West Virginia Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is broadly defined as any physical assault, battery, sexual assault, willful intimidation, or any other abusive behavior perpetrated by one intimate partner or family or household member against another, as part of a systematic pattern of power and control. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional or sexual, domestic violence can have immediate and long-term adverse effects on the victim and his or her loved ones. In an effort to deter acts of domestic abuse, the state of West Virginia has taken a tough stance on violent crimes committed against spouses and other family or household members. If you have been charged with a domestic assault or domestic battery offense in West Virginia, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can significantly improve your chances of beating the charges and clearing your name.
West Virginia Domestic Violence Law
The criminal code in West Virginia defines domestic violence as any intentional physical violence, assault, harassment, abduction, stalking, or threats of harm perpetrated by one family or household member against another. According to WV Code § 48-27-204, “family or household members” include any persons who are or were: married, dating, living together as spouses, sexual or intimate partners, or residing together in the same household. It also includes persons who have a child in common, regardless of whether they were ever married or living together, and close family relatives, such as parents, stepparents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first and second cousins. The two main domestic violence-related crimes in West Virginia are domestic assault and domestic battery.
Under WV Code § 61-2-28(a), domestic battery charges can be brought against “Any person who unlawfully and intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with his or her family or household member, or unlawfully and intentionally causes physical harm to his or her family or household member.”
Under WV Code § 61-2-28(b), domestic assault charges can be brought against “Any person who unlawfully attempts to commit a violent injury against his or her family or household member, or unlawfully commits an act that places his or her family or household member in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.”
Domestic Assault Penalties and Fines
The crimes of domestic battery and domestic assault are generally charged as misdemeanors in the state of West Virginia. If you are convicted on charges of domestic battery, you could face a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months, a fine of up to $500, or both. If you are convicted on charges of domestic assault, a less serious offense, you could face a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $100, or both. There are, however, stiffer penalties for a second or subsequent domestic assault or domestic battery offense in West Virginia. As a second offense, domestic battery carries a possible term of imprisonment of not less than 60 days nor more than one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Domestic assault, as a second offense, carries a possible term of imprisonment of not less than 30 days nor more than six months, a fine of up to $500, or both. If you have two prior convictions for domestic assault or domestic battery and you are charged with a third offense within 10 years, the new offense could be charged as a felony, carrying a possible penalty of not less than one year nor more than five years in state prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders
The state of West Virginia has established significant protections for alleged victims of domestic violence, and any person who claims to have suffered abuse by a family or household member in West Virginia can petition the court for a restraining order against the alleged offender. Depending on whether the order is an emergency protective order or a final protective order, it can order the accused to:
- Stop abusing, stalking, harassing, threatening or intimidating the petitioner
- Stay away from the petitioner’s residence
- Refrain from contacting the petitioner
- Avoid doing anything that would place the petitioner or the petitioner’s children in reasonable fear of bodily injury
- Participate in a batterer’s treatment program
- Compensate the petitioner for any expenses associated with the alleged domestic violence, such as medical expenses, shelter, and transportation
Depending on the specific facts of your case, a West Virginia domestic violence protective order can also force you to hand over any firearms, even if you are licensed to have the firearm, award the petitioner temporary custody of your children, if you have children together, and order you to pay temporary spousal and/or child support to the petitioner. If the court grants a domestic violence protective order against you and you violate the terms of the order, you could face additional criminal charges under WV Code § 48-27-903. According to this law, any person who knowingly and willfully violates an emergency or final protective order for domestic violence is guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
Consult a West Virginia Domestic Violence Attorney Today
Domestic assault and domestic battery are serious criminal charges in the state of West Virginia, and even a misdemeanor offense can subject you to jail time, fines and other life-altering penalties upon conviction. Even after your sentence is completed, having a domestic violence conviction on your criminal record could affect your ability to obtain certain employment or housing in the future. As a felony offense, it could also cause you to lose certain professional licenses as well as your right to vote or carry a firearm. That is why we always recommend consulting a knowledgeable West Virginia criminal defense attorney when facing charges for domestic violence, even if the offense is a misdemeanor and you know the accusations are unfounded. False allegations of domestic abuse are not uncommon, but they can still result in a conviction. A seasoned domestic violence defense attorney can ensure that you understand the charges against you and your options under the law, while also protecting your legal rights.