Vermont Domestic Violence Laws

In Vermont, a person commits domestic abuse by hurting, trying to hurt, or threatening a person in their family or household. It is also a crime in Vermont to commit domestic assault or to violate a protective order.

Under Vermont’s laws, a person commits domestic abuse (also called domestic violence) by doing any of the following to a family or household member:

  • causing or attempting to cause physical injury
  • placing the person in fear of imminent serious harm, or
  • committing child abuse, stalking, or sexual abuse.

Family and household members include people who:

  • are related, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • live together or have lived together
  • have children together, or
  • have dated.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1041, tit. 15, § 1101.)

Arrests for Domestic Violence

In Vermont, if a police officer has probable cause to believe (a reasonable belief) that a person has committed assault (caused, attempted, or threatened bodily injury) against a family or household member, the officer may make an arrest without a warrant.

This is an exception to the usual rule that an officer can make a warrantless arrest only for a felony (with few exceptions), or for a misdemeanor that occurs in the officer’s presence.

(Vt. Rules of Crim. Proc., Rule 3.)

Protective Orders

A protective order (also called a restraining order) is a court order requiring one person (the defendant) to not contact and stay away from another person (the plaintiff).

In Vermont, any family or household member can file a petition for a restraining order to protect themselves or their children from domestic abuse.

If the court finds that the defendant has committed domestic abuse and that there is a danger of further abuse, or that the defendant is currently in jail or prison after being convicted of a serious violent crime, the court may issue an order:

  • prohibiting the defendant from abusing the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s children
  • prohibiting the defendant from contacting the plaintiff or the children
  • prohibiting the defendant from coming near the plaintiff, the children, the plaintiff’s residence, or any other specific place
  • ordering the defendant to leave a shared residence
  • awarding temporary custody and visitation of any children
  • awarding spousal or child support for up to three months, and
  • awarding custody of any pet.

The protective order remains in effect for a fixed period of time and may be extended if necessary to protect the plaintiff or children from abuse.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 1103.)

Temporary protective order

A temporary order is an “ex parte” order (one made without notice to the defendant and without the defendant first appearing in court) that is in effect onlyuntil a hearing can be held.

Under Vermont’s laws, if the court finds that defendant has abused the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s children, it may issue a temporary protective order:

  • prohibiting the defendant from committing domestic abuse
  • prohibiting the defendant from mistreating or killing any pets
  • prohibiting the defendant from contacting or coming near the plaintiff or the children
  • ordering the defendant to leave any shared residence if the plaintiff will otherwise be without shelter, and
  • awarding temporary custody of any children if they are in immediate danger of harm.

Generally, in Vermont, the court must hold a hearing on the temporary protective order within ten days.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 1104.)

Violating a Protective Order

Under Vermont’s laws, violating a protective order is a crime. It may also be punished as criminal contempt (violating a court’s order) by up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $10,000.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § § 1103, 1108.)

Domestic Assault

In Vermont, a person commits the crime of domestic assault by causing (or attempting to cause) bodily injury to a family or household member, or causing a family or household member to fear imminent serious bodily injury.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1042.)

For more information on assault in Vermont, see Vermont Assault & Battery Laws, Vermont Aggravated Assault Laws, and Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Vermont.

Aggravated domestic assault

Aggravated domestic assaults are punished more severely than other assaults. An domestic assault committed by someone who is under a restraining order (see below) or has previously been convicted of domestic assault or violating a restraining order is second degree aggravated domestic assault.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1044.)

A person commits first degree aggravated domestic assault if the person:

  • causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury
  • uses, threatens to use, or is armed with a deadly weapon, or
  • has previously been convicted of aggravated domestic assault.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1043.)

Under Vermont’s laws, serious bodily injury is strangulation, suffocation, or any injury that creates a significant risk of death or causes substantial disfigurement or impairment of any part of the body. A deadly weapon is a firearm or other weapon, object, or substance that a person uses or intends to use in a way that could cause death or serious bodily injury.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1021.)

For example, both threatening your spouse with a gun and breaking your child’s arm would probably be considered first degree aggravated domestic assault.

Punishment

Violating a protective order is punishable by up to one year in a jail and a fine of up to $5,000. If the defendant has previously been convicted of violating a protective order or domestic assault, then the crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Unless counseling is not appropriate, the court must also order the defendant to attend domestic violence counseling.

Domestic assault is punished by up to 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

Second degree aggravated domestic assault is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. First degree aggravated domestic assault is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § § 1030, 1042, 1043, 1044.)

Obtaining Legal Advice and Representation

A conviction for domestic assault or having a protective order issued against you can have serious, lasting consequences. If you are charged with domestic violence or served with an application for a restraining order, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Vermont today for assistance. With an attorney’s help, you can hopefully obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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