Family Abuse Under Virginia Law
Family abuse is a legal term in Virginia for criminal acts involving family members or similar personal associates. Commonly referred to as domestic violence, family abuse occurs when a person abuses or threatens his or her own family members. Unlike other crimes, family abuse centers on the relationship between the perpetrator and victim. As a result, this offense can occur in many different varieties.
Definition of Family or Household Members
Code of Virginia Section 16.1-228 establishes the legal definition of family or household members. This term refers to includes a person’s:
- Current spouse, even if they do not live at the same residence;
- Former spouse, even if they do not live at the same residence;
- Co-parent to a common child, even if they do not live at the same residence;
- Blood relatives, including parents, siblings, and children, even if they do not live at the same residence;
- Legal relatives, including step-parents and step-children, even if they do not live at the same residence;
- Roommates, if they currently live at the same residence or did previously within the past year; and
- In-law relatives, including parents-in-law, siblings-in-law, and children-in-law, but only if they live at the same residence.
Definition of Family Abuse
Section 16.1-228 also outlines the general definition of family abuse in Virginia. This term applies whenever a person commits certain criminal offenses against their family or household members. From a general perspective, family abuse refers to:
- Acts of force or violence that result in bodily harm; and
- Threats that place a person in reasonable fear of bodily harm, sexual assault, or death.
From a specific angle, Section 16.1-228 furnishes several examples of family abuse, including but not limited to:
- Kidnapping under Code of Virginia Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 3;
- Assault and Battery under Code of Virginia Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 4;
- Threats or Stalking under Code of Virginia Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 6; and
- Criminal Sexual Assault under Code of Virginia Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 7.
Criminal Penalties for Family Abuse
As detailed in the previous section, family abuse exists in many different forms. Correspondingly, the criminal charges for family abuse have a wide spectrum. Depending on the circumstances of the offense, the perpetrator may face misdemeanor or felony charges.
Outside of examples on the extreme ends of the spectrum, criminal charges for family typically fall into one of the buckets below:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor — Upon conviction, the conventional punishment includes a jail sentence of one year or less and criminal fines up to $2,500;
- Class 6 Felony — Upon conviction, the conventional punishment includes a prison sentence between one and five years as well as criminal fines up to $2,500; or
- Class 5 Felony — Upon conviction, the conventional punishment includes a prison sentence between one and 10 years as well as criminal fines up to $2,500.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about family abuse or domestic violence in Virginia, it can be significantly productive to speak with a qualified Winchester domestic violence lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have the necessary skills and qualifications to mount a successful defense in a variety of contexts, including family abuse and domestic violence. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.