Tennessee considering mandatory 12-hour holding period after domestic violence arrests

Tens of thousands of arrests for domestic abuse occur in Tennessee annually. Domestic violence allegations are devastating to a family. For victims of domestic violence, safety is paramount. For people accused of domestic violence, the ramifications include jail time and a host of other potential punishments, including the potential inability to see children.

While Tennessee already takes domestic violence allegations seriously, a number of state legislators are looking to expand on the law to include a mandatory holding period of 12 hours for anyone arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. This mandatory "cooling off" period is on the table because recently a domestic violence suspect was released after three hours and is accused of immediately returning to his girlfriend and assaulting her once again.

When the man was arrested on charges of domestic violence, a night court commissioner ordered him held for 12 hours, which is only required in Tennessee if the accused is determined to be a continued threat to the victim. However, if a judge determines that person is no longer a threat, the suspect may obtain an early release. In this case, a judge released the suspected abuser after three hours in jail after speaking to the man's attorney.

The 12-hour rule is in place in order to allow victims of domestic abuse the chance to get to a safe place. However, one report found that in some Tennessee cities suspects are held for 12 hours in less than half of domestic abuse arrests.

Now, two Republican State Senators have introduced legislation that would not allow a judge the option of granting an early release. Rep. Sherry Jones, also a Nashville Democrat, said it would be lawmakers' "first priority when they get back in session."

The proposed legislation is not without its critics. False accusations of domestic violence are not unheard of, especially in instances when there is a contentious divorce or custody battle taking place. A law requiring a mandatory 12 hour imprisonment could lead to unnecessary jail time for some.

Criminal defense

The immediate effects of an arrest for domestic violence are serious. However, in addition to criminal charges, a person arrested on suspicion of domestic violence can face ramifications in family law disputes and even from an employer. In Tennessee, employers can require an applicant to disclose charges of domestic violence. Many housing authorities also require disclosure of past domestic violence charges.

People faced with domestic assault or other domestic abuse charges should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss their legal options and to defend their rights in court. With so much at stake, people accused cannot afford to not have the best representation possible when fighting such charges.