Virginia Domestic Violence Lawyer
Marriage is a wonderful union, yet the harsh reality of domestic violence must not be ignored. One in four women and one in nine men in the US have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. But what happens when the lines blur and someone is wrongfully accused?
Domestic violence charges can be complex because they don’t just mean physical harm but emotional and psychological abuse as well. Getting charged can change your life forever. Your relationships, your job, your reputation – everything is on the line.
At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, Virginia domestic violence attorney Michael A. Pignone and his tenacious and resourceful legal team fight for people facing domestic violence charges. With our team by your side, know that a criminal charge does not mean a conviction. As challenging as it might seem right now, you have rights and we are here to vigorously defend them. Set up a free case evaluation with us or call us at (571) 450-9689 to learn how we can help.
Understanding Domestic Violence in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 16.1-228, domestic violence is described as any act involving violence, force, or threat that either causes physical injury or makes someone genuinely afraid of being harmed, sexually assaulted, or even killed.
The following acts fall under this legal definition:
- Assault and battery against a family or household member (Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2)
- Violating protective orders (Virginia Code § 18.2-60.4)
- Stalking (Virginia Code § 18.2-60.3)
- Strangulation (Virginia Code § 18.2-51.6)
- Sexual assault (Virginia Code § 18.2, Chapter 4)
- Entering the property of another for the purpose of damaging it (Virginia Code § 18.2-121)
- Causing the telephone to ring with intent to annoy (Virginia Code § 18.2-429)
- Violating a custody and visitation order (Virginia Code § 18.2-49.1)
Current or future domestic violence can occur between family members, household members, or a child. Domestic and family violence is more than just a physical altercation. A domestic violence case could involve:
- Physical abuse: Hitting, slapping, pushing, or any other act that causes physical harm
- Emotional or psychological abuse: This might not leave a visible mark, but the scars run deep. It can include criticism, humiliation, or undermining a person’s self-worth.
- Sexual abuse: This involves forcing someone to participate in a sexual act without their consent.
- Economic abuse: This happens when one person dominates the financial decisions, so the other is left without any money or a say in financial matters.
Is Mental Abuse a Crime in Virginia?
Yes, mental or emotional abuse is recognized as a form of domestic violence, but it’s not always prosecuted as a standalone crime. This is to say that while the legal definition of domestic violence in Virginia does include mental abuse, the state’s criminal justice system usually focuses on acts that result in physical harm or threats of physical harm.
These acts can be considered a form of domestic abuse:
- Belittling or humiliating someone through name-calling or insults
- Preventing someone from seeing friends or family
- Restricting access to money or controlling all financial decisions
- Constantly checking on someone’s whereabouts without their consent
- Making someone feel they’re always at fault, even when they’re not
- Damaging or getting rid of someone’s belongings as a form of control or punishment
- Making someone doubt their own memories or perceptions
- Using aggressive behavior or gestures to create fear and compliance
However, these acts may not lead to criminal charges in Virginia unless they involve an action that is defined as illegal by the Virginia statutes, such as stalking, animal abuse, or destroying personal property.
Penalties for a Domestic Violence Charge
In Virginia, the term “domestic violence” is legally framed as “family abuse” under Virginia Code § 16.1-228. When you are charged with this type of criminal offense for the first time, it’s generally classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. It means that you could spend up to a year in jail and a fine that can go up to $2,500 if found guilty.
However, the consequences are much more severe if you have faced similar charges before. If you have a prior domestic assault conviction, especially if it occurred within the past 20 years, the charge can be elevated to a Class 6 felony. This conviction can result in a prison sentence ranging from one to five years.
If you are a parent, you could also lose custody of your child. The Virginia courts, in their bid to protect the child, might limit or completely deny your access based on the charge. You might also be mandated to attend counseling sessions or treatment programs, which not only take time but can also be a financial burden.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the maximum punishment for first-time domestic violence in Virginia?
It’s considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and can result in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
How long does domestic violence stay on your record in VA?
Convictions like these are unfortunately permanent. It stays on your criminal record for life unless you successfully petition for an expungement. However, expunging a conviction is rare and usually reserved for cases where the charge was dismissed or the accused was found not guilty.
Can you drop charges against someone before going to court in Virginia?
While an alleged victim can express their desire not to press charges or proceed with the case, the decision ultimately rests with the prosecutor. Once charges are filed, it’s up to the prosecutor whether they decide to continue or drop the case based on evidence, witness cooperation, and other factors.
What constitutes evidence in domestic violence cases in Virginia?
Evidence in these cases can range from photographs of injuries or malicious wounding of a family member, damaged property, or torn clothing, to digital evidence such as text messages, emails, or voicemails. Witness testimonies, medical records, and official reports by police officers or law enforcement authorities are also considered.
Choose an Experienced Virginia Domestic Violence Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
When a family or household member accuses you of domestic assault, it could disrupt your life – from your job to your family ties to your reputation. Virginia criminal defense lawyer Michael A. Pignone understands this and puts to work his 25+ years of experience within the legal system to your advantage.
At the Law Offices of Michael Pignone, you are not just another case. You are a person with a future worth fighting for. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights because we know that every piece of evidence can be the difference between conviction and freedom. If you are facing domestic violence charges, schedule your consultation by calling us today at (571) 450-9689 or contacting us online.