Family Violence Act Offenses: What they are, who they impact, and what they can mean for you.
Updated: April 20, 2020
One area of the criminal justice system that can often be confusing is the offenses that are alleged under Georgia’s Family Violence Act. The intention behind this legislation is to help protect victims of domestic violence and punish perpetrators of acts of domestic violence. This may be a noble endeavor. However, Family Violence Act (“FVA”) laws, which are sometimes referred to as Domestic Violence (“DV”) laws are broad in their written scope. They can have unforeseen and lasting impacts both inside and outside of the criminal court process. People are often unaware of these potential impacts. In the short term, they can impact a person’s daily life, their ability to go home, and even see their family. In the long term, they can impact a person’s freedom, their employment, and their right to own and possess firearms.
What type of offenses can be charged under Georgia’s Family Violence Act?
With the right relationship, Family Violence offenses can include felony or misdemeanor offenses such as:
- Simply battery,
- Aggravated Battery,
- Simple Assault,
- Aggravated Assault,
- Criminal Damage to Property,
- Unlawful Restraint, and
- Criminal Trespass.
Interestingly, an offense like criminal trespass can have no violence involved and still be charged under this act.
What type of relationship is required to charge someone under Georgia’s Family Violence Act?
Offenses can become FVA crimes when they occur between:
- past or present spouses,
- persons who are parents of the same child,
- parents and children,
- stepparents and stepchildren,
- foster parents and foster children, or
- other persons living or formerly living in the same household.
As you can imagine, this list allows for a lot of scenarios to be considered Domestic Violence or Family Violence. These situations can include offenses between roommates or former roommates, siblings, or anyone else who has ever lived in the same household. An extreme example might include pushing a former college roommate thirty years after living with that person. This can result in a charge of Simple Battery under the Family Violence Act.
What does an FVA Charge mean for Someone who has been Arrested?
When someone is charged with an offense under the Family Violence Act in some counties, including Cherokee, they are often held without a bond until they see a magistrate judge. This judge will determine the appropriate conditions of bond and the amount of bond. This hearing can take up to 72 hours to occur, meaning that someone charged with a misdemeanor under the FVA could have to spend more time in jail before being able to post a bond than someone who is charged with a felony offense. The unplanned days away from work, school, and family, can have a huge impact on a person’s life.
Outside of the initial arrest, the conditions placed on an individual can be life altering. Even in counties like Cobb, where someone does not have to see a judge before getting a bond, they are still generally put under bond conditions.
These conditions can include things like:
- not returning to the address of the alleged victim; and
- not having any contact with that person.
This leads to individuals who are not able to return to their homes or not able to see their children. These conditions stay in place until a judge changes them through a court order. Click here for more information on what a no contact order means in these cases.
What are the impacts of a Domestic Violence Conviction?
If an individual is found guilty of an offense under the Family Violence Act, there is the potential for enhanced punishments. These increased punishments can result in an offense being treated as a high and aggravated misdemeanor. It can also result in repeat Family Violence offenses being treated as a felony when the non-FVA version would be a misdemeanor. In addition, there are extensive classes that the law generally requires an individual participate in, if that person is convicted of a Family Violence Act offense.
Outside of court, the collateral effects of these types of offenses can follow an individual around for the rest of his or her life. Convictions on someone’s criminal record for Family Violence offenses are often looked at more harshly than the similar offenses not charged under the Family Violence Act. In addition, Federal law prevents individuals who are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. This can mean that someone who is convicted of a family violence misdemeanor may never be able to own or possess a firearm again, which can be a very significant collateral penalty for avid hunters, or for those seeking employment in a career field requiring possession and use of a firearm.
Are Domestic Violence Charges in Georgia Serious?
People often believe that these charges are not very serious because they are “only” misdemeanor offenses; however, they can have far more serious consequences than people believe. When charged with an offense under the Family Violence Act, it is always a good idea to have an experienced attorney identify the ways the case could impact the rest of your life. From there, a strategy can be developed to help protect you.