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Federal government changes definition of domestic violence

The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women quietly made important changes in 2018 to how it defines domestic violence. As the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sought to refine sexual misconduct on college campuses to bolster the rights of the accused, these changes at the DOJ roll back Obama-era guidelines that decidedly favored the prosecution.

This is done by categorizing domestic violence as a misdemeanor or felony criminal act where sexual violence or physical assault takes place. It can involve a spouse, intimate partner, coparent of a child or individual living under the same roof. These charges can apply to an adult or a minor.

Previous definition had gray area

The previous law was more far-reaching and designed to be ambiguous. It included such concepts as:

  • Dynamics of control or power
  • Forms of psychological abuse or economic abuse
  • Actions deemed deliberately hurtful

Enforcing these changes

The thinking from an administration that prides itself on punishing wrongdoers is to better enforce the law. To do this, it moves these cases more squarely into the criminal law realm. By having these hard and fast definitions, the law may be able to better protect the rights of the accused. Conversely, those who do meet this criteria outlined will have a higher likelihood for conviction.

A legal defense is more crucial than ever

These new rules are still working their way through the legal system, so it will be particularly important that those charged get legal guidance that can protect the rights of the accused and help ensure that the crime does fit this new definition. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be an invaluable asset during this time, whether it is in open court or during negotiations with the prosecution.

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