How to deal with spousal abuse in Virginia

According to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, domestic violence is characterized as:

“[a] pattern of abusive behaviors used by one individual intended to exert power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate or family relationship.”

The Virginia Code characterizes “domestic violence” as any of the accompanying act against a family or family member:

(1) Physical harm, attempted actual or threatened;

(2) Causing serious emotional trouble, psychological trauma, or sexual assault;

(3) Placing a man in reasonable fear of substantial damage or physical harm;

(4) Subjecting another individual to false detainment; or

(5) Damaging property in order to intimidate or attempt to control the behavior of another individual.

In 2012, there were 20,718 domestic violence arrests in Virginia. Of the charges recorded, 5,433, or 26%, brought about convictions. Felony convictions for assault and battery against family or family members increased by 95% from 2011 to 2012. 21% of all domestic victims reported that the perpetrator utilized a weapon (counting a firearm) against the victim. Sadly 32% reported that they had to relocate or become destitute because of the domestic violence.

In light of these statistics, Virginia courts and the law of the Commonwealth take domestic violence charges very very seriously and Virginia is a mandatory arrest state. In other words when a cop reacts to a domestic violence call and sees some proof of an assault he is required by law to make an arrest. This law has dramatic results. Frequently when a couple is entangled in a heated argument one individual will call the police “to get the other individual to leave” or resolve a debate. The police are not officials. In the event that the police appear to a domestic question some person is usually going to jail.

Many individuals mistakenly believe that after a domestic arrest the complaining witness or victim can essentially go to the prosecutor or court and “drop” the charges. This is far from valid in Virginia. Often times the Commonwealth’s Attorney will force an observer to affirm against their will, under the threat of prevarication, disdain, or other criminal charges.

Many others feel that a defendant can avoid a conviction if the victim just skips court. This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, a witness opens herself to prosecution in the event that she ignores a summons to appear in court. Second, in a few situations the Commonwealth can obtain a conviction notwithstanding when the victim does not come to court. On the off chance that the defendant admitted the wrongdoing, or other witnesses see the violence or wounds to the victim, the prosecution just needs “slight corroboration” of the wrongdoing to attain a conviction. This corroboration could be ripped clothes, obvious wounds to the victim or physical indications of a battle.

It is also important to realize that domestic cases are heard in special domestic relations courts. Domestic courts have diverse practices and systems than other courts. Judges and prosecutors in these courts get special training in domestic matters and thus there is an elevated affectability to domestic violations heard in these courts. The maximum discipline for domestic assault is a year in jail. Domestic judges much of the time force active jail sentences.