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What penalties can you face for family abuse?

It can be devastating to find out that you're being accused of abusing your spouse or child. Family abuse is a serious charge, and it can mean you're unable to see the people you care about.

What is family abuse, really?

Family abuse is defined as involving force, violence or even the threat of forceful detention. If a physical injury is caused or someone fears, reasonably, that he or she will be hurt, then the person threatening or participating in that behavior can be charged with family abuse.

Family abuse doesn't only include spouses and children. Family members, in the eyes of the court, include ex-spouses, in-laws, people who share a child and don't live together, co-habitants, people who have lived together in the past year and their children if applicable and spouses, regardless of where they live.

What kind of punishments are given for convictions for family abuse?

Anyone who is convicted of family abuse should be aware that it's a Class 1 misdemeanor if domestic assault, family abuse or battery take place. This is punished with up to 12 months in jail, and the fine is typically $2,500. If this isn't the first time a person has been convicted, then the risk of heavy penalties increases. Three or more convictions within 10 years makes the crime a Class 6 felony, which can put a person in prison for up to five years. One thing to remember is that convictions must occur on different dates; if they're on the same date, they count as only one toward the 10-year period.

Source: Virginia's Judicial System, "Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court: Domestic Violence or Family Abuse," accessed May 24, 2016

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