Virginia Criminal Attorney is a reputable criminal defense law firm that serves clients in Fairfax and Northern Virginia. Our experienced attorneys are experienced in dealing with charges related to domestic violence and can help you in handling such cases.
What is the Legal Definition of Domestic Violence in Virginia?
Domestic violence, also known as family violence, is defined in Virginia under Virginia Code 18.2-57.2 as any act that involves the use of threats, force, or violence directed by an individual to a member of his or her family, thereby resulting in physical injuries.
It may also be described as the abuse of a person, such as a family member, with whom you have a close relationship. Family members are defined under Virginia domestic violence laws as cohabitants (whether present or former), a person whom the defendant has children with and/or a spouse (present or former) regardless of where they live. It also refers to in-laws who reside in the same house with the accused.
In other words, you can face domestic violence charges if the victim is your intimate partner, an older person, a person with a disability who is under your care, your child, or your parent.
Domestic violence mostly occurs when one of the parties takes dominion and control over the other. However, this action does not occur suddenly; it is a gradual behavior that continues for a long time, especially when the victim does not have the power or confidence to walk away from the violent person. The offender then persists with behaviors like manipulating, isolating, blaming, hurting and frightening the victim.
Forms of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence occurs in the following ways:
- Emotional Abuse. When domestic violence takes the form of emotional abuse it is often unrecognized and can be extremely hurtful. A person who emotionally abuses another person can chip away at feelings that ruin the person’s self-worth and independence. An example of this form of violence is when, in a relationship, a person belittles another person by commanding them what to wear, where to go, what to see or think, makes unreasonable demands for their attention, or isolates them from friends and family. Additionally, emotional abuse can occur if you deny that the violence is happening or blame the victim for any argument or violence. The impacts of emotional abuse include low self-confidence and self-esteem, being anxious and even suicide. They are real and long-lasting and the state treats this form of violence seriously.
- Sexual Abuse. Despite the common myth that sexual harassment can only happen to women and children, the truth is that it can happen to anyone despite their age or gender. Sexual abuse occurs when you touch your partner or another person in a way that they are uncomfortable with, pressure them to have sex, make unwanted sexual demands, or even rape them. Virginia treats any offense related to sexual abuse seriously because its results could be dangerous and even unhealthy to the victim. For instance, you may be forced to register as a sex offender if you commit such offenses as raping your spouse and molesting your child.
- Physical Abuse. Physical abuse is the most common or easily recognized form of domestic violence. It occurs when you physically hurt the victim through actions such as burning, hitting, kicking, choking, pushing, and throwing things at them. The impacts of physical abuse could be critical as they may require careful medical attention. Additional, physical abuse is the form of domestic violence that is most likely to lead to or result in death. Consequently, the state of Virginia treats crimes that lead to physical abuse seriously. Such crimes include assault, battery, murder, and violent robbery.
- Economical Abuse. When one is being abused economically, someone else has control over their finances and, therefore, controls what they can or cannot do with their own money. This is a form of domestic violence as one will need to ask for the money that they have earned from someone else. It could also have severe effects on the emotional state of the victim.
- Spiritual Abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs when someone else has control over another person’s religious views or beliefs. Additionally, the person may control the values and beliefs of another person. This effectively denies them the right to do what they believe is right. Such manipulations are attempts to make someone feel powerless and useless.
- Dating Violence. Dating violence is an example of domestic violence that happens in relationships, whether romantic, intimate, or social. Some of the factors that determine the frequency of this type of violence are the partners' frequency of interaction, type of association, and the length of the relationship.
Domestic Violence Laws and Resources
Domestic violence may have severe effects on the person who is experiencing the disorder as well as other people who may be witnessing the incidences but cannot do anything about them. The latter case occurs mainly to children whose parents are involved in domestic violence. The state has laid rules to avoid such cases of domestic violence as well as their impacts on people. The first concern in these laws is victims’ right to seek relief from the trauma in a criminal court as well as a civil court. Additionally, victims have access to different resources such as the federal Violence Against Women Act.
In the year 1994, US Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act that was later supplemented in 1996. The leading role of this act was to create and fund programs that would protect victims of domestic violence. Through this act, there was established a national domestic violence hotline that ensured confidentiality for the victims of the domestic abuse that reported the incidents. Additionally, the act changed the immigration laws by permitting battered spouses and children to apply for permanent residential independence for their abusive spouses.
Through VAWA, the victims of domestic violence are offered protection when they move to another state. This means that if the accused engaged in interstate travel to violate a law of protection or to commit an act of domestic violence, they would be violating the law. VAWA expired in 2011 and was renewed in 2013 and is continuously active.
Furthermore, the state of Virginia relies on several federal government resources for domestic violence victims. These national resources serve all states and include The American Bar Association’s Commission on domestic violence. This is an organization that addresses domestic violence using a legal approach and aims at increasing access to justice to the people who survive different forms of domestic violence.
The Children Welfare League of America is another domestic violence resource. This is a coalition of both public and private agencies that help serve children and families that are at risk. There is also The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. These are advocates for societal changes to help eliminate social and personal violence by offering education, legislation, and policies. Jewish Women International offers similar services by giving programs, philanthropy, and advocacy that protect the rights of women and girls.
The Battered Women Justice Project gives training related to domestic violence, technical assistance, and consultation with those working in the civil and criminal justice system. The US Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women and Family Violence Program is a department that seeks to promote the safety of women among other family member and aims to increase the effectiveness of the response system of criminal justice to domestic violence. This organization achieves this by preparing multimedia and publications, provides training for local and state agencies, and holds events in an attempt to strengthen their campaigns against domestic violence.
Abuse of Power is another advocacy group. This is a privately owned organization that gives information and resources for victims of domestic violence such as a police violence handbook for victims (among other resources). Such means help all the people involved in domestic violence know how to deal with the situation. There is also The Center for Disease Control (CDC). They maintain an intimate partner violence fact sheet that gives data related to domestic violence.
Finally, there is Futures Without Violence. This is a national organization that aims at providing policies, programs, and campaigns that empower people to work towards ending all forms of domestic violence. The organization also provides materials giving information about domestic violence, advocate for better laws for punishing and preventing domestic violence as well as hold events that are expected to educate the public on the protection and identification of the victims of domestic violence.
Who Reports Cases of Domestic Violence?
In as much as different states have different laws and approaches to domestic violence, the country has set general acts and resources for domestic violence to be observed across all states. Consequently, police are expected to arrest one or both of the parties at the scene of the incident and are also supposed to write a justified report if they decide not to arrest someone. These arrests follow reports from the victims or persons mandated to report such cases.
In Virginia, the law (under Virginia Code 63.2-1509) expects certain agencies or persons to report instances of domestic violence, especially child abuse. For instance, doctors that deal with only physical complaints have a mandatory reporting requirement. Other people that are required to report these cases include mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, animal control officers, and probation officers. Other people who are required to report these cases are:
- A regular part-time or full-time caregiver of a child;
- Family service specialist or social worker;
- Adults who have undergone training in recognizing and reporting child neglect and child abuse;
- Administrators or adult employees of a private or public institution, youth recreation program, or youth center;
- A special advocate appointed by the court to report such cases.
Interestingly, regular accredited practitioners of religious organizations are exempted from reporting these cases because these organizations are allowed to keep their information confidential.
Failing to report incidents such as neglect and child abuse within 24 hours is an offense that attracts a maximum fine of 500 dollars. Similar subsequent offenses attract a minimum fine of 1,000 dollars. Additionally, you may be guilty of a class one misdemeanor if you know and fail to report such acts as sodomy, object penetration, and rape.
Domestic violence can have grave consequences if you are guilty of any form of domestic violence or if you are in charge of reporting such cases. For instance, you may face penalties for violating both the mandatory reporting law and domestic violence laws if you sexually abuse or assault your child.
How Domestic Violence Victims’ Rights Are Protected during the Criminal Proceedings
The state recognizes that a domestic violence victim who files a lawsuit is at risk of facing further violence due to the criminal proceedings. Thus, the victims have the following rights to ensure they are protected and served with justice:
- Right to be protected from the accused. After reporting the domestic violence incident to the authorities, the state requires that the victim remains protected from the accused wherever they are. Such protection follows after they apply for a preliminary protective order (PPO) from the court.
- Right to full and timely restitution. Restitution is a monetary compensation that covers the cost incurred by a victim. Such costs include medical bills and destroyed property. The judge determines the exact amount that you should pay to the victim based on the circumstances of the case, and after the victim files a lawsuit seeking restitution.
- Right to be informed. The victim must have access to information on the proceedings of the case and any legal steps taken on the accused. Some of the information includes bail proceedings, trial, sentencing, appeals, probation or parole hearing, and release or escape of the offender.
Penalties for Virginia Domestic Violence Charges
The penalties for domestic violence in Virginia depend on the criminal history of the defendant. For instance, first and second-time conviction results in class one misdemeanor charges whose penalties include up to twelve (12) months in jail and a fine which may amount to 2,500 dollars.
If you commit the same crime for the third or subsequent time within ten years from the second conviction, the offense is treated as a class six felony. This subjects you to a sentence of one to five years in prison. You may also be fined a fine not exceeding 2,500 dollars.
What are the Legal Defenses for Domestic Violence Charges in Virginia?
In as much as cases of domestic violence are reported almost every day, some of the people are accused falsely. If you are falsely accused, you may have serious repercussions in your life. This is an intimidating situation that you can avoid by seeking a skilled attorney. Your attorney can use the below defense strategies to fight your charges.
- Self-defense or defense for others. This defense strategy applies if you had a reasonable feeling or believed that the victim was in danger of being attacked, battered, assaulted, or subjected to any harm by another person. The situation then left you with no option other than to use substantial force to protect the victim or yourself. However, you must show that an action such as calling the police would not have quenched the impending danger. This defense strategy may not work if you have a history of domestic violence convictions. In such cases, the court believes that you abused another person willfully and knowingly, and are liable for the charges.
- False accusations. Most cases of domestic violence stem from malice, hatred, and revenge. Your spouse may accuse you of sexual harassment to merely avenge a previous act that you did to them. Also, they may accuse you of abusing your child so that he/she can get child custody, financial benefits, or even control over the marital property. These are common issues that your attorney analyzes and ensure that you are not a victim of baseless accusations.
- The injury resulted from an accident. Any visible injury is not necessarily an immediate sign of physical abuse; in some cases, such injuries may be accidental such as from road accidents and other natural hazards. If you firmly believe that the plaintiff’s injury is not a sign of domestic violence, your attorney can use this to get your charges dropped. However, you need to back up this allegation with a report on the plaintiff’s medical history or have a witness to confirm that you never abused the complainant.
Can I Get a Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me?
Domestic violence is a broad offense that incorporates other crimes such as sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect, battery, and assault. Because of the broadness of this offense, you may find yourself facing penalties for simple accusations that you might not have committed. Consider finding an attorney experienced in defending domestic violence charges. Across Fairfax and Northern Virginia, Virginia Criminal Attorney is reputable in providing these criminal defense services. You can contact our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer at 703-718-5533 for consultation and evaluation of your case.