It is well known that all states have laws that deal with domestic violence issues. Whether the criminal law is phrased in terms of domestic violence, family violence, spousal abuse, or some other term, all 50 states have laws that make acts such as those a crime. But did you know that the federal government also has laws that make domestic violence a crime?
Of course, there are limits to the federal power to regulate crimes, as well as other behavior. The fact that you have been charged with domestic violence (or its equivalent name in your state) does not automatically mean that you can be charged with an offense under federal law. The following explains how and when an alleged act of domestic abuse may lead to a federal prosecution.
The starting point is the federal Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), originally passed by Congress in 1994. The latest incarnation is the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022. Briefly, you can be charged with a federal crime under the VAWA if you cross state lines to cause injury to an intimate partner, to harass or to stalk, or to violate a domestic violence protective order.
Depending upon the circumstances of the case, you could also be charged with an offense under the federal Gun Control Act. Examples include:
- possession of a firearm while you are the subject of an applicable order of protection;
- possession of a firearm after being convicted of one of certain misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence. Those offenses include, generally, a crime against an intimate partner, or the parent of the intimate partner.
Obviously, you do not need to be married in order to be the subject of a domestic violence charge. The federal law, as well as most state laws, define “intimate partner” fairly broadly, and virtually all include, at the very least, spouses and former spouses, and present or former cohabitants.
The point is that the circumstances of a particular domestic violence case could lead to a prosecution not only under state law, but also as a federal criminal offense.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004