Domestic violence is a crime committed against a victim by someone with whom the victim is, or previously has been involved in a relationship with or someone who lives in the same household as the victim.
Domestic violence is often described when someone who fits the above definition causes someone else physical harm. In some states, this may include a pattern of intimidation or creating fear that harm is imminent.
Generally, a familial relationship, such as siblings or a parent-child relationship, does not excuse — and it never justifies — physical violence. Victims are entitled to the same relief as victims of other violent crimes.
Criminal defense and domestic violence laws will depend on where the alleged offense occurred. If you have questions about your specific situation, make sure you talk to an experienced domestic violence lawyer in a city near you to get the best legal advice for your situation.
While the law cannot undo the emotional and physical harm domestic abuse causes, it does seek to protect victims and help them get the relief they need.
A conviction for domestic violence-related charges can lead to serious penalties, such as an extended stay in prison, fines, mandatory domestic violence education, and protection orders.
While there are many stories about prosecutors dropping charges after victims refuse to cooperate, prosecutors are starting to more frequently take action against abusers without the assistance or consent of a victim. Prosecutors try to look for signs that a victim isn’t participating because of a pattern of abuse or threats.
In addition to criminal proceedings, a domestic violence victim may also have a civil case against the abuser. A successful lawsuit could mean the victim recovering monetary damages for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Domestic violence is a broad umbrella term covering a variety of more specific offenses, ranging from simple or aggravated assault to arson, from harassment to burglary.
For example, in Alaska, all of these offenses fall under the categorization of domestic violence when they are employed against a spouse or romantic partner. In instances such as first-degree or second-degree aggravated assault, charges are likely to be filed as a felony. When it comes to harassment, it is less likely to be considered a felony offense unless severe, material threats are involved.
The fact remains, however, that many instances of domestic violence can be considered felonious behavior depending on the context and the jurisdiction.
Since domestic violence spans crimes ranging from murder or homicide to verbal harassment, the range of charges is equally broad. In cases involving felony offenses, those found guilty can serve jail time, from three years to life, depending on the conviction and the severity of the crime. In misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases, jail sentences are still possible, ranging from three months to three years in most cases.
Murder, aggravated assault and battery, rape, sexual assault, and cases of child molestation are among the most serious sorts of domestic violence charges.
Husbands can certainly file domestic violence charges against their spouses, and men can most certainly be victims of domestic abuse.
Current estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that 1 in 3, or 33% of men will face intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime.
However, most statistics suggest that women are significantly more likely to face IPV in their lifetime (severe or otherwise).
The toll of domestic violence on children cannot be understated. Whether the crimes are committed against the child themselves (as is the case with child abuse, sexual abuse, molestation, or physical or verbal abuse) or against their mother, father or another caretaker, psychological and emotional damage can often result.
Given that situations involving alleged domestic violence may also involve a protection order, the crime of burglary may be charged in connection to a past or present allegation of domestic abuse. This is because burglary is defined, for example in Washington, as unlawful entry into a building (first and second-degree involving any building, residential burglary involving a home) with the intent to commit a crime.
Due to the fact that, if a protection order exists against an individual, entry into the residence of the alleged victim is, in of itself, a crime, residential burglary can be connected to cases of domestic violence.
Several studies published in the 1990s posit that the rate of domestic violence in American police families ranges from 24% to 40%, whether the violence is engaged in by the spouse or the officer. This lies in contrast to quoted figures of 1.5% to 4% of the population reporting spousal abuse in the U.S.
It should, however, be kept in mind that there has been somewhat of a lack of comprehensive studies, as it is a contentious subject and statistics may be influenced by incidents and a lack or surplus of self-reporting.
The statute of limitations on a domestic violence case varies greatly from state to state, and from offense to offense.
For example, in the state of Washington, the statute of limitations would be limitless for the crimes of rape or attempted murder, or six years for felony offenses such as aggravated assault and most instances of arson (precluding any arson involving death). Gross misdemeanors in the same state have a statute of limitations of two years, generally speaking, and instances of assault (material threats) can often fall under this designation.
Different states have entirely different laws when it comes to the expungement or vacation of criminal charges.
In Alaska for instance, any crime that results in a conviction will be permanently appended to your criminal record, whether misdemeanor or felony. There is no remedy for this situation.
However, in Washington, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors — even those charges including reference to domestic violence — may be vacated under certain circumstances. Offenders must abide by all court orders, serve any sentence and duly pay any fines and serve a five-year waiting period before applying for vacation. Further, there is no possibility of vacation if any other domestic violence convictions appear on record, or if you are facing any charges currently of any sort.
The first thing that a domestic violence victim should do is also the hardest: get away from the person committing the violence. It may take time, but in the end it is the right decision. Many organizations across the country can assist domestic violence victims in making this transition.
A victim should report the crime to the police. Additionally, you should seek the assistance of a friend, relative or shelter for a temporary place to stay and emotional support. The police can provide resources for safe houses and emergency shelters so that the victim, and the victim’s children, can have a safe place to stay.
Once police are notified, they will typically make an arrest. A restraining order may be issued to prevent the perpetrator from coming near the victim. If the abuser violates a restraining order, they may be thrown back into jail. If you have other questions about domestic violence, contact an experienced domestic violence attorney for advice.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified domestic violence lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local domestic violence attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
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