West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws – All You Need to Know

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West Virginia law states that every person has the right to be safe and secure in their home, free of domestic violence and abuse. It is an unfortunate truth that many people suffer from domestic violence. It is important to understand more about West Virginia law regarding what is considered domestic violence, how domestic violence can be prevented, and which penalties may apply.

There are two types of West Virginia domestic violence laws, both of which result in criminal penalties if convicted. Restraining orders are one way to protect against domestic violence. Their purpose is to put distance between a victim and their abuser. Violating an order will result in criminal penalties. Domestic assault and battery are also covered by criminal law in West Virginia as separate from generalized assault and battery.

2022 West Virginia domestic violence laws

Defining Domestic Violence

Domestic violence must happen between family members or members of the same household, which includes spouses or ex-spouses, current or past sexual partners, people who were or are dating, people who lived in the same house, people who had a child together, or people who have a familial relationship. To be considered domestic violence under West Virginia law, one of these relationships must have occurred between the victim and the alleged abuser.

There are also specific acts that must have occurred at least once to be defined as domestic violence. These acts include:

  • Attempting to or producing physical harm to someone, with or without a weapon, either intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly.
  • Putting someone in reasonable fear of physical harm.
  • Stalking, harassing, threatening acts, or psychological abuse which create the fear of potential physical harm.
  • Committing sexual assault or sexual abuse.
  • Detaining, confining, holding, or abducting someone against their wish.

“Simple assault” is the actions that attempt to cause violence or cause someone to feel afraid of physical harm for a reason and action. “Battery” consists of actual physical violence, which could cause physical harm or could be insulting or provoking. These are considered misdemeanors because they only include threats and usually minor injuries.

If violent crimes committed against family members or members of the household are more serious than a misdemeanor, they will be addressed through generalized assault and battery laws.

Subsequent Domestic Violence Crimes

If this event is a person’s second domestic violence offense, the court is required to give more serious penalties, but it still counts as a misdemeanor. For a third offense or beyond, the assault and battery becomes a felony charge.

A court can decide on charges for any combination of domestic assault and battery crimes in the initial two offenses. Any prior conviction of assault, battery, or restraint can count as previous domestic violence offenses.

West Virginia Protective Orders

Protective orders, or restraining orders, allow a victim to have an abuser arrested if they violate the protective order. Often, a victim will file an initial emergency protective order, which can provide immediate support and safety if there is an imminent threat of domestic violence. This protection exists until the final decision of a family court order. For this, the alleged abuser will be notified, and they could be present. This is where a decision will be reached about creating a permanent protection order. This order will outline support, resolve financial issues, and explain that the abuser may not threaten, contact, or harm the victim.

Violations of this order can result in either criminal charges or a contempt of court charge. The second could result in a fine. Criminal charges could result in up to a year in jail or a fine of $2,000. In case of a criminal charge, there could be a jury trial.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

Domestic assault, after the first conviction, results in a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $100. The second conviction results in a minimum of 30 days and up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Domestic battery, after the first conviction, results in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $500. A second conviction of domestic battery requires a minimum of 60 days and up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The third offense, regardless of whether the first two were assault or battery charges, is a felony. If the third offense of either domestic battery or assault occurs within ten years of any previous convictions, the sentence is one to five years in prison or a fine of up to $2,500.

West Virginia courts are also required to order restitution. The defendant must pay reimbursement to the victim for financial losses, such as medical treatment, therapy, or damaged property.

FAQs About West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

Can you drop domestic violence charges?

Once the charges have been filed, the victim can’t drop them. This is because criminal charges are governed by the state of West Virginia, so the charge is issued by the state, and the decision to drop the charges is up to the prosecutor.

Is domestic violence a felony?

West Virginia domestic assault and battery are misdemeanors unless it is an offender’s third crime of domestic violence. The third offense will be charged as a felony for the current offense and any subsequent offenses.

What is domestic assault?

Domestic assault is defined as any attempt to intentionally and unlawfully commit injury or physical harm to a family member or member of the household. It also covers acts that put those same persons in reasonable fear or apprehension of physical harm or injury.

Which proofs are required for domestic violence cases?

Evidence that should be collected for domestic violence cases is any independent and confirming evidence, including medical reports, 911 call recordings, injuries photographed by a police officer, injuries seen by someone other than the victim, police reports of a 911 call by the victim or a witness, broken or torn household objects or additional household disarray after the violence, pictures of weapons used, and any verbal testimonies from witnesses.

Trusted Legal Counsel

If you’ve been a victim of domestic violence, it’s important to protect yourself from your abuser. Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney with Erica Lord Law Group to see how we can help you with the legal processes around protective orders, court proceedings, and gathering evidence to keep you safe.