Divorce and marital discord are extremely difficult situations to deal with, and there are times when fights escalate beyond the typical confines of an argument or disagreement. If you are facing a recent domestic violence charge, an attorney can meet with you in a non-judgmental way to discuss your situation. Charges related to domestic violence are quite serious and can remain on your record permanently, affecting your ability to get a job or apply for school.
Domestic Violence Laws in Virginia
Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-57.2, domestic violence is defined as assault or battery against any family or household member. The term “family or household member” includes any of the following individuals:
- Spouse, whether or not he or she lives in the same house with the alleged abuser.
- Former spouse, whether or not he or she lives in the same house with the alleged abuser.
- Parents, step-parents, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren.
- Children and step-children.
- Alleged abuser’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law (must reside in the same home).
- Any individual who has a child in common with the alleged abuser.
- Any person that cohabits with the alleged abuser or cohabited in the previous 12 months.
Domestic violence charges often arise in a family dispute. Sometimes such allegations are brought simply out of spite and are ill-founded; other times this is not the case at all. Regardless, domestic violence may be considered a crime and carries serious criminal penalties. As a result, if you are wrongly accused of the crime, you will want to work with an attorney to work on your defense.
Common Charges Include:
- Assault. This generally involves being accused of physically striking another family member or threatening to do so.
- Child Abuse. When the alleged victim is a minor, you may be charged with child abuse. This crime can carry especially serious criminal penalties, and you will want to work with an attorney.
- Disorderly Conduct. During the course of an argument, things may get out of hand. Disorderly conduct can include shouting and making a scene, but usually falls short of assault.
- Restraining Order Violation. If there is a history of abuse, there may already be a restraining order taken out. In this case, further contact may result in a violation of such order.
- Stalking. This can include a range of behavior such as following and harassing another.
Your attorney will work diligently to achieve the lowest possible penalty for your case, which will be classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. This charge carries a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months and a possible fine of up to $2,500. However, if you have received at least two other convictions of domestic violence or malicious wounding, your third charge could result in the conviction of a Class 6 felony, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 5 years and a maximum fine of $2,500.
How an Attorney Can Help
Family law is a very contentious area and domestic violence allegations can be especially stressful. An experienced attorney will know how to separate the fact from the fiction and help prepare your defense. Prosecutors pursue alleged perpetrators of domestic violence aggressively and an attorney will know how to represent your rights and ensure that you have someone on your side. A lawyer is familiar with the local courts and assist you throughout the criminal justice process.