Women over the years have been on the receiving end of domestic violence, both in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. In some cases, domestic violence has led to the loss of the lives of several women. Recent statistics reveal a staggering increase in the numbers of domestic violence and this brings the question of the role of the law in domestic violence cases. If you have fallen a victim of domestic violence a criminal defense lawyer can help you start a case.

The United States government in 1994 constituted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and in 1996, additions were passed into law to protect women. One of such additions is a grant program initiated with the aim to prevent violence against women. The Act also ensured the creation of a domestic violence hotline available nationally while giving a new level of protection to domestic violence victims.

Some of the added protection offered as part of the 1996 additions to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) include granting confidentiality to victims who have been relocated, changes to migration laws to better facilitate a battered spouse’s permanent residency application and more.

The key benefits and features of the VAW Act however include;

  • Domestic violence victims receive a completely funded rape kit and funding for legal or court fees towards securing domestic violence protection orders.
  • All States, territorial and tribal jurisdictions within the United States recognize and enforce victim protection orders.
  • Local communities received domestic violence crime units with funding from the government.
  • Tribal courts were granted the ability to try intimate partners of Indian women or non-Indian spouses in dating violence or domestic violence cases.
  • The Act also allowed provision for green card issuance to undocumented immigrants in exchange for providing useful information that will lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the abuse.

Misdemeanor Conduct

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recognizes different levels of domestic violence as punishable by the law. A domestic violence misdemeanor case is one that is characterized by conviction for the crime of attempted use of physical force. Another form of domestic violence misdemeanor can be in a case where the abuser threatens to use a deadly weapon on the victim. This type of offense must have been carried out by a parent, a domestic partner, or guardian of the victim.

Intimate Partner, under the guidelines set in Section 922(g)[9], is described as a person in the position of a former spouse, current spouse, a person with whom a child is shared in common with the victim, a person who lives with the victim, or a person who had in the past lived with the victim.

Traveling Restrictions

As part of the Violence Against Women Act, there is another part of the Act that addresses issues of interstate traveling with the intent to commit a domestic violence act or the case of traveling in violation of an issued order of protection.

This addition was made to further protect victims who may have relocated from the watchful eyes of their abusers who may seek to take out other domestic violence measures on the victim.

According to the act, a person who has been convicted of domestic violence may not be allowed to trail the victim to another state. In addition to this, the Act also holds that a person who has been convicted for the crime of being an abuser may not, under any circumstances, force the victim to remove herself from the original state and into another.

In addition, the Act allows for cross border orders of protection making it easier for another jurisdiction to recognize an order of protection that was ordered against the abuser in other places.

The VAWA further specifies full faith and credit. Full faith and credit applies to all issued protection orders that are regarded as part of any criminal or civil proceeding. This also covers the order of protection issued by any Indian tribe. This means that any order, whatsoever, that has been issued has to be enforced in all jurisdictions.

Of all the states in the United States, 47 states have passed the legislation that recognized orders of protection that have been granted in other jurisdictions. In three states, Montana, Alaska, and Pennsylvania, such a victim of domestic violence will be requested to obtain an out of state order for the protection order to be filed and enforced in these states.

The Notable Cases on Interstate Provisions

Hundreds of landmark cases that have been treated under the new interstate provisions exist. Generally, these provisions have helped several domestic violence victims remove themselves from situations that constituted violence against them while also keeping them safe and at a distance from their abusers.

In one of the landmark cases that have been decided under these new interstate provisions, the case of United States vs. Rita Gluzman, in New York, the defendant was reported to have traveled to the state of New York from New Jersey with the express intention of inflicting harm and even the murder of her estranged husband.

Weapons found on her person were revealed to have been concurrent with the murder weapon. Gluzman, the defendant in the case, was convicted for the crime of killing her husband.

In the 1997 case of the United States vs. Mark A. Sterkel, Sterkel was found to have traveled to Arizona from Utah with the express intention to stalk and instill fear in his former boss. The defendant was in this case convicted of interstate stalking.

In the past, under the Violence Against Women Act, victims were originally granted permission to pursue legal compensation for damages in a civil court. This provision was however overturned by the United States Supreme court in the year 2000 in the case between Brzonkala v. Morrison. The court, in this case, ordered that Congress had no sufficient authority to pass such a law and as such struck it out.

The Impact of VAWA on Domestic Abuse and Arrest Policies

The Violence Against Women Act was also aimed at getting legislators to influence some existing laws, particularly those relating to the arrests made on perpetrators of domestic violence.

To receive promised funds from the federal government, states were required to adopt certain procedures that are in line with the Act which reads: VAWA 1994: (1) To implement mandatory arrest or pro-arrest programs and policies in police departments, including mandatory arrest programs and policies for protection order violations.

VAWA has impacted state laws governing domestic abuse greatly. However, the Act expired in the year 2011 and wasn’t renewed until 2013. For persons who have been unable to exercise their rights based on the lapse, contact an attorney today.