Virginia Domestic Violence Law

< VA Criminal Law

Virginia Domestic Violence Attorneys

Domestic violence in Virginia encompasses physical abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse, all falling under the legal umbrella term of domestic violence. Various laws and criminal codes have been established to address these types of abusive actions, although statistics indicate that many cases of domestic abuse go unreported. Physical abuse tends to be reported more frequently than emotional or verbal abuse since it often results in hospital visits and subsequent inquiries.

What connects these forms of abuse is that they are typically directed at a member of the perpetrator’s family, within their domestic unit. When such actions are directed at strangers, they are referred to by various labels such as verbal abuse or harassment, assault and battery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, or other terms depending on the specifics. However, when these offenses occur within the family, they are collectively referred to as domestic violence.

In cases involving domestic violence, both the victim and the perpetrator should seek the guidance of a Virginia domestic violence lawyer. If the victim wishes to report the crime and press charges, they will need a lawyer to navigate the legal process and ensure appropriate penalties are imposed. Similarly, if a person is accused of domestic violence, they require a lawyer to advocate for a fair trial and substantiate the charges. In cases where domestic violence is falsely reported, a lawyer may be able to have the charges dismissed based on lack of evidence or inaccuracies in testimony. En Español.

Domestic Violence Laws

When examining domestic violence in Northern Virginia (NoVa), it is essential to consider the language of §16.1-228, which defines family abuse as any act involving violence, force, or threats toward a family member that directly leads to injury or reasonable fear of injury. This can include holding the person against their will. The injuries can be mental, physical, or emotional. Additionally, this section specifies that a threat alone can be considered abuse, even if the threat is never carried out. Therefore, if the accused person states an intention to harm the victim, the victim can report the crime before any action is taken.

§16.1-228 defines family members under Virginia state law. Family members can include spouses, former spouses who are divorced or estranged, individuals related by blood (e.g., siblings, parents, step-siblings), and those not related by blood but considered family by law (e.g., in-laws). Additionally, a family member can be someone who shares a child with the accused, regardless of marital status, or a person who cohabitates with or has cohabitated with the accused in the past 12 months. Children of cohabitants are also considered family, regardless of marital or blood relations.


A Virginia lawyer can provide overall statistics on domestic violence in the state for the year 2010. During that year, studies showed a 19.4% increase in homicides categorized as domestic violence resulting in fatalities compared to the previous year. While the number of victims of violent crimes increased by only 1.4%, the number of victims of domestic violence increased by 8.6% from 2006 to 2010. During this period, domestic violence against older individuals (aged 65 and above) increased by 35%. In 2010, there were 24,072 arrests of individuals accused of violence against family members.

A Virginia lawyer can also provide total statistics based on actual numbers rather than rate of increase. Over a ten-year period from 1999 to 2009, there were approximately 1,520 deaths resulting from violent episodes with family members or romantic partners. Around 139 of these deaths occurred in 2009 alone out of a total of just over 400 homicides. In total, there were 19,033 reported violent crimes in Virginia in 2010, and it is assumed that the number of unreported crimes involving family members is higher than crimes not involving family.

Protective Orders

For assistance in dealing with an abusive individual, various types of protective orders can be pursued. A Virginia domestic violence lawyer can help determine the most appropriate type of order for each situation. These orders make it illegal for the person to come within a certain distance of the victim, effectively putting a stop to the abuse. If the person violates the order and continues the abuse, they may face additional jail time and fines for the violation.

A standard protective order, governed by §16.1-253.2, does not result in charges or jail time on its own. It establishes a civil court order prohibiting contact between parties, and the person will only face punishment if they violate the order. §16.1-253.4 deals with emergency protective orders, which can be obtained by contacting a judge or magistrate if immediate danger is perceived. These orders last for three days. Lastly, a permanent protective order, established by §16.1-279.1, lasts for two years in NoVa but can be extended if necessary.

Monetary Compensation

In addition to potential criminal fines, individuals found guilty of domestic violence in Virginia may face claims for monetary compensation. If you have been accused of domestic violence and found guilty, the victim can sue you for various expenses, including:

  1. Loss of wages or earnings resulting from the attack or subsequent injuries
  2. Mental health counseling required following the assault
  3. Medical bills directly related to the sustained injuries
  4. Costs of property damage and cleaning (e.g., cleaning up a crime scene)
  5. Funeral expenses in the event of a death
  6. Reasonable moving expenses approved by the presiding judge
  7. Pregnancy costs resulting from rape
  8. Loss of financial support
  9. Counseling for children who witnessed the events, regardless of physical harm
  10. Additional direct expenses resulting from the actions taken, subject to approval by the judge
  11. It’s important to note that criminal fines are separate from these expenses, and the accused may face both criminal fines and monetary compensation simultaneously, along with court fees.


Punishment for domestic violence offenses varies depending on the specific circumstances of the crime. Factors such as the nature of the offense, the victim involved, and whether the crime resulted in death are considered. Crimes against children generally carry more severe punishments compared to those against adults, even though both fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Offenses resulting in the death of another person are judged more harshly than those where death did not occur. Evaluating the appropriate punishment can be complex in cases involving multiple crimes committed over an extended period, but a Virginia lawyer can navigate these complexities to ensure a fair outcome.

A first offense for domestic abuse of a family member is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor and can carry a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500. However, first-time offenders often receive deferred sentences and probation. If a person is convicted of the same offense three or more times within a ten-year period, they will be charged with a Class 6 felony, which can result in up to five years in prison.

Getting a Lawyer

Regardless of your involvement in the domestic abuse case, it is crucial to seek the guidance of a Virginia lawyer if domestic violence has occurred within your household. Contact our firm today to receive assistance tailored to your specific situation.