What is Domestic Violence?

Everyone has heard the term at one point in their life. Or you may be the one experiencing physical abuse or emotional abuse. But you can’t help but wonder if what you are experiencing qualifies as domestic violence. So that we’re clear, what exactly is domestic violence?

Domestic violence or family abuse is when a household or family member commits an act of force, violence, or threat that leads to physical injury or reasonable fear of sexual abuse, bodily injury, or death. These acts can be forceful detention, criminal sexual assault, or stalking.

Physical abuse leaves marks on the skin and deep within, casting shadows on relationships and self-worth. As such, the state of Virginia treats such cases with strictness.

Who is considered a family or household member under Virginia’s domestic violence laws?

Many believe family abuse is a crime against a live-in partner or a spouse. While this is true, the Virginia law extends the definition of abusive relationships to encompass many victims. For instance, it includes:

  • The defendant’s current and former spouse, whether they are living together or not.
  • Parents and stepparents
  • Children and stepchildren
  • Siblings and half-siblings
  • Grandparents and grandchildren

It also includes the following people if they are sharing a residence:

  • An intimate partner, regardless of sexual orientation
  • Children-in-law
  • Parent-in-law
  • Siblings-in-law
  • Anyone who you share a child with

Note: Regardless of the current living setup, any individual who cohabited with the defendant in the past year and any child of the defendant or victim who resides with the victim also qualify under the law.

Is domestic violence a felony or misdemeanor in Virginia?

When you get arrested for family violence in VA, the charge could be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a Class 2 felony, a Class 6 felony, or something more serious. The level of assault determines the seriousness of the charge and if you have a previous conviction for domestic abuse against a family member.

When is domestic violence a misdemeanor?

By default, domestic abuse is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. So, expect to be charged with a misdemeanor if it’s your first arrest for battery and assault. Class 1 misdemeanors also include violating protective orders and stalking.

When is domestic violence a felony?

Domestic abuse is elevated to a felony charge in specific situations. For instance, if the victim sustains a permanent physical injury, it is a Class 2 felony which is considered more serious than attempted murder. On the other hand, intentionally grabbing someone’s neck to restrict respiration or blood flow is a class 6 felony.

Other types of assault that count as class 6 felony charges include:

  • Malicious or unlawful wounding
  • Malicious body injury using an object

Note: committing a third domestic violence offense is also treated as a Class 6 felony.

What are the penalties for domestic violence in Virginia?

A Class 1 misdemeanor carries penalties including:

  • Maximum fines of $2,500
  • A year in jail

For first domestic violence offenses and with a skilled domestic violence lawyer by your side, it’s possible to be convicted and receive community-based probation to avoid spending months in jail.

Class 6 felonies for domestic violence attract a penalty of 5 – 20 years in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000.

Can law enforcement arrest someone for domestic violence without a warrant?

Yes, law enforcement officers can arrest someone for domestic violence without a warrant under specific circumstances.

However, the concept of “probable cause” plays a crucial role in domestic violence arrests without a warrant in Virginia. Probable cause means a law enforcement officer reasonably believes domestic violence has occurred. This belief is based on observable facts and logical conclusions, not just mere suspicion.

For an officer to arrest someone for domestic violence without a warrant in Virginia, they must establish probable cause. Here’s how it typically comes into play:

  • Visible injuries: When officers see noticeable physical injuries on a victim, this can directly lead to a probable cause determination that there is physical violence.
  • Witness statements: Testimonies from individuals who saw the alleged incident can contribute to establishing probable cause.
  • Aggressor’s statements or behavior: Sometimes, the alleged aggressor might make statements or display behaviors that can give rise to probable cause.
  • Immediate aftermath: Signs of a recent physical struggle, broken items, or other physical evidence can also support the establishment of probable cause.

While allowing arrests without warrants in domestic violence cases ensures the immediate safety of potential victims, the requirement of probable cause acts as a safeguard. It ensures that there’s a reasonable ground for the arrest, protecting the rights of individuals from arbitrary detention.

It’s also vital to recognize that while probable cause can justify an arrest, it doesn’t equate to proof of guilt in court. For a conviction, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a much higher standard.

How long does a domestic violence misdemeanor stay on your record?

When you have a permanent mark like this on your record, it can have various implications:

  • Employment opportunities: Potential employers who conduct background checks will see the conviction. It could influence their hiring decision, especially if the job involves trust, childcare, or sensitive information.
  • Housing applications: Landlords and property management companies often run background checks on potential tenants. A domestic violence misdemeanor could make it more challenging to secure housing.
  • Child custody battles: In family court proceedings, especially concerning child custody, a domestic violence record can harm your case.
  • Loan approvals: Some financial institutions might consider your conviction when assessing your trustworthiness for a loan or credit.

Given the long-term impact of such a conviction, it’s essential to approach any domestic violence charge with the seriousness it deserves. Securing qualified legal representation can be crucial in navigating the legal complexities and potentially mitigating the consequences.

Hire legal representation

Domestic violence charges in Virginia demand immediate action. With the trained and skilled team at Battlefield Law Group, PLLC, you’re not just hiring an attorney but gaining a dedicated advocate. Let our expertise be your shield. Contact us now and ensure you’re defended by the best.