The People’s Lawyer

How does West Virginia criminalize domestic violence?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2022 | Family Protection Orders

The common understanding of domestic violence, which has been articulated by the National Coalition on Domestic Violence, is the intentional intimidation, sexual assault, physical assault, battery, or any abusive behavior against an intimate or familial partner. This means that domestic violence occurs between members of households, those related by blood, marriage or intimate partners. This definition is wide too. It includes anything, including both physical and psychological violence. However, this is not a legal definition, but West Virginia specifies what qualifies as illegal domestic violence.

The statutory definition

Domestic violence or abuse is specifically criminalized in West Virginia Code §§ 48-27-101 et seq., commonly, known as the Prevention and Treatment of Domestic Violence Act. These regulations refer to actions taken by household member or intimate partner. These regulations make it illegal to attempt to cause or actually cause physical harm to another. It also makes it illegal to make one believe that they are about to be physically harmed. Even simply creating a fear of physical harm, like through stalking, harassment, threatening acts or psychological abuse is illegal in our state. Unwanted sexual contact can also qualify as domestic violence, as can any unwanted confinement, detention, holding or abduction.

Narrower definition

A key difference between our colloquial definition and West Virginia’s statutory definition of domestic violence is that psychological abuse is only illegal, if that abuse created a fear of physical violence. This means psychological abuse that creates a toxic relationship are criminally legal, so long as they do not broach threats of physical harm.

The difference from non-domestic assault or battery

For our Charles Town, and throughout northeastern West Virginia, readers, the key takeaway here is that our state takes domestic violence seriously. Indeed, our state makes a distinction between domestic assault and battery and non-domestic assault and battery because domestic assault and battery can only occur between members of a household or intimate partners. In these incidents, the law places enhanced penalties against the abuser.