Exploring Virginia Laws Against Domestic Violence & Family Abuse
Under Virginia law, domestic violence is a broad term describing various criminal acts perpetrated against a family member or relative. Referred to legally as family abuse in Virginia, domestic violence requires the victim to be a family or household member of the perpetrator. Stated otherwise, domestic violence centers on the legal relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, not the location where the abuse occurred.
What is the Definition of Family Abuse?
Code of Virginia Section 16.1-228 provides the definition of domestic violence, which is referred to legally as family abuse. Under this section, family abuse includes a variety of acts that place a victim in reasonable fear or injury or death. Examples of domestic violence offenses include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Assault and battery;
- Rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration, or sexual battery;
- Attempted rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration, or sexual battery; and
- Any other act that places the victim in reasonable fear of injury or death.
As noted previously, however, domestic violence requires a specific relationship between the abuser and the victim. Unless both parties are related as family or household members, it does not qualify as domestic violence.
What is the Definition of a Family or Household Member?
Section 16.1-228 also explains who qualifies as a family or household member. Under Virginia law, a person’s family or household members include their:
- Spouse, even if they reside in a different home;
- Former spouse(s), even if they reside in a different home;
- Parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, and half-siblings, regardless of where they live;
- Step-parents and step-children, regardless of where they live;
- In-law relatives, but only if they reside in the same home;
- Co-parents to a common child, even if they reside in a different home; and
- Co-habitants and their children who have lived in the same home within the preceding year.
What is the Punishment for Domestic Violence?
Virginia law does not categorize or punish domestic violence as a distinct offense. Instead, the punishment for domestic violence fluctuates based on the circumstances of the family abuse in question.
For example, a domestic violence incident that involved:
- Assault & Battery — Is usually charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor and is punishable by criminal fines and up to 12 months in jail;
- Kidnapping — Is usually charged as a Class 5 felony and is punishable by criminal fines and one to 10 years in prison; or
- Rape — Is usually charged as a felony and is punishable by five years to life in prison.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal assistance with domestic violence or other criminal charges in Virginia, it can be extremely valuable to contact a trusted criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg domestic violence lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have represented a multitude of clients against a wide variety of criminal charges. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.