Federal Domestic Violence
In 1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which enables federal prosecutors to file charges against those who are accused of committing a violent act against an intimate partner. Being charged in federal court can have serious consequences, as the penalties are almost always more severe than their state counterparts, so if you are being investigated by federal agents for a domestic violence-related offense, it is important to seek the aid of an experienced federal crime attorney who may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed.
Elements of a Federal Domestic Violence Charge
Under federal law, a person can be charged with domestic violence if he or she:
- Traveled in interstate or foreign commerce;
- With the intent to kill, injure, intimidate, or harass an intimate partner; and
- Committed or attempted to commit a crime of violence against that person.
This federal law only applies to intimate partners, which includes spouses, former spouses, those who share a child in common, those who currently live together or did so in the past, and dating partners. If the alleged victim does not fall under this category, then the defendant cannot be convicted of federal domestic violence, although he or she could still be charged in state court.
Defendants who are accused of the following, could also face federal domestic violence charges:
- Forcing an intimate partner to travel in interstate commerce through the use of coercion, fraud, or duress; and
- Committing a crime of violence against an intimate partner.
Those who are convicted of either of these offenses face up to five years in prison. However, if the victim suffered a serious bodily injury or the defendant is accused of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of the crime, the sentence could be increased to ten years.
Harassing an Intimate Partner
Federal law also specifically prohibits the stalking or harassment of an intimate partner, which includes harassment via mail or computer. Additionally, those who violate a qualifying Protective Order can also be charged in federal court. An order will usually qualify as a Protection Order if it falls under one of the following categories:
- A temporary or permanent civil injunction:
- A temporary or permanent criminal injunction;
- A restraining order; or
- A no-contact order.
Essentially, when assessing whether an order qualifies as a Protective Order under federal law, courts will look at whether reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard were granted to the defendant and whether the order forbade future threats of violence. Defendants who are convicted of violating a qualifying order face an additional year in prison.
Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
Federal crimes are generally more aggressively investigated and prosecuted than similar state offenses, making it especially important for those who have been charged in federal court instead of state court to present a strong defense. For a free evaluation of your own case, please contact experienced Florida federal crime attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 today.