Domestic Violence Laws, Charges and Statute of Limitations

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Domestic violence is violent acts that are done by a member of a household or family member. It most commonly involves one’s partner or children. According to the US Surgeon General, domestic violence is the top health concern in the country today.

The victims of domestic violence can by anyone, matter their age, race, gender, education level or economic status. Domestic violence once was referred to as wife abuse, but it is not unusual for men and others to be victims as well.

Many people believe that a victim of domestic violence can only get a protective order against a spouse but this is not true. Many states allow protective orders to be issued against lovers and partners who live in the same dwelling.

Dating violence is a related form of domestic violence. It is committed by a person in a social, intimate or romantic relationship with the person. State laws define dating violence based upon how long the relationship has been; the type of relationship and how often the partners interact.

You Tube Special Feature

Sometimes a person who engages in domestic violence may appear to the outside world as friend, outgoing and the nicest person you ever would meet. But sometimes behind closed doors, things are very different. Watch the You Tube video below to learn more.

Domestic Violence Laws

State definitions of domestic violence vary, but it generally is defined under state law as a crime where a member of one family or household commits a major act of violence against another person who lives in the same house. One of the most serious charges in this area is felony domestic violence; it can occur between husband and wife, partners, people who are dating, parents and children and others who live in the same home.

Domestic violence felony charges usually are filed related to assault and battery between two people who live in the same home. But there can be other serious crimes involved, such as rape or sexual assault.

Domestic violence may be treated as a misdemeanor in some cases, but aggravating factors can make it a felony charge. An example is when a simple assault turns into aggravated assault. Domestic violence will usually be charged as a felony in these cases:

  • Acts of violence that lead to death or serious injury to the victim
  • Criminal acts that are done against minors
  • Violence acts or threats that involve a deadly weapon

Domestic Violence Crimes and Charges

The Department of Justice states the definition of domestic violence is a regular pattern of abusive behavior in any close relationship that is used by one person on another person to gain or maintain control. Some of the common forms of domestic violence are:

  • Physical abuse that can include biting, hitting, battering, shoving, burning, cutting, pinching, punching, etc. Physical abuse in domestic violence also can include not allowing someone needed medical treatments.
  • Sexual abuse. This happens when the offender tries to get the person to have sex with them without their consent. This may be referred to as marital rape, and also can include physical violence that is followed by sex, or sexually demeaning the victim.
  • Emotional abuse. Deflating the person’s sense of self worth and self esteem. Name calling, constant criticism, injuring the person’s relationships with their family, etc.
  • This includes following the victim, watching, harassing or spying on them. Also may include stalking them online, making phone calls, text messages or leaving written messages.
  • Psychological abuse: Invoke fear in the person through intimidation; threatening to hurt the person or children; isolate the victim from her friends or family.
  • Financial abuse. This type of abuse may involve a partner preventing the other from getting an education or getting a job outside the home. This type of abuse is common when couples pool their money in joint accounts.

Domestic Violence Punishment

Felony domestic violence is more serious than misdemeanor domestic violence. Misdemeanors for domestic violence are usually punished by fines and up to a year in jail.

However, a felony domestic violence charge can result in several years in prison; heavier fines up to thousands of dollars; rehabilitation program and long periods of probation. You also may lose your visitation rights for your children and no longer be able to own a firearm.

Different states will have different punishments for domestic violence. Below are some examples:

  • California: Misdemeanor domestic violence usually involves at least 30 days in jail, and this can be lengthened if you commit a felony or have been previously charged in the past seven years.
  • Texas: Generally viewed as a class C misdemeanor that can be punished by one year in jail, but worst cases can be a first degree felony with five to 99 years in prison.
  • Colorado: For a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, you face up to a year in jail and 24 months of probation.

Domestic Violence Defenses

All allegations of domestic violence are taken seriously. This is because more than one million women are assaulted by a partner or spouse every year. And men can be victims of domestic violence as well. But there are cases where it is possible to defend yourself from a domestic violence allegation. Below are some of the most common defenses:

  • Wrong person: If you claim that another person committed the abuse, there are several ways to establish your innocence. You can present evidence that shows you were not near the scene of the alleged crime.
  • False allegations: Some so called victims may make false allegations of abuse due to spite. This is common in divorce and child custody cases. Your defense attorney will look for inconsistencies in the person’s story and compare their version of events to police reports and witness statements.
  • Self defense: The defendant may claim they were acting in self defense, and possibly to protect their children. This defense may work if you perceived an imminent threat.
  • Consent: In a few cases, the person may have consented voluntarily to participating in an act of violence.
  • No proof: Your strongest defense is your defense attorney simply showing the prosecution does not have strong enough proof to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, there are several legal protections available to you in most states, such as:

  • Temporary restraining order. Orders the person to avoid contact with you; typically done when a trial is ongoing, and will last a few weeks.
  • Permanent injunction. Issued after the full hearing and can be part of the sentence for the convicted person. It may include a long period of time where he or she cannot contact you.
  • Civil lawsuit. Victim can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover funds for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering.
  • Custody and child support. Can be modified to avoid any possible violence between the spouses or partners.

Domestic Violence Statute of Limitations

States generally have a statute of limitations on domestic violence and assault and battery in the three to five year range. Some states have special considerations for domestic violence cases; if there is a long history of violence and continued until before the end of the statute of limitations, all of the violence that has occurred could be considered.

Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic Violence Quick Links and References

Domestic Violence Laws by Stat

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming