When you are charged with domestic violence in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it can seem as though your whole world is suddenly crashing down. As if the domestic violence incident and the circumstances surrounding it aren’t dire enough, the penalties associated with a domestic violence conviction could result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction on your permanent record, along with fines, jail time, probation, restraining orders or all of the above. Such a conviction, particularly if it’s classified as a felony, could make current and future employment, as well as obtaining a loan or housing, extremely difficult.
The reality is that domestic violence charges can often be overcharged or even completely fabricated. Even if the case is valid and warranted, hiring a Virginia domestic violence lawyer can assist you in reducing the associated penalties that come with conviction. An experienced Virginia domestic violence criminal attorney will look at each individual aspect of your case and rely on all allowable legal resources in order to create a case that protects your rights and fights for the maintenance of your innocence.
- Defining Domestic Violence in Virginia
- Penalties for Domestic Violence in Virginia
- Protective Orders
- Spousal Abuse
- Child Abuse
- Building a Defense
Defining Domestic Violence in Virginia
In Virginia, domestic violence charges are governed by similar laws to those that govern assault and battery charges. The state code covering domestic violence cases in particular is § 18.2-57.2. Assault and battery are defined by Virginia common law, with assault being defined as the attempt to make offensive or harmful contact, and battery being defined as the actual contact itself. In Virginia, you can be charged with assault even if that assault does not result in battery. This forms something of a legal gray area for courts, and serves as the perfect opportunity for a skilled Virginia domestic assault lawyer to defend your case.
Domestic violence is defined as assault and battery against a member of your family or household. The definition of a “family or household member” is covered by state code § 16.1-228, and can refer to:
- An individual’s spouse, regardless of whether the two individuals live in the same residence
- An individual’s former spouse, also regardless of living arrangements
- An individual’s parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, sisters, half-sisters, brothers, half-brothers, grandchildren and grandparents, also regardless of living arrangements
- An individual’s father-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law, sister-in-law or brother-in-law, so long as the individuals live in the same residency
- The mother or father of the individual’s child, regardless of living arrangements
- Any person who is living with the individual or has lived with the individual within the past 12 months
- Any child of the individual, the individual’s partner or former partner who lives in the same residency
Clearly, these laws can become confusing very quickly. A knowledgeable Virginia domestic violence lawyer will look at the details of your case to determine whether it can be classified as domestic violence, simple assault, and battery or neither.
Penalties for Domestic Violence
Much like with simple assault and battery, the penalty for domestic violence in Virginia upon conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which includes up to one year in jail as well as a fine not to exceed $2,500.
However, domestic violence can be charged as a Class 6 felony if it is found to be a repeat offense. If you are charged with domestic assault and you already have two similar offenses on your record, which can be proven through indictments, petitions, warrants or other law enforcement information, and all of these offenses occurred within the same 20-year time span, the Class 6 felony charge applies. In addition to domestic violence, the charges that count against this “three-strikes” law according to state code § 18.2-57.2(B) include:
- Malicious wounding
- Aggravated malicious wounding
- Malicious bodily injury by means of a substance
- Any offense with similar elements to the ones listed above
The penalties associated with a Class 6 felony are defined by state code § 18.2-10, and can include a prison term ranging from one year to up to 10 years, as well as a fine not to exceed $2,500. At the discretion of the judge and/or jury, the incarceration penalty can be a jail sentence lasting up to 12 months.
As you can see, the penalties associated with domestic violence in Virginia can be extremely severe, even life-altering in the case of Class 6 felonies stemming from repeat offenses. By hiring a skilled and experienced Virginia domestic violence lawyer, you’ll have the best possible chance of receiving a lesser charge, reduced penalties or even having your case dismissed in court.