No relationship is perfect, but in some, threats and violence occur. When this happens, domestic assault or violence charges may follow. While this is particularly true when a complaint is made by a victim, domestic assault charges are sometimes also brought even when the actual victim does not complain.
As is the case with many legal issues relating to families, the law on domestic assault and domestic violence depend on state law. For that reason, if you have specific questions about your situation, it’s critical that you contact a licensed attorney in your state.
On whom does the domestic violence law apply?
In all states, domestic assault and violence laws apply to people who have family relationships. Certainly, they apply between spouses and also between parents and children. However, depending on the law of the state, the following relationships are often included:
- co-parents, even when not married
- parent and child
- live-in partners, married or unmarried
- dating partners or former dating partners, such as boyfriend and girlfriend
In addition, many states have stalking laws that are considered within the realm of domestic violence.
What charges may be brought?
Again, the nature of the charges that may be brought in a case involving domestic assault or domestic violence depends on the laws of the applicable state. However, here are some examples of common crimes related to domestic assault and domestic violence:
- Assault (a threat of immediate violence)
- Battery (unwanted touching or hitting)
- Child abandonment
- Child abuse and neglect
- Elder abuse
Some states also have specific crimes that are known as “domestic violence.”
It is ultimately up to the local charging authority, usually the prosecutor, as to what charges will be brought. This will depend on the evidence in the case and what the prosecutor believes he or she can prove.
Can a victim decide to drop the charges?
Many television shows have led the American public to believe that a victim can decide to drop criminal domestic violence charges. This is not true.
With that said, if a victim decides to be uncooperative, or especially to lie under oath, it could make it more difficult for the prosecutor to present his or her case. Remember, lying under oath is itself a crime.
If you need advice about domestic violence or domestic assault, you should consult with a licensed family lawyer in your state. In addition, there are many free programs for victims of domestic violence that can help guide you to a better place.