How Does Virginia Address & Punish Domestic Violence?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, domestic violence occupies a special place in the criminal code. Domestic violence requires the perpetrator and victim to share a certain type of relationship, hence the special place in Virginia law. More specifically, Virginia domestic violence laws revolve around the concept of family or household members.
How Does Virginia Define Family & Household Members?
Code of Virginia Section 16.1-228 defines who qualifies as a family or household member. Under this section, the term family or household member includes a person’s:
- Current spouse, even if they no longer live together;
- Former spouse, even if they no longer live together;
- Parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, regardless of where they live;
- Stepparents, stepchildren, and half-siblings, regardless of where they live;
- In-law relatives, if they reside in the same place;
- Other parent to a common child, regardless of marital status or residence;
- Roommates or other individuals and their children who resided in the same place within the past 12 months.
What Qualifies as Domestic Violence in Virginia?
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-57.2 makes it unlawful to commit assault and battery against a family or household member. More commonly referred to as domestic violence or family abuse, this offense usually involves:
- Threats of violence of force that create a reasonable fear of bodily injury, sexual assault, or death; or
- Acts of violence or force that result in any bodily injury.
Examples of family abuse often include, but are not limited to, assault and battery, sex crimes, stalking, and forceful detention. But as noted above, domestic violence and family abuse can come in many different forms.
How Does Virginia Punish Domestic Violence?
Section 18.2-57.2 also outlines the Virginia penalties for domestic violence. Under this section, assault and battery against a family or household member is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction of this class of misdemeanor in Virginia, penalties can include a 12-month jail sentence and criminal fines up to $2,500.
Domestic violence under Section 18.2-57.2 can, for repeat offenders, lead to Class 6 felony charges. It is a felony to commit domestic violence having previously committed at least two of the following offenses with a 20-year timeframe:
- Assault and battery against a family or household member;
- Aggravated malicious wounding against a family or household member;
- Malicious bodily injury using a substance, fire, or explosive against a family or household member;
- Strangulation against a family or household member; or
- Any similar offense under the law of any other jurisdiction.
Upon conviction for a Class 6 felony in Virginia, the punishment usually involves a prison sentence between one and five years as well as criminal fines up to $2,500.
Do You Need Legal Help?
For help with your criminal charges, reach out to the Leesburg domestic violence attorneys at Simms Showers LLP. We can assist you throughout each step of your case.