Domestic Violence - An Overview

Domestic violence charges can have a serious impact on the rest of your life. If you have questions about domestic violence issues, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.

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From the Spokane, Washington, law firm of Gina M. Costello & Associates, P.S., I have been handling domestic violence cases for more than 10 years.

Allegations of domestic violence can be a scary time for everyone involved, whether they are the victim or the accused. But you should know that we are here for you. You are not alone.

Domestic Violence - An Overview

Domestic violence used to be viewed as a private matter between two individuals, usually a husband and wife. Given the prevalence of domestic violence and the effect it has on the lives of everyone involved, it is no longer seen as a private matter. All 50 states and the federal government have passed laws criminalizing domestic violence and offering civil relief to the victims. If you have questions about domestic violence, contact an experienced attorney at Gina M. Costello & Associates, P.S. in Spokane, Washington, for more information. Domestic violence charges are serious and should not be taken lightly.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence occurs when an intimate partner or family member attempts to control the actions of another through the use of physical violence, threats, intimidation, isolation, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or economic abuse. Domestic violence can occur between spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, divorced couples, and parents and children. It occurs across all cultural, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, social and economic groups. Domestic violence is not just physical acts - it can include name-calling, put downs, threats and financial control.

Domestic violence statutes and orders of protection

Each state defines domestic violence and determines who it applies to and under what circumstances. While some domestic violence statutes also provide criminal penalties, most of these statutes are civil in nature. This means that they provide civil remedies to victims of domestic violence and do not punish offenders. This can include offering victims the opportunity to sue for monetary damages.

Additionally, victims of domestic violence can apply for orders of protection. While these orders will vary in name and format state to state, they are designed to provide victims with relief from the abuse. Orders of protection may require the offender to leave the home, return personal property to the victim, pay child support or perform other acts.

Criminalizing domestic violence

All states have made domestic violence a crime. But this does not mean all types of domestic violence are punishable as crimes. For example, most states do not criminally punish economic and emotional abuse. Usually a person who has committed domestic abuse will be charged with a crime under the state's penal code, such as:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • False imprisonment
  • Trespass
  • Terroristic threats
  • Violating a protective order
  • Property damage or vandalism
  • Attempted murder or murder

Those convicted of a domestic violence crime may be ordered to pay fines, serve jail time or prison sentences, attend court-mandated treatment programs, pay restitution to the victim or be placed on probation. Other penalties may be ordered, depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the crime.

Federal laws

Prior to the 1990s, domestic violence was handled as a state law issue. However, given the impact of domestic violence and the frequency of abuse crossing state lines, several important federal laws have been passed and others have been amended to add domestic violence provisions, including:

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — Under VAWA, it is a crime to cross state lines with the intent to commit domestic violence against an intimate partner. "Intimate partner" includes spouses, former spouses, past or present cohabitants and parents of a child in common. It is also a crime to cause an intimate partner to cross state lines by force, coercion, duress or fraud. Bodily injury has to result in order for someone to be charged under either of these provisions. VAWA also makes interstate stalking a crime. Bodily injury does not have to result to be charged under this provision. The offender need only put the other person or a member of that person's immediate family in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. "Immediate family" is defined as a spouse, parent, sibling, child or other person living in the same household and related by blood or marriage.
  • Gun Control Act — Persons subject to domestic violence orders of protection or have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime are prohibited from possessing or transferring firearms.

Speak to a domestic violence lawyer

If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime or have questions about orders of protection, contact Gina M. Costello & Associates, P.S. in Spokane, Washington, today to schedule a consultation with an attorney who can explain the law and your options to you.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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