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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Can You Face Federal Charges For Domestic Violence?

Can You Face Federal Charges For Domestic Violence?


Domestic violence is generally an intimate offense, involving family or household members (at least in Florida) and perpetrated by someone sharing some kind of relationship with their victim. However, there are rare instances in which a domestic violence-related offense can be charged under federal law. More often than not, a federal conviction means a longer – and possibly harsher – sentence.

Different Federal Laws

There are several different federal laws that deal with the offense of domestic violence, and U.S. law has a slightly different definition of the crime – the relevant statute defines domestic violence as a crime that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use” of either physical force, a deadly weapon, or both, and is used against one of a specific group of people. Florida’s statute only encompasses offenses that cause either “physical injury or death” to an individual who shares a specific relationship with the victim.

There are two major laws that can be used as a basis for federal domestic violence charges. One is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, which grants federal authority to investigate and prosecute crimes against women. Over time, VAWA’s reach has expanded to victims of all genders, but originally, women’s cases were the priority. The other law is 18 USC §2261, which establishes the crime of ‘interstate domestic violence.’ In general, federal jurisdiction applies to crimes that take place with the flow of interstate traffic or commerce.

Federal Laws Triggered By Domestic Violence

In addition to the instances in which one can be charged with domestic violence under federal law, there are certain federal laws that are applied to a person who has been convicted of the offense. One of the most common has to do with immigration – Section 237 of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) holds that any immigrant (documented or undocumented) convicted of the offense of domestic violence is deportable, regardless of how long a person has been in the United States or what visa they hold.

The other federal law relevant to a domestic violence conviction is somewhat in flux as of this writing, as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to its constitutionality, but it still applies. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, known colloquially as the Lautenberg Amendment, restricts anyone convicted of a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence, or subject to a domestic violence based injunction, from owning firearms of any kind. As a federal law, it takes precedence over any Florida regulation, even if a person was tried in Florida state courts.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

If you are facing charges of domestic violence in a federal setting, you need legal help that can advise you as to all the possible consequences. A West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. will work hard to protect your rights. Call our office today at (561) 721-0552.



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