Most states define domestic violence or family violence as an act by a family member against another family member resulting in bodily injury, physical harm, or the threat of harm that places the victim in fear. In each state, the law clearly describes the method for prosecuting cases and mandating sentences for those found guilty of these types of crimes.
Domestic violence laws usually apply to anyone living permanently within a household and those related by affinity or blood. For domestic violence claims to be prosecuted successfully, prosecutors must prove that the defendant's violent actions were intentional, causing injury or emotional trauma. Physical and forensic evidence may be provided if actual bodily injury occurred.
Some defenses against domestic violence charges in many states include lack of evidence, acting in self-defense, or an unintentional or accidental incident. Also, in the case of fraudulent abuse claims, the defendant can challenge that an offense never occurred, and then the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to either proceed and prove their case or drop the charges.
The penalties for domestic violence convictions range from one of several different misdemeanors to a second-degree felony. Factors influencing sentencing include the defendant's relationship with the victim, past convictions of violence, the type and circumstances that led to the violence, and whether strangulation, suffocation, or severe injuries were involved.
State governments recognizes individuals who are in dating relationships, married, related by blood, children including foster children, and anyone living in the same house as domestic partners. Victims of domestic abuse should contact the local police for help. When children are involved, child custody lawyers can begin the process of preventing or limiting contact with domestic violence perpetrators.