For people who are experiencing domestic violence, recent stay-at-home orders that otherwise aim to limit the spread of COVID-19 bear dangers of their own. The very strategy that is supposed to protect people from the virus has left victims of domestic violence stuck with their abusers.
Due to a global pandemic, millions of Americans are facing sudden unemployment and financial troubles. Such a precarious situation is causing growing tensions, and as a result, the livelihoods of those trapped in physically or emotionally abusive relationships are under a threat. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports, domestic violence charges have escalated in many major cities since early March.
The significant spike in the number of felony convictions and related cases compared to the previous couple of years has prompted us to address this issue and provide some legal insights.
What is domestic violence?
According to American law, any abusive or harmful behavior between a current or former household or family members, intimate partners, spouses, children, or foster children of current and former spouses, foster parents, as well as those who share biological parenthood is described as domestic violence.
Abusive or violent behavior can take forms of intentional and reckless causing of corporeal injuries, fear of bodily injuries, rape, assault, sexual abuse of minor children, controlling behaviors, or conscious engagement in repetitive behavior such as stalking or cyberstalking.
Is Domestic Violence Felony or Misdemeanor?
Whether domestic violence is a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the circumstances under which abusive behavior has occurred.
If an abusive partner intentionally causes or threatens to cause bodily injury to another person, or they cause inappropriate or offensive physical contact, they can be charged for domestic assault. In case the defendant doesn’t have a criminal record, any previous felony charges or convictions, domestic assault is a Class A misdemeanor with up to a year in prison and/or a penalty of up to $4,000.
If the defendant has previously been charged with domestic assault, it is a third-degree felony. The punishment for this crime is between 2 and 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
A defendant can be found guilty of aggravated assault if they knowingly cause serious bodily injury to another person, or present, make use of or threaten to use a deadly weapon while committing an assault.
If the weapon is used to commit aggravated assault, the defendant can be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable with between 5 and 99 years in prison and a penalty of up to $10,000. Otherwise, it is a second-degree felony, which is usually charged with between 2 to 20 years in prison, and a hefty fine of up to $10,000.
Continuous Violence Against the Family
If a person commits two or more domestic assaults within a year, they will be charged with a third-degree felony.
Types of domestic violence
Breaking into or hiding without permission in a secured building or a house with an intent to commit a crime inside is considered to be an act of burglary.
A situation in which a person online threatens to harm a victim or their property, posts, comments, suggests, requests, or proposes any indecent or offensive material about the victim with an aim to emotionally or physically harm them is considered to be cyber-harassment.
When an abuser purposely breaks or endangers any of the victim’s belongings (this excludes the property owned by the abuser and the abused jointly), they may be guilty of criminal mischief.
The situation in which an abuser keeps the victim in a place that puts them at risk of serious bodily injury, or keeps them detained, they can be charged with criminal restraint. Being subjected to a life of servitude against a person’s will is also considered to be criminal restraint.
Criminal sexual contact
Bullying, threatening with physical violence, use of force, or coercion to have non-consensual sexual contact with another person can be charged with criminal sexual contact.
Criminal sexual contact also happens when the abuser physically overpowers the victim or touches their buttocks, breasts, thigh, or groin without consent and for purposes of their own sexual pleasure. Alternatively, they could be doing so in order to degrade or humiliate the victim.
Sexual assault is any situation in which an abuser forcefully and without consent sexually penetrates their victim. Sexual penetration refers to vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It also refers to situations in which the abuser puts fingers or objects into the victim’s vagina or anus.
Any situation in which an abuser is making or forcing another person do something or attempts to stop a person from doing it by threatening that they will commit a crime, hurt someone, exert financial abuse, expose a secret, testify or not testify in court, damage a person’s safety or health, damage their reputation is considered to be criminal coercion.
Entering or hiding out in a property where a person does not have permission to be, as well as ignoring restrictions such as security guards, fences, closed doors, or signs can result in being charged with criminal trespass. Additionally, watching another person in their home without their permission is considered a criminal trespass.
Contempt of a domestic violence restraining order
Any violation of a restraining order such as showing up at the victim’s home or place of work, texting, calling, emailing can result in the arrest of the abuser.
Situations in which an abuser is keeping the victim somewhere against their will are considered to be false imprisonment. This crime differs from criminal restraint in that false imprisonment does not entail the risk of bodily injury.
Any disturbing, annoying, offensive, or embarrassing communication at inconvenient hours, use of rude or profane language, abuse through email, texting, phone, face-to-face communication is considered harassment. Even without an injury, this is considered to be harassment.
A situation that results in the death of another person is considered to be a homicide.
Forceful, deceptive, or threatening relocation of a victim from one place to another, as well as keeping a person hostage or for ransom is kidnapping.
Lewdness is a situation in which an abuser performs a lewd or offensive act in front of their victim, such as exposing their private parts.
Stalking occurs when an abuser purposely, repeatedly, and intensely watches their victim, follows them, harasses them, threatens them, or interferes with their belongings in order to scare them.
Robbery happens when a person steals something from their victim while hurting them, using force, or threatening them.
If an abuser threatens to commit a violent crime such as murder with the purpose of terrorizing the victim, they may be charged with terroristic threats.
Call Us for Free Confidential Consultations
If you are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse, consider contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Advocates are available 24/7 to help you in over 200 languages. All calls are confidential and free of charge.
Finding an experienced and trustworthy criminal defense attorney is crucial to ensure you are guaranteed the best legal defense. If you are looking for a trustworthy criminal defense attorney, reach out for free consultations about your case at (512) 614-4412.