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What are the basics of domestic violence charges?

Domestic violence is a family law issue that sometimes results in criminal charges. In Washington, such violence is defined as a criminal act committed by one member of a household against another, usually by one family member against another. Domestic violence is a distinct category of crime in most states.

If a person strikes another person with enough force to cause potential injury, then that person can be charged with the crime of assault or battery or some variation of those crimes. The crime of domestic violence, however, requires that the perpetrator and the victim be related or otherwise engaged in a personal relationship. The violence frequently takes the form of physical abuse such as slapping, shoving, punching, kicking and biting, but emotional abuse can also lead to domestic violence charges. Charges of domestic violence may also stem from economic abuse, with the abuser making the victim financially dependent, as well as from stalking and sexual abuse.

In Washington, conviction of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can be punished by as many as 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A gross misdemeanor domestic violence conviction typically brings a $5,000 fine and one year in jail. Anyone convicted of felony domestic abuse faces more than one year in prison. Aggravated circumstances such as sexual abuse that becomes rape charges and slapping that becomes assault can bring enhanced charges. If weapons are involved, both charges and consequences are even more severe.

If a victim has filed and obtained a restraining order, then the accused is required to respect that protection order at all time. Most orders of protection include both prohibitions on communication with the victim and firearms restrictions. If the terms of a court order are violated, a defendant can expect additional charges with more severe penalties if convicted.

Source: Learn about the Law, "Domestic Violence," accessed on Aug. 28, 2014

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