West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws
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In West Virginia, every person has the right to be safe and secure within his or her home and to be free from domestic violence. West Virginia's criminal code defines "domestic violence" as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members:
- Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing physical harm to another (with or without dangerous or deadly weapons)
- Placing another in reasonable apprehension of physical harm
- Creating fear of physical harm by harassment, stalking, psychological abuse or threatening acts
- Committing either sexual assault or sexual abuse, or
- Holding, confining, detaining or abducting another person against that person's will
It's important to note that domestic violence can only occur between "family or household members." A family or household member can only be people who:
- Are or were married to each other
- Are or were living together as spouses
- Are or were sexual partners
- Are or were dating
- Are or were residing together in the same household
- Have a child in common, or
- Have a familial relationship with the other person (namely that they are either a parent, stepparent, brother or sister (half or whole), father-in-law or mother-in-law, stepfather-in-law or stepmother-in-law, child or stepchild, daughter-in-law or son-in-law, stepdaughter-in-law or stepson-in-law, grandparent, step-grandparent, aunt, aunt-in-law or step aunt, uncle, uncle-in-law or step uncle, niece or nephew, or first or second cousin
In West Virginia, victims of domestic violence have several tools available to them to deter future abuse. Protective orders (also referred to as restraining orders) can't stop an abuser from hurting a victim, but they do permit the victim to have the abuser arrested if the protective order is violated. The chart below provides a brief overview of West Virginia's law regarding protective orders.
|West Virginia Code section 48-27-501 and 48-27-502: Protective Orders – Mandatory Provisions
Issuance of Protective Order
|The court will issue a protective order if it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that domestic violence has occurred.
Mandatory Provisions in Protective Orders
A protective order must:
- Order the respondent to refrain from abusing, harassing, stalking, threatening, otherwise intimidating the petitioner or the minor children, or engaging in other conduct that would place the petitioner or the minor children in reasonable fear of bodily injury
- Prohibit the respondent from possessing any firearm or ammunition
- Notify the respondent that possessing a firearm or ammunition is a criminal offense
- Inform the respondent that the order is in effect in every state, and
- Warn the respondent that violating the order may be punished by imprisonment for up to one year and by a fine of up to $2,000
For a list of terms that may be included in a protective order see section 48-27-503.
State laws change frequently. For case specific information about West Virginia's domestic violence laws contact a local criminal defense lawyer.
If you or someone you know is a domestic violence survivor there is help available to you. During an emergency dial 911 and when you're safe contact the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.