Delaware Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is widely recognized as a crime involving physical assault, sexual assault, willful intimidation or other forms of abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member against another, as part of a systematic pattern of gaining or maintaining power or control. Domestic violence charges in Delaware can result in jail time, substantial fines, court-ordered treatment programs and a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with domestic violence or spousal assault in Delaware, you will want to seek aggressive and skilled legal representation right away. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors tend to take a tough stance against domestic violence, and if you have been arrested for abusive acts against a spouse, a family member or someone who lives with you, your freedom and your future are on the line. With an experienced Delaware domestic violence defense attorney on your side, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected and seek the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Delaware Domestic Violence Laws
Delaware Code § 1041(2) defines domestic violence as abuse perpetrated by one person against another in cases where the two individuals are family members, former spouses, cohabitants, people who have a child in common, or couples in a current or former dating relationship. Like many other states, Delaware does not charge or punish domestic violence as a separate criminal offense. Rather, a person accused of committing an abusive act against an intimate partner, family member or household member is charged and punished according to the underlying crime. There are a number of criminal offenses that fall under the umbrella of “domestic violence,” and criminal charges can be filed in Delaware if a spouse, intimate partner or family member accuses another of the following abusive acts:
- Sexual assault
- Offensive touching
- Property damage
- Criminal trespassing
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Terroristic threatening
State laws are always changing and if you need up-to-date legal advice about a specific domestic violence charge you are facing in Delaware, it is imperative that you contact a knowledgeable Delaware defense attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases.
Protection from Abuse Orders
Some domestic violence cases in Delaware may involve a restraining order, also known as a protection from abuse (PFA) order. A PFA is a court order designed to protect alleged victims of domestic violence from abuse or threats of abuse by a family member or an intimate partner. If you have been accused of committing physical, mental or emotional abuse, or threatening such abuse, and you have a restraining order filed against you, you could end up being removed from your home and prohibited from contacting any of the people protected by the PFA, which could include your spouse and children. And if you violate the terms of a PFA order, you could face additional criminal charges for either a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the nature of the violation.
Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction
The penalties for a domestic violence crime in Delaware vary depending on the nature of the underlying offense. For instance, offensive touching is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Assault in the first degree, on the other hand, is a much more serious crime and therefore carries harsher penalties. First-degree assault is considered a Class B felony in Delaware, and the crime is punishable by a term of imprisonment of two to 25 years. First-time offenders charged with certain domestic violence-related crimes, like offensive touching or menacing, may be eligible for Delaware’s Domestic Violence Diversion Program. This program is designed to help first-time offenders avoid jail time by participating in a counseling and treatment program and satisfying other specific requirements. First-time offenders who complete the diversion program can then petition to have their arrest expunged from their criminal record.
Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges
Just because you have been arrested for domestic violence does not mean you are guilty. Some people use false accusations of domestic violence as a way to punish their partner for something they did wrong and we have even seen cases where a bitter spouse petitions for an emergency PFA order in an effort to gain leverage in divorce or child custody proceedings. We know that fighting domestic violence charges feels like a losing battle and we acknowledge the fact that there tends to be a natural bias when it comes to allegations of spousal abuse or domestic violence. But just like in any criminal case, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and the prosecution can only get a guilty verdict if it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. For offensive touching, that means proving:
- You touched another person with your body or with any instrument, or you struck another person with saliva, urine, feces, or any other bodily fluid,
- You did so intentionally, and
- You did so knowing that the act was likely to cause offense or alarm to the person.
With an experienced Delaware defense attorney handling your case, you may be able to get the domestic violence charges reduced to a less serious offense or possibly even dismissed altogether. The right attorney will work tirelessly to protect your rights and help you avoid life-changing criminal penalties.
Contact a Skilled Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Domestic violence cases tend to be emotionally charged and legally complex, and there is often more to the story than what police responding to a domestic violence call can see. If you have been accused of committing an act of domestic violence or violating a protection from abuse order in Delaware, contact a reputable Delaware domestic violence defense lawyer today to discuss the best strategy for fighting the criminal charges. A good criminal defense attorney has the skill and expertise necessary to develop a strong defense in your case and fight for a favorable outcome on your behalf, possibly helping you avoid jail time and other devastating criminal penalties.