When people spend a lot of time together, and especially when they live together, disagreements are inevitable. Sometimes, a heated argument can escalate quickly, leading to law enforcement involvement. If you’re ever involved in a major altercation with a loved one, you may face domestic violence charges. While these charges are something to take seriously, it doesn’t mean that your life is over. Understanding Virginia’s domestic violence laws can help you prepare for what may come.
What is domestic violence?
In Virginia, as it is in most other states, domestic violence is when someone commits assault and battery against a family member or someone they live with. If you face charges for domestic violence and it’s your first offense, it is usually a Class 1 misdemeanor. You may face civil charges if the person accusing you of assault is asking for a protective order. For other actions unrelated to a protective order, it is considered a criminal matter.
In relation to domestic violence, spouses, ex-spouses, cohabitants and anyone whom you share a child with is a family member, regardless of whether you live together or not. A first conviction of domestic violence, often called family abuse, can lead to up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500. With each conviction after that, the repercussions become more severe. Family abuse doesn’t just mean physical violence. You can also be charged with family abuse based on an accusation that you threatened someone and they feared bodily harm.
What happens when you are charged?
Domestic violence charges often come after a heated disagreement between family members. When law enforcement is called to a scene where there is alleged assault and battery, they are tasked with determining who is the main aggressor. Just because you are charged with domestic violence, and assumed to be the primary aggressor, doesn’t mean you will be convicted.
When charged with domestic violence, you may be subject to obeying a protective order. Emergency Protective Orders happen immediately in most domestic violence cases. A Preliminary Protective Order can be requested by the accuser and can be ordered with only the accuser present. A Protective Order will only be issued after a hearing where both parties are present.
It’s important to seek legal help when accused of domestic violence
Domestic violence situations are often volatile, and facing such serious accusations can be extremely stressful. Everyone is entitled to a defense, no matter what they are accused of. If you find yourself facing charges related to domestic violence, it’s important to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney so you know your rights under Virginia law.