Virginia has a broad range of crimes that it considers domestic violence. Domestic violence is referred to in the statutes as “family abuse.” Family abuse is any act involving force, violence, or threat that results in bodily injury or places a family or household member in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.
Who is Defined as a Family or Household Member Under Virginia Law?
The definition of who is considered protected under Virginia’s family abuse laws is fairly broad. The definition of family or household member includes:
· A spouse, regardless of whether they live in the same home with the person accused
· A former spouse, regardless of whether they reside together
· The accused’s parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers or half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of living arrangements
· The mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law who reside with the accused
· Anyone who has a child in common with the accused regardless of whether they have ever been married or shared a residence
· Any individual who has lived with the accused in the last 12 months along with any children of that person who have resided in the same home with the accused
By including roommates who have lived in the home in the last year, the statute is fairly broad on its face as to whom is included in the definition.
What Specific Crimes are Included?
An array of crimes are included under the statute. Those specifically spelled out in the law include:
· Any forceful detention
· Criminal sexual assault (rape)
Crimes that are not specifically spelled out under the law but that are generally accepted as being part of Virginia’s family abuse provisions include:
· Assault (defined as either having the present ability to inflict harm or commit an overt act intended to cause harm, or performing an overt act intended to inflict harm which places the victim in reasonable fear of harm)
· Battery (defined as intentional infliction of an injury upon another).
What are the Penalties for Family Abuse in Virginia?
One difference between family abuse and other crimes must be noted. In Virginia (and most other states), the police can arrest you for family abuse if they have probable cause without first obtaining a warrant. In other cases outside the family, the police would first have to obtain an arrest warrant unless they observed the crime being committed.
That being said, family abuse is a serious crime in Virginia. Assault and battery against a family member is considered a Class One misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. If the accused has two or more convictions for family abuse, they can be charged with a Class 6 felony which is punishable by one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500.
If you have been accused of family abuse in Virginia, you are in definite legal jeopardy. If you have a past history, you could be looking at up to five years in jail. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Jad Sarsour has handled many clients who were in your shoes. If you have been charged with family abuse or domestic violence in Northern Virginia, give him a call today at (571) 316-2639 to begin protecting your rights immediately.