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Breaking Down Virginia’s First Offender Program For Family Abuse

To clarify, when we use the term “family abuse,” we are referring to domestic violence. Although the former is the term Virginia uses, you will likely hear both. Regardless of what it is called, this law extends to family members, people with children in common regardless of whether or not they live together, and people that have cohabited in the last twelve months. The law was deliberately written to include the people who make up a non-traditional family. For instance, some people share a child together, choose never to marry, and don’t live in the same house; people in that scenario are subject to being charged with “Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member. (Assault is the verbal threat of violence, whereas battery physically harms someone.)

Although these are terrible situations for everyone involved, the penalties can be severe. It is a common misconception that it isn’t because assault and battery are classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Despite the usage of the word “misdemeanors,” you could spend upwards of 12 months in jail and be forced to pay a $2500 fine, and if convicted, could lose your federal right to carry a firearm.  

The Possibility of a Second Chance 

For many people, being charged with this particular offense, because of its nature and because it can cause difficulty with other family members, can be the lowest point in their lives, and it may take years to process the feelings associated with it appropriately. 

For some of these people, they could have the opportunity to enter into the first-offender program. This is for adults who have never been convicted of a family abuse charge in the past, don’t have any other ongoing family abuse proceedings against them, and are willing to enter into the program. 

The First Offender Program 

If you are given the opportunity to enter into this program, you could have your charges dismissed. That means you will not have a record connected to family abuse tied to you. The program may require the following:

  • Taking classes related to anger management and domestic violence
  • Start meeting a qualified therapist
  • Paying the costs associated with classes, therapy, and court fees
  • Having zero issues with the law for two years while complying with any stipulations of probation 

Failure to adhere to the program’s requirements may result in the court finding you guilty and giving you an appropriate sentence. You or your attorney must discuss whether you should seek out this program. If you are not guilty of the crime you are accused of, your attorney may have other strategies for clearing you of these charges. 

Another element to consider is you will be on probation, which means you could be subjected to drug and alcohol screenings. You should tell your attorney this if you cannot commit to being clean and sober. For non-U.S. citizens, entering the program may jeopardize their immigration status and could lead to deportation. Anyone on probation for a charge unrelated to family abuse could also be violating the terms of their probation by accepting. 

Continue This Conversation with Experienced Attorneys 
At Norton Pelt, we are committed to representing you and ensuring your rights are protected. A first-offender program is an option, but there are other options. If you have been charged with a crime, including domestic violence, contact our office to schedule a consultation with our experienced attorneys.

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