Domestic Violence Under Virginia Law
Domestic violence is a broad term that applies to criminal conduct against certain family and household members. Referred to legally as family abuse, there are many forms of domestic violence under Virginia law. That is because family abuse centers on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Unless the perpetrator commits an offense against their family or household member, it does not qualify as domestic violence under Virginia law.
What is the Definition of a Family or Household Member?
The definition of a family or household member appears in Code of Virginia Section 16.1-228. Under Section 16.1-228, the term family or household member includes a person’s:
- Current or former spouse;
- Parents and stepparents;
- Children and stepchildren;
- Brothers and sisters;
- Half-brothers and half-sisters;
- Grandparents and grandchildren;
- In-laws who reside in the same home;
- Co-parent of a shared child; or
- Co-habitant who lived together in the past year.
If a person carries out certain criminal acts against any of the family or household members listed above, it qualifies as family abuse under Virginia law.
What is the Definition of Family Abuse?
The definition of family abuse also appears in Section 16.1-228. Under Section 16.1-228, the term family abuse refers to acts of violence or force perpetrated against a family or household member. Family abuse also refers to threats of violence or force that place a family or household member in reasonable fear of death or physical harm.
Under Virginia law, family abuse includes but is not limited to:
- Assault and battery;
- Forceful detention;
- Sexual assault; and
It qualifies as family abuse if the offender carries out any of the acts above — or threatens to do so — against a family or household member.
What are the Penalties for Family Abuse?
The penalties for family abuse in Virginia vary based on the type of offense. For example, family abuse that involves assault and battery has a different punishment than offenses related to forceful detention or sexual assault.
The penalties for assault and battery against a family or household member appear in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-57.2. In most cases, this offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, featuring a typical punishment of up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in criminal fines.
For repeat offenders, however, assault and battery against a family or household member can become a Class 6 felony. At that level, the typical punishment includes 12 to 60 months in prison and $2,500 in criminal fines.
Additionally, Section 18.2-57.2 provides certain protections for the victim. Whenever there is a warrant issued for assault and battery against a family or household member, the court must also issue an emergency protective order. This order will protect the victim by prohibiting any further contact from the perpetrator.
Let Us Help You Today
If you have legal questions about domestic violence in Virginia, it is helpful to seek counsel from a proficient criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have profound experience in the field of criminal defense, including domestic violence cases. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.