If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic violence, the legal system can provide protection. Laws protect victims from violent crimes against them, such as harassment, intimidation, assault, battery, and criminal threats. Some states also offer special hotlines.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior by a person to maintain power over another individual. These crimes include physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse, stalking, and kidnapping. It is a degrading and scary experience. In many cases, it takes a court order to protect the victim from the perpetrator.
A victim’s rights include the right to a restraining order, which prevents the perpetrator from harming the victim. In addition, the victim has the right to seek assistance from social workers and other professionals, such as counselors. The American Bar Association reports that all 50 states have some form of a domestic violence statute.
In addition to the federal government, state legislatures play an important role in the enforcing of laws pertaining to domestic violence. They have a specific responsibility to pass laws to combat this scourge, which often carries a harsher penalty than other types of crimes. For example, a domestic violence conviction could result in the revocation of a firearms license, the confiscation of weapons, and forfeiture of ammunition.
Prosecutors also play an important role in the prosecution of domestic violence cases. Many prosecutors specialize in addressing domestic violence, and some have established specialized domestic violence units. Typically, these prosecutor groups use vertical prosecution, which means that the victim’s case is assigned to a prosecutor who will work to resolve the issue.
Prosecutors may also be able to obtain a no-contact order, which prohibits the defendant from making contact with the victim. They may be able to get warrantless arrests, mandatory 24-hour jail holds, or other measures that protect the victim.
Depending on the underlying act, domestic violence penalties range from misdemeanors to felonies. Generally, a misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to a year in prison, while a felony is punishable by up to a year and a half to life in prison.
As part of the VAWA, a national hotline was created for domestic violence victims. The Violence Against Women Act also made certain types of violations a federal crime. This law provides a number of new civil protections, including a right to sue in a civil court. In addition, it expanded immigration laws so that battered spouses can apply for permanent residency.
One of the most controversial pieces of legislation regarding domestic violence is the Lautenberg Amendment, which bans the possession of guns by domestic violence convicts. Another notable piece of legislation is the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which partially closed the dating partner loophole.
The National Incident-Based Reporting System is a program that collects data on domestic violence incidents. Unfortunately, the program has yet to be fully implemented nationally. However, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a Web site hosted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, does provide information about safe court processes and custody issues.