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Domestic Violence Laws and Penalties

Domestic Violence Laws and Penalties

Domestic violence law consists of the legal framework used to punishing those engage in abusive conduct toward a family member or an individual or to which they share an intimate relationship. Domestic violence laws are found in both the state and federal legal system. State laws vary by jurisdiction and primarily differ on whether domestic violence is treated as a stand-alone crime or if it is covered under general laws that criminalize assault or battery.  The primary federal domestic violence law is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Convictions for domestic violence in all states can range from a misdemeanor to felony offenses, with more serious cases being charged as felonies.  A conviction under VAWA can range from five years to life in prison and can include fines.

Federal domestic violence laws and penalties

Domestic violence and abuse are made illegal by VAWA which addresses acts of instances in which an individual travels across with the intent to commit an act of domestic violence. The federal definition of domestic violence also includes stalking or harassment by mail or computer.

Penalties for violations of VAWA range vary depending on the severity of the act of domestic violence and can be increased if the act of domestic violence resulted in permanent disfigurement or life threatening bodily injury to the victim or if a firearm was used in the commission of domestic violence.  Violations of VAWA  can also include fines and an order to pay restitution to the victim.

Domestic violence under state law

State laws define domestic violence as using a threat of harm or intimidation to coerce or control a victim. A qualifying victim includes an individual who is either a family member or is someone who the perpetrator is in an intimate relationship with or is cohabiting with. Some state extend qualifying victim status to a person who is in a current relationship with the perpetrator or a past relationship.

Penalties for a state conviction of domestic violence often can range from fines, probation and imprisonment depending on the severity of the crime and if aggravating factors are present.  

If you are a 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.

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