Domestic violence is any incident of sexual or physical violence perpetrated by a person with whom you are intimate or related. It typically involves violence between spouses or partners, a child and their parent, or elderly abuse. Domestic violence also covers non-physical violent acts like abusive language, threats, or emotional/psychological manipulation.
Domestic Violence: Misdemeanor vs. Felony
A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and the payment of a fine. In some jurisdictions, the defendant may be required to take part in anger management classes or a domestic violence intervention program. A defendant may also be required to participate in community service.
A felony conviction carries a prison sentence of more than one year, mandatory rehabilitation courses, heavy fines, and probation periods. A felony conviction can also cause you to lose many privileges including child custody or visitation rights, gun ownership rights, and the inability to secure employment or housing.
Remedies for Felony Domestic Violence
Some of the remedies for victims of felony domestic violence include:
- Temporary restraining order (TRO): This is issued after the first court hearing for a domestic violence case. A TRO requires the offender not to contact the victim and to change residencies. A TRO typically lasts for a few weeks until a complete court hearing is conducted.
- Permanent injunction: This is issued after a complete court hearing. A permanent injunction lasts for an indefinite time and orders the accused not to contact the victim.
- Spousal or child support and custody orders: These may be altered to prevent violence between children or spouses.
- Civil lawsuit: A civil lawsuit is filed to recover expenses and losses like medical costs and pain and suffering.
When is Domestic Violence Classified as a Felony?
When classifying a domestic violence case as a felony or misdemeanor, the prosecutor looks at the severity of the injuries and the defendant’s history of violence. Felony charges are normally filed after a case of battery and assault between spouses. Felony domestic violence also involves crimes like sexual assault, rape, and kidnapping.
Aggravating factors can turn misdemeanor charges into felony charges. For example, in a case where simple assault is converted to aggravated assault. Aggravating factors that constitute a felony domestic violence charge include:
- Criminal acts against minors and young children
- Violent acts that result in serious physical injury or death
- Violent acts involving forced sexual abuse like sexual assault or rape
- Violent acts involving the use of deadly weapons; for example, issuing threats with a gun or knife
When Should You Hire a Domestic Violence Lawyer?
Since domestic violence charges are typically brought against family members, they involve a tremendous amount of heartache. The emotional conflict coupled with the legalities involved often place an enormous burden on victims. When a victim has suffered serious physical and emotional injuries, a lawyer can help them take legal action against the perpetrator. Furthermore, since many lawyers take on personal injury cases on a no win-no fee basis, the victim will only have to pay for legal representation after winning.
In cases of felony domestic violence involving sexual assault or rape, the victim may be fearful or disoriented and not in a position to pursue a claim against the offender. In these circumstances, a lawyer, like a criminal defense attorney Fairfax VA trusts, can play a huge role by seeking justice on their behalf.
In felony domestic violence cases, the strength of the victim’s case is dependent on their evidence. Lawyers can play a huge role in gathering evidence and applying the relevant statutes to build a strong case and bring the defendant to justice.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Albo & Oblon, L.L.P. for their insight into domestic violence and criminal defense cases.