3401.PDF Additionally, evidence of past domestic violence can be used to justify the use of deadly force under Kentucky law. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/503-00/050.PDF

As a final note, there is no ‘mandatory prosecution’ law, or ‘no-drop policy’ law, in Kentucky. However, each prosecutor has the discretion to either prosecute or dismiss a case as they deem appropriate. Therefore, victims should be aware that, in a criminal prosecution, they are the prosecuting witness only; they do not necessarily have control over what happens to the case. If there are safety concerns for the victim because of a prosecution, it may be advisable to do special safety planning with an advocate, including possibly bringing these concerns to the attention of the prosecutor.

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