Unfortunately, false allegations of domestic violence used to gain legal leverage are on the rise, too. An estimated 700,000 people are wrongfully arrested on domestic violence charges annually.
What you may also not be aware of is that although domestic violence is typically prosecuted in North Carolina state courts, it is sometimes prosecuted federally…and a federal conviction is far more serious.
Understanding how domestic violence is defined and what scenarios are considered domestic violence offenses is only the first action you can take should you be falsely accused.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic violence is a (typically) violent offense committed against a family member, or someone with whom you currently have or have had an intimate relationship in the past.
Specific relationships covered by domestic violence laws include:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Someone with whom you have or have had a dating relationship
- Children or stepchildren
- Parents or stepparents
- Someone with whom you have a child
- A blood relative
- A disabled adult for whom you are a caregiver
Be aware there are cases where emotional (not physical) harm to the victim or acts such as intimidation and harassment can also be considered domestic violence, too.
What Makes Domestic Violence a Federal Offense?
Most domestic charges are prosecuted at a state level. However, when Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 domestic violence crimes became federal jurisdiction. The Act was meant to help the criminal justice system effectively address domestic violence cases in which prosecution was often running into snags. Here is how federal law covered them:
When an Offender Crosses State Lines
If you travel over state lines with the intention of injuring or intimidating a family member, and during the trip, you succeed in committing a violent crime that causes bodily injury, you are subject to federal prosecution.
Note, in order for prosecutors to prove this circumstance, they must show both your specific intent to commit domestic violence at the time of your travel and bodily injury to the victim.
When a Victim is Forced to Cross State Lines
Cause your victim to cross state lines by force, coercion, duress or fraud, and they incur bodily harm during the trip? Your state domestic violence charges will be handed over to the feds then, too.
This circumstance does not require a specific intent to cause the victim to travel but does require that the travel occurred due to force, coercion, duress or fraud.
Other Domestic Violence Related Federal Offenses
In addition to travel over state lines, it is a federal crime to:
- Cross state lines with the intent to injure, stalk or harass the victim
- Use the mail or a computer to stalk or harass a victim
- Cross state lines with the intent to violate an order of protection
- Possess a gun and/or ammunition if you have been convicted of domestic violence
- Possess a gun and/or ammunition if you have a protective order against you
Now that you understand the who and what of federal-level domestic violence, let’s talk about why this level of prosecution is so much more serious…
Why Is Federal Prosecution More Serious?
Firstly, federal investigations are more in-depth primarily because federal investigative agencies like the FBI have access to more resources to investigate.
Federal prosecutors are also far more likely to seek the maximum possible sentence for an offense. Even if the state and federal sentencing guidelines are similar, you can almost always expect a more severe sentence in federal court.
Furthermore, federal inmates are ineligible for parole, meaning that you’ll be serving out the entirety of your sentence behind bars.
Educating yourself on the implications of federal domestic violence prosecution can improve the outcome of your case. Once you understand the basics, you’re ready to seek the professional advice of an experienced North Carolina domestic violence defense attorney.