Penalties For Domestic Violence in Wisconsin

Laws governing domestic violence are mostly on a state level. This means that the definitions of and penalties for this crime can vary greatly depending on the state you are in. Here’s a quick overview of Wisconsin’s laws in this area:


Defining domestic abuse is not as straightforward as you might think. In some states, the abuser must be a spouse or other family member of the victim, or live in the same home. Some states only consider physical violence, while others use more broad definitions. In Wisconsin, domestic violence can occur between an adult and

  • 1) Another adult member of the same household
  • 2) An adult in the abuser’s care
  • 3) His or her former spouse
  • 4) An adult which he or she is dating or has dated
  • 5) An adult with whom he or she shares a child

Behavior that legally qualifies as violence includes

  • 1) Intentional infliction of injury or illness
  • 2) Intentional infliction of physical impairment
  • 3) Destruction of an individual’s property
  • 4) Threatening to do any of the above

There are both civil and criminal penalties for abusers, depending on how the victim and the police decide to manage the case.

Civil Penalties

The abused party may request a Protection Order from a judge. If this is granted, the abuser will be forbidden to enter the abused person’s home or directly contact them. A protection order by itself is not a conviction. It is not issued by a criminal law. However, if a person violates a protection order that has been placed on them, they have committed a state crime. They will either be prosecuted through the civil system for contempt of court, or through the criminal system for violation of a protection order.

This is not common, but the abused party does have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit against his or her attacker. This is not necessarily an attempt to seek revenge. A survivor of abuse may be facing medical bills or other expenses caused by their abuser and want compensation. Very few survivors go this route, however, as they usually want to cut off contact with their abuser permanently.

Criminal Penalties

Some states do not have a specific law against domestic violent. Instead, abusive partners are charged with assault, battery, sexual assault or other related crimes. In Wisconsin, however, domestic violence is specifically illegal. We are also one of the states that do not require the victim to press charges in order for an abuser to be punished. If police have reason to believe that a person is being physically abused, they must arrest the alleged abuser. A person arrested for domestic violence must not contact their alleged victim for up to 72 hours after the arrest.

For more information about related legal matters, contact Appleton domestic violence defense attorneys Kohler, Hart & Priebe at 414-271-9595.