Domestic Violence Law




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

  • What Is Considered Child Abuse in New Jersey?
    Unfortunately there are numerous cases each year where child abuse takes place in New Jersey.
  • What Are the Adoption Laws in New Jersey?
    New Jersey adoption laws aim to observe the rights of all persons involved, including the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child to be given for adoption, throughout the adoption process.
  • How Divorce Affects Social Security in New Jersey
    In the state of New Jersey, there are two types of social security benefits a person can receive within a marriage.
  • Is Denying Medical Treatment to Minors Legal in New Jersey?
    Legally, minors are incompetent and lack the necessary experience on matters such as their education and medical care. It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents to take care of their children by ensuring they are healthy.
  • How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in New Jersey?
    Luckily, more New Jersey family courts are beginning to recognize and address issues of parental alienation when presented with them in court. If you think your child has been the subject of these tactics you need to secure an experienced Mercer County family lawyer.
  • How Do You Transfer Assets in a New Jersey Divorce?
    Part and parcel of the divorce process is disclosing full income to determine the appropriate alimony and child support to be paid. In some cases, one spouse may choose to not make full disclosure, which results in much lower child support payments. Do you suspect that your spouse is withholding financial information? Enlisting an experienced Family Lawyer will help you ensure your settlement adds up.
  • Relocation of the Custodial Parent
    Child custody matters become complicated when the parent with primary custody wants to relocate.
  • High Asset Divorce
    Divorces that involve a substantial amount of property and assets can be difficult to settle. For couples with a portfolio of assets totaling millions of dollars, there are many things to consider.
  • Private Investigators Find Scams on Valentine’s Day
    Private investigators can help look into possible scams to help prevent a person from losing time, money and frustration. Many scams occur around holidays and prey on people’s vulnerabilities.
  • Private Investigator: Top Signs Your Spouse May Be Cheating
    Spouses who are concerned that their spouse is being unfaithful have options including hiring a private investigator. A private investigator can use technology and conduct surveillance in order to discover whether a spouse has been stepping out on the marriage.
  • 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.

Domestic Violence - International

Organizations Related to Domestic Violence




Contact a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer