Under Virginia’s laws, it is a crime to injure, attempt to injure, or threaten a member of your family or household. It is also a crime to violate a restraining order.
In Virginia, a person commits family abuse (also called domestic violence) by committing any act against a family or household member that involves violence, force, or threats, and results in physical injury or places the family or household member in fear or injury or harm. Both stalking and sexual assault can constitute family abuse.
Family and household members include spouses, former spouses, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws who live in the same house, people who have children together, and people who live together or have lived together in the past year.
(Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-228.)
In Virginia, it is also a crime to inflict physical injury against a family or household member.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-57.2.)
For more information on assault, see Virginia Assault and Battery Laws.
Under Virginia’s laws, if a police officer has probable cause to believe (a reasonable belief) that a person has committed assault and battery against a family or household member or violated a protective order, the officer may make an arrest without a warrant and should, absent special circumstances, take the person into custody.
This is an exception to the usual rule that officers must obtain an arrest warrant first.
(Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-81.3.)
A protective order (sometimes called a restraining order) is a court order requiring one person (the respondent) to not contact and stay away from another person (the petitioner).
In Virginia, any family or household member who is or has been the victim of domestic violence may file a petition for a preliminary protective order.
The court may issue an “ex parte” order (one made without notice to the defendant and without the defendant first appearing in court) if there is an immediate danger of family abuse or if family abuse has occurred recently.
If the court finds family abuse, it may issue a preliminary protective order:
The preliminary order goes into effect when the defendant is served and remains in effect until a hearing is held. A hearing must be held within 15 days of the preliminary order, although it can be delayed for up to six months if there is a good reason to do so.
(Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-253.1.)
Following a hearing, the court can issue a final protective order. In the final protective order, the court can:
A final protective order remains in effect for set period of time, up to two years.
(Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-279.1.)
Additionally, any Virginia judge can issue an emergency protective order if the judge finds that there is a danger of further acts of family abuse, and:
The emergency protective order is limited. It can only:
The emergency protective order is in effect for onlythree days, or until the next court day after the third day.
(Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-253.4.)
Violating most provisions of a protective order is a crime. Violating a preliminary or final protective order is also contempt of court. Contempt of court is punishable by time in jail or a fine.
(Va. Code Ann. § § 16.1-253.1, 16.1-279.1.)
Assault and battery against a family member is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
The court may place a first time offender on probation and order treatment as a condition of probation.
If the defendant has two or more prior convictions for assault and battery (or similar crimes) against a family or household member, then assault and battery is punishable as a Class 6 felony by up to one year in jail, or one to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $2,500.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to violate a protective order by:
A person convicted a second time of violating a protective order when the prior or current offense involved committing or threatening violence must serve a minimum of 60 days in jail.
A third or subsequent conviction for violating a protective order involving violence is punishable as a Class 6 felony, and the defendant must serve at least six months in jail.
A conviction for assault and battery causing serious injury against a person who is under a protective order or entering the home of a person under a protective order is also punishable as a Class 6 felony.
(Va. Code Ann. § § 16.1-253.2, 18.2-10, 18.2-11, 18.2-57.2, 18.2-57.3, 18.2-60.4.)
A protective order or a conviction for assault on a family or household member can have serious consequences. If you are charged with domestic violence or served with a protective order, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Virginia immediately. A criminal defense attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court and prepare your case so that you have the best chance of achieving a good outcome.