Tennessee Criminal Defense

What Is the Difference Between a Fight & Domestic Violence?

There are many psychological studies regarding fights between couples or married spouses, and many conclude that the occasional heated argument is actually a good thing. But when you and your significant other are at odds, are you both technically committing domestic violence under Tennessee state laws? As with so many other gray areas of the law, you need to get into the details for the truth.


The crime of assault does not always have to involve physical harm being inflicted upon someone. Instead, it can include just the attempt to harm someone, or exhibiting any behavior that would cause a reasonable person to think that they are going to be hurt soon. When you and your spouse are yelling at each other over who has to take out the trash, does that shouting match amount to enough chest-puffing and aggression to be domestic assault?

It would be difficult to claim an argument is assault, no matter how hot the words got unless there were clear indicators that you wanted to hurt your romantic partner. Making statements like “I could hit you right now” or balling your fist and grinding your teeth, for example, could be interpreted by a reasonable person as your wish to want to hurt them. The same could be said for chucking dishes at the wall or keeping anything that could be interpreted as a weapon in your hand as the argument progresses. To put it simply, body language is crucial and can be seen as evidence of the intent to commit assault.


If you find that you get into heated fights quite often with your other half and are worried it could one day escalate to domestic violence, keep these bits of advice in mind:

  • Consider setting up a rule that you can only have an argument if the two of you are separated by a closed door.
  • Pay attention to your hands during a fight; keep them crossed or in your pockets at all times.
  • Have the two of you remain seated and across the room if necessary.
  • Try to never raise your voice; shouting, even if it is clearly nonaggressive, could worry neighbors and cause them to call the police.
  • If you believe that imminent danger to your wellbeing is present due to the behaviors of your spouse or partner, remove yourself from the situation immediately and get somewhere safe; this could mean stepping outside, driving to a diner alone to cool off, or locking yourself in a separate room and contacting the authorities. Never do anything that jeopardizes your safety or that of others.


You have to be careful with how you conduct yourself during arguments with your loved ones, as they could interpret your actions as menacing or threatening, prompting a call to the police that results in an arrest. Or, as some cases will show, they may falsify their claim and exaggerate the details to see you put in cuffs. No matter what happens, if you are accused of domestic assault, you can depend on a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney at Joshua T. Crain, Attorneys at Law to provide you with honest and tenacious legal representation.

Call (615) 200-9409 now to schedule a free review with our lawyer, who has achieved a 10.0 “Superb” rating by Avvo for skills and ethics.