"In my darkest hour both broken and bruised I didn't know how I would cope or heal. I found a place of hope and encouragement, and I found it within the walls of the FCIC. It was there I recovered and gained strength, and they gave me the greatest gift of all...a helping hand at obtaining my independence and freedom. May god bless this wonderful haven and those who reside and work within it."
~Celena Roby, Author of Celena's Law / Board Member FCIC
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West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic assault or battery in West Virginia is a simple assault or battery against a victim who is a family or household member including:
- a current or former spouse of the offender
- person with whom the offender resides or previously resided
- person who is or was a sexual or intimate partner of the offender
- person who the offender is dating or previously dated
- person with whom the offender has a child, and
- person with whom the offender is related by blood, adoption or marriage including first and second cousins and aunts and uncles. (W. Va. Code Ann. §61-2-28, §48-27-204.)
Simple assault in West Virginia consists of attempting to cause violent injury to another person or causing another person – by threats, words or actions – to feel afraid of impending violence. (W. Va. Code Ann. §61-2-9(b).)
Battery in West Virginia is unlawful, intentional physical contact that is insulting or provoking or results in physical harm. (W. Va. Code Ann. §61-2-9(c).)
Simple assault and battery are misdemeanors in West Virginia because the crimes involve only threats to injure, insulting or provoking contact or minor bodily injury like a cut, scrape or bruise. Injury such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or requiring surgery or hospitalization is a “serious bodily physical injury.”
If an offender commits a violent crime against a family or household member and the crime is more serious than misdemeanor assault or battery, the crime is addressed under the general assault and battery statutes.
Domestic Violence Subsequent Offense
Domestic assault and battery in West Virginia also are misdemeanors unless the crime is the offender’s third domestic violence offense. For a second offense, the court is required to impose more severe penalties, and for a third or subsequent offense, the assault or battery is charged as a felony.
In determining that a domestic assault or battery is a subsequent offense, the court can count any combination of prior domestic assault or battery misdemeanor offenses and prior convictions for two other crimes – felony unlawful assault or battery and unlawful restraint crimes – if those crimes were committed against a family or household member. A person commits an unlawful assault by shooting, stabbing cutting, wounding or causing serious bodily injury to another person but without the intent to cause serious harm or death. (W. Va. Code Ann. §61-2-9(a).)
For more information on the crime of unlawful assault in West Virginia, see Malicious or Unlawful Assault in West Virginia.
The crime of unlawful restraint is a misdemeanor and involves restraining a person either by actual physical force or by threat of violence. (W. Va. Code Ann. §61-2-14-g(a).)
In addition to actual prior convictions, the court also can count prior domestic violence cases in which the defendant participated in a pre-trial diversion or pre-prosecution program. This allows the court to count cases that did not result in a conviction because of a deferred sentence or diversion program.
Penalties for Domestic Assault and Battery in West Virginia
The penalty for domestic assault in West Virginia is up to six months in jail or a fine up to $100, or both.
If the domestic assault is the offender’s second domestic violence offense, the defendant must serve a minimum of thirty days or up to six months in jail or pay a fine up to $500, or both.
The penalty for domestic battery in West Virginia is up to one year in jail or a fine up to $500, or both.
If the domestic battery is the offender’s second domestic violence offense, the defendant must serve a minimum of sixty days or up to one year in jail or pay a fine up to $1000, or both.
Domestic assault or battery – third offense
The penalty for the felony of a third or subsequent domestic violence offense is a minimum of one year or up to five years in prison, or a fine up to $2,500, or both.
Courts in West Virginia are required to order a defendant to pay restitution. This is reimbursement to the victim for any expenses or financial losses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Pre-Trial Diversion, Suspended Sentence and Probation
Pre-trial diversion programs and suspended sentences are alternatives to jail or prison that are available in some cases.
Before trial, the prosecuting attorney can enter into a pre-trial diversion agreement with a defendant charged with a first-time domestic violence offense, but only if a specific domestic violence pre-trial diversion program is available. The agreement usually provides that the defendant will not be prosecuted for the crime if he complies with certain conditions over a period of time, up to 24 months. The conditions can include not committing any further criminal acts, participating in treatment, maintaining a permanent residence or employment, observing a curfew, drug testing and, in some cases, complying with supervised probation. Probation normally involves similar conditions, as well as reporting to a probation officer on a regular basis.
The arrest and diversion will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant fails to satisfy the conditions of the pre-trial diversion agreement, the agreement usually requires an automatic guilty plea for the offense charged and whatever sentence the court decides to impose.
Pre-trial diversion is not available for subsequent offenses because of the mandatory minimum jail and prison sentences.
In some cases, the pre-trial diversion agreement may involve only an agreement that the defendant will comply with conditions in exchange for the opportunity to plead guilty at the end of the conditional period to a lesser offense.
If the court suspends a sentence, the court imposes a jail sentence after the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty to domestic assault or battery, but allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of the time on probation rather than in jail. For instance, the court might impose the mandatory minimum jail sentence for a second domestic violence offense and then impose additional jail time, which is suspended. Probation can include the conditions listed above. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes or he will be required to complete the sentence in jail or prison.
Helping You To Survive.
If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next, don’t be. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places. Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart and your mind as you create your own path towards happiness, don’t waste time with regret. Spin wildly into your next action.
Enjoy the present, each moment, as it comes; because you’ll never get another one quite like it. And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breath and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart.. where your hope lives. You’ll find you’re way again.
The FCIC cares about you, cares for you, comforts you, gives you shelter, clothing and the life you long for, and we're just a phone call away. Our 24 hour hot line: 1.800.794.2335 or 1.304.428.2333.
"In my darkest hour both broken and bruised I didn't know how I would cope or heal. I found a place of hope and encouragement, and I found it within the walls of the FCIC. It was there I recovered and gained strength, and they gave me the greatest gift of all...a helping hand at obtaining my independence and freedom. May god bless this wonderful haven, and those who reside and work within it."
~Celena Roby, Author of Celena's Law / Board Member FCIC
Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation between family or household members involving physical harm, sexual assault, or fear of physical harm. Family or household members include spouses / former spouses, those in (or formerly in) a dating relationship, adults related by blood or marriage, and those who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship.
The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, and isolation to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but may remain a hidden and constant terrorizing factor. Domestic violence is not only physical and sexual violence but also psychological. Psychological violence means intense and repetitive degradation, creating isolation, and controlling the actions or behaviors of the spouse through intimidation or manipulation to the detriment of the individual.
Domestic violence destroys the home. No one deserves to be abused. The responsibility for the violence belongs to the abuser. It is not the victim's fault!
Symptoms of Abuse - Misuse of Power And Control
Abuse in a relationship is any act used to gain power and control over another person. Women who are abused physically are often isolated. Their partners tend to control their lives to a great extent as well as verbally degrade them.
Listed below are some of the warning signs of domestic abuse. Look to see if there are multiple warning signs that are occurring in your life.
USING PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ABUSE
Hair pulling, biting, shaking, pushing, pinching, choking, kicking, confinement, slapping, hitting, punching, using weapons, forced intercourse, unwanted sexual touching in public or in private and depriving her of food or sleep.
USING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
Insulting her in public or in private
Putting down her friends and family
Making her feel bad about herself
Calling her names
Making her think she's crazy
Playing mind games
Making her feel guilty
Using Male Privilege; acting like "Master of the Castle"
Treating her like a servant
Making all the big decisions
Being the one to define men's and women's roles.
USING ECONOMIC ABUSE
Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
Making her ask for money
Giving her an allowance
Taking her money
Not letting her know about or have access to family income
Not allowing her a voice in important financial decisions
Demanding exclusive control over household finances.
USING COERCION AND THREATS
Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her
Threatening to leave her, or to commit suicide
Threatening to report her to welfare
Making her drop charges
Making her do illegal things.
Making her afraid by using looks, gestures, or actions
Throwing or smashing things, destroying property
Making her feel guilty about the children
Using the children to relay messages
Using visitation to harass her
Threatening to take the children away.
Controlling what she does, who she sees, what she reads, & where she goes
Limiting her outside involvement
Refusing to let her learn to drive, go to school, or get a job
Not allowing her to freely use the car or the telephone.
USING JEALOUSY AND BLAME TO JUSTIFY ACTIONS
Minimizing, Denying, Blaming
Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
Checking up on where she's been or who she's talked to
Accusing her of infidelity
Saying the abuse didn't happen
Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
Saying she caused it.
Why Get Help?
The danger is real.
If you are controlling or have a controlling partner, don't ignore these behaviors. They are not the result of stress, anger, drugs or alcohol. They are learned behaviors that one person uses to dominate, intimidate and manipulate. They are destructive and dangerous.
If the abuse continues without outside help, the abusing partner may risk being arrested, going to jail, or losing the relationship.
Domestic violence hurts all family members. When a person is abusive he or she eventually loses the trust and respect of his or her partner. Abused partners are afraid to communicate their feelings and needs.
Everyone has the right to feel safe in a relationship. With help, people who are abusive can learn to be non-violent.
Learn the Warning Signs
Disagreements develop from time to time in relationships. Domestic violence is not a disagreement. It is a whole pattern of behaviors used by one partner to establish and maintain power and control over the other. These behaviors can become more frequent and intense over time.
The abusive person is responsible for these behaviors. That person is the only one who can change them. Don't wait until you and the ones you love get hurt. You Are Not Alone. Consider getting some help. Talk with friends about your situation.
FCIC Sexual Assault/Abuse services are provided in the West Virginia counties of Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood.