Domestic Violence Law


Find a Law Firm:

What is Domestic Violence Law?

Domestic violence law provides the criminal rules for punishing those who cause emotional or physical harm to others with whom they share a family or other close relationship. It also deals with the civil protections available to victims of this type of harm. Federal legislation has been enacted making domestic violence a crime, most notably the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). However, the vast majority of domestic violence offenses are prosecuted under state law.

Convictions for domestic violence in all states require that the defendant’s conduct and relationship to the victim meet certain standards. The statutory provisions describing these aspects of the crime differ from state to state, but generally, both the conduct and the relationship are defined broadly.

For example, a typical state statute will prohibit any conduct that causes harm to the victim, or poses a threat of harm that puts the victim in immediate, realistic fear for his or her physical safety. Whether the conduct forms the basis for a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the severity of the harm done. As far as the necessary relationship between the defendant and the victim, any past or present family, household, or dating relationship will usually qualify.

Responding to Allegations of Domestic Violence

The first step after being accused of domestic violence is to obey the orders of the court. Regardless of the veracity of the allegations, the mere fact that they have been made creates a serious situation for the individual who faces criminal charges or a civil restraining order. In either case, the court will almost surely have imposed a condition preventing contact with the accuser. Violating this condition will result in jail time and it will make defending the merits of the case more difficult.

Obeying an initial no-contact order involves more than refraining from visiting the accuser in person. Indirect contact must also be avoided, and depending on the language of the order, this will likely include telephone calls, text messaging, email and social media, and contact through a mutual acquaintance or other third party. The safest course of action is to ignore the accuser completely, and contact an attorney for help.

Legal Options Following an Arrest

After speaking with an attorney and discussing the facts of the case, a defendant charged with domestic violence will begin to more fully understand the nature of the court proceeding and the options available. A criminal case can be resolved in two ways. The defendant can decide to fight the allegations by going to trial, or the defendant can enter a guilty or no contest plea in exchange for more lenient penalties than would otherwise be imposed.

Deciding which avenue to pursue will not be easy. On one hand, obtaining an acquittal at trial means the defendant walks out of the courtroom a free individual, vindicated in the eyes of the law. On the other hand, plea bargaining gets rid of the uncertainty of trial, and allows the defendant to avoid the harsh consequences of an unmitigated sentence. While an attorney can provide insight into the matter, ultimately the decision to plead or go to trial rests squarely with the defendant.

Of course, the strength of the evidence against the defendant plays a crucial role in the decision. Domestic violence cases often involve “he said, she said” evidence, making the accuser’s credibility highly relevant. Recorded statements by the accuser are also central to the case, since the prosecution can go forward even if the accuser recants or decides not to press charges. Medical examinations, video surveillance, and the testimony of law enforcement can also suggest what the outcome of a trial will be.

Civil Remedies against a Perpetrator

From the standpoint of a victim of domestic violence, personal safety is most important. In addition to contacting the police immediately and cooperating in the criminal prosecution of the offender, victims can pursue civil remedies designed to keep the victim and other family members safe. The most common form of protection is known as a restraining order. Restraining orders are available for victims of abuse in every state. They can be obtained without cost, and assistance with the court forms is available.

Restraining orders prohibit the abuser from coming within a specified distance of the victim. They can require the abuser to cease all contact, move out of the family home, and pay child or spousal support. Depending on the nature of the order, the judge can include provisions requiring the abuser to surrender firearms, undergo substance abuse counseling, and more. Restraining orders can be obtained on an emergency or long-term basis.

A Domestic Violence Attorney can Help

The consequences of domestic violence can have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of everyone involved. If you have suffered or been accused of committing this type of harm, you need an experienced advocate on your side. Contact a domestic violence attorney to learn more.

Copyright HG.org

Know Your Rights!

Articles on HG.org Related to Domestic Violence

  • Proposed Legislation for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) Reform Act of 2014
    Status updates on proposed legislation for the Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) Reform Act of 2014 that are up for review at the next legislative session.
  • Studies Show Aging Causes Mental Impairment, Incompetency, and Lack of Capacity to Make Good Decisions
    Studies show that aging has a negative effect on decision making abilities in elders. Elders should be aware of an increased risk of falling victim to fraud due to increasing inability to make good decisions.
  • Domestic Violence Offenses in the Tampa Bay Area
    In Florida, domestic violence is defined as any assault, battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.
  • Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
    When people think of weddings, the first thing that comes to mind is love and happiness. However, most marriages end up in divorce, which is why parties need to protect themselves before that step is ever reached. To cover both your finances and other types of properties, it’s crucial to look into hiring a family lawyer to draft up some kind of agreement. Typically, there are two contracts used when dealing with marriages and they are prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
  • Financing Your Child's College in Connecticut
    The process of saving for your child’s college education can seem daunting. Tuition is already substantial at so many universities, and, if current trends hold, will continue rising year after year right up to the time your child has graduated from high school and is ready to embark upon his or her freshman year of college.
  • Funding Your Child’s College Education After a Connecticut Divorce
    When a divorce is pending, there are many social, financial, and legal obstacles to attend to that it is regrettably easy for the issue of funding your child’s college education to slip through the cracks. Particularly when parents with younger children are seeking divorce, spouses and their attorneys tend to focus on immediately pressing issues such as child custody and visitation, division of marital property, and alimony.
  • Are Disparaging Social Media Remarks by an Ex Protected by the First Amendment?
    In 2010, Steve Nash, a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, filed for dissolution of his marriage to Alejandra Nash. Nash v. Nash, 307 P.3d 40 (Az. Ct. App. 2013). The parties were able to the resolve custody and parenting time with their two young children through a joint agreement, but the matter went to trial on the issue of child support. On the day the trial court issued its decree, Mrs. Nash “tweeted” several disparaging remarks pertaining to Mr. Nash.
  • The Difference Between Separation and Divorce
    If a married couple decides to call it quits and, thus, end the marriage, a divorce is almost always the initial inclination. However, some professionals advise against jumping into a divorce for a number of reasons, one of which is the immense financial liability.
  • 4 Common Misconceptions About Child Support After Divorce
    We’ve all heard of child support: an ongoing, periodic payment made by the noncustodial parent following the end of marriage. In fact, even in “joint custody” cases, there’s still a custodial parent—who the child spends more time with—and a noncustodial parent, and child support must be transferred. An exception to this would be if both parents earn the same income, pay equal amounts of expenses for the child and have the child the same number of days.
  • Depositions: A Metal Detector in a Landmine Field
    Parties often question the necessity of a deposition in a contested family law case. Versus allowing their attorney to take a necessary deposition, parties often dismiss the idea as a cost savings move or in the blind hope that their case will settle. This is a common mistake for parties who will undergo a trial or contested hearing in their family law matter.
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Domestic Violence - US

  • ABA - Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence

    The ABA Commission addresses the need to increase the number of well-trained and supported attorneys providing representation to victims by providing creative training opportunities for lawyers.

  • AEquitas - The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women

    AEquitas' mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking cases by developing, evaluating, and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability.

  • Domestic Violence - Overview

    Domestic Violence isn't just hitting, or fighting, or an occasional mean argument. It's a chronic abuse of power. The abuser tortures and controls the victim by calculated threats, intimidation, and physical violence. Actual physical violence is often the end result of months or years of intimidation and control.

  • Federal Domestic Violence Laws and the Enforcement of These Laws

    This legislation, called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), recognized that "violence against women is a crime with far-reaching, harmful consequences for families, children and society" (Domestic and Sexual Violence Data Collection, A Report to Congress under the Violence Against Women Act, 1 [NIJ Research Report 1996]).

  • USDOJ - Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)

    The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides national leadership in developing the nation's capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

  • Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA)

    The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law. It was passed as Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 HR 3355 and signed as Public Law 103-322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.

Organizations Related to Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence - International


Find a Local Lawyer