Criminal Law

There are a variety of statutes in Kentucky that 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. Elements of these crimes can be found in various provisions of the Kentucky penal code, contained in Title L of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (scroll down to Title L Penal Code).

However, there are some statutes that specifically address domestic violence crimes. The first of these concerns violation of an order of protection. Click HERE and HERE. Violation of an Emergency Protective Order, a long-term Domestic Violence Order, a Temporary Interpersonal Protective Order, a long-term Interpersonal Protective 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; however, there is a mandatory arrest statute upon probable cause for a violation of any of the above orders of protection

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

Kentucky law authorizes the presence of a victim advocate at all court proceedings, including all phases of a criminal prosecution. KCADV member programs throughout the state can provide advocates to accompany victims to court during the prosecution of the abuser. Most Commonwealth Attorney’s offices and many County Attorney offices also have victim advocates on staff. Victims should be aware, however, 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 violenceAdditionally, evidence of past domestic violence can be used to justify the use of deadly force under Kentucky law

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.

Individuals who are in need of notifications about a criminal defendant’s pending court case can register at VINE Court Services for updates. Individuals who are in need of notifications regarding a criminal defendant’s custodial status (if they are incarcerated – this provides notice of release from custody and facility transfers) either pre- or post- trial/conviction can register at VINELink