All 50 states impose some form of negative consequences on domestic violence. Effectively, the main difference in how states treat domestic violence, from a legal perspective, is based on whether domestic violence is treated as its own crime or its treated as a general assault or battery.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures approximately 38 states have made domestic violence its own crime and nearly every state provides addresses domestic violence in its domestic relations or social services codes. Among these states domestic violence has a broad definition that includes such conduct as stalking, harassment, intimidation, and emotional abuse. Some states also make it a crime to commit domestic violence in the presence of a child, often increasing penalties for domestic violence when that occurs.
The domestic violence penalties also vary depending largely upon the type of offense, the harm inflicted, criminal history of the accused, and the age of the victim.
A domestic violence offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony with the penalties varying widely among the states. The difference between a misdemeanor charge and a felony often depends upon the severity of the injury and whether the defendant has a criminal history. Many states will also upgrade the offense to a felony if a weapon is involved or if the domestic violence occurred while a child was present.
Misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence can involve:
- The perpetrator being placed on probation
- Paying restitution to the victim
- Community service
- Fines attending anger management or intervention programs
- No contact or restraining orders
- mandated supervised parental visits
- The termination of parental rights
In some cases, a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence can involve a term in county jail up to 1 year and deportation if the perpetrator is not a citizen of the United States.
More serious cases of domestic violence can be charged as a felony which will involve fines and imprisonment. These cases are reserved for instances of domestic violence which result in serious bodily injury, a continuing pattern of domestic violence, domestic violence involving a firearm or if the defendant travels across state lines.
If you are victim of domestic violence, it is important to hire a lawyer experienced in representing victims of domestic violence. A skilled domestic violence attorney can help, explain the rights you may have and how to best protect yourself from an abusive partner or family member.