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What is Felony Domestic Violence?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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Felony domestic violence is a type of criminal charge. When a person is charged with domestic violence, it means he or she is accused of behaving violently toward family members or people who live with him or her. The violence may involve not only physical harm, but also the threat of physical harm. The laws regarding domestic violence may vary from place to place, but many jurisdictions consider felony domestic violence the most serious type of domestic violence offense. When a person is convicted of it, he or she typically faces more serious penalties than with other types of domestic violence.

In many jurisdictions, domestic violence can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges are typically given for less serious crimes and often mean the defendant is subject to lighter penalties. For example, a person who is convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence may spend only a short period of time in jail or may be given fines or counseling instead of jail time. A person convicted of a felony charge, on the other hand, may face a longer prison sentence and harsher penalties overall.

In some places, the law determines whether or not domestic violence is a felony or a misdemeanor based on whether or not the victim is injured and the extent of those injuries. If a victim doesn’t sustain injuries or sustains only minor ones, some jurisdictions may charge the defendant with misdemeanor domestic violence. If, however, the victim is seriously injured, this may result in a felony domestic violence charge. Some jurisdictions also apply felony charges when the injured victim is a minor or pregnant. Likewise, a person may face this charge if he uses a weapon in the domestic violence incident or disfigures the victim.

Sometimes a jurisdiction will apply a felony domestic violence charge based on the legal restrictions the accused party was under when he committed the crime. For example, if there was a restraining order in effect at the time and his actions represented a violation of the order, he may be charged with a felony. Additionally, a person may face felony charges if he has a significant history of domestic violence convictions.

While prison sentences are often given for felony domestic violence convictions, they are not the only penalty the person may face. In some cases, someone convicted of this crime will have to pay fines or face the loss of certain rights. He may, for example, lose the right to carry a weapon.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon327824 — On Mar 31, 2013

I'm living in China and had a child with a South African man. I'm American. During the two and a half year relationship, he psychologically, mentally and emotionally was abusive to me to the point where I became sick mentally and physically and could not get out of bed, work, or be social and I felt like dying.

During a lot of the time together, I was pregnant and he abandoned, neglected and treated me like trash. I had a c-section and he left me alone after the first week. I was bullied by him and his south African family after just having a baby and then dumped in the street in Beijing, China to fend for myself, with no money, no apartment, nothing.

I stayed on the floor of a family's home for seven weeks while caring for a three month old baby. This man has a ton of money and big business in China and South Africa. He is a filthy pig and I want to get child support firstly but after that, I want to sue him for this must be some sort of crime. I need advice, please.

By anon317544 — On Feb 02, 2013

My ex is charged with domestic abuse, along with strangulation. He punched me in my face, put his hand around my neck and dragged me to the front door where he pushed my body outside head first then proceeded to kick the rest of my body that was inside outside of the house. He has lawyers but I heard through the grapevine he is going to get off with nothing. Is that even possible?

By anon307786 — On Dec 06, 2012

I was beaten in 1996, very badly. I suffered a fractured skull and subdural hematoma. I found out later that the person who did it had been diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a child, and also had multiple personality disorder. His mom refused to get him help. She told him to be a man and deal with it.

He went to prison for 10 years and did five.

So three years ago, he and I started seeing each other again. The first two years were OK, then this last year he progressively changed. I noticed too, that he didn't hide the multiples as easily as before. So last week he beat me about the head and strangled me. I called the cops. He is now in jail. He did this with my son around, so they bumped it from a misdemeanor to a felony because my child is under 16.

The special victims unit called me and said this man needs help, that he is mentally ill and we want him put in a institution. I said he should have gotten that help the last time. Then she tells me how the state gets more money if a person is in prison. Wow. I care for this man and this is very hard for me. My child comes first, though. I know this man needs help. I hope he accepts it, but since his mom told him he should not, then he probably won't. She is gone. I would probably have to say something to her. She did great harm to her son. I work with handicapped and mentally ill people, so maybe that is why my heart aches.

By anon306443 — On Nov 29, 2012

@anon225338: Stop minimizing it. He abused you. Admit it and learn not to accept it anymore, or you will have a life of it!

By anon225338 — On Oct 26, 2011

My boyfriend is in jail. Although he did not beat me as bad as some of these stories, he did put his hands around my neck. He is being charged with felony domestic violence strangulation.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 13, 2011

My aunt remarried after my uncle passed away. She ended up wishing she had not.

He seemed all right while they were dating. She said one time he grabbed her arm when they got into an argument, but she didn’t think he would ever hit her.

They had been married for four months when she got pregnant. He treated her fairly well after finding this out. However, one night, he came home drunk. He had convinced himself that the baby wasn’t his and that she was cheating on him.

He picked her up and carried her upstairs. He shoved her down the stairs, trying to get rid of her and the baby. When she lost consciousness, he realized what he had done and called for an ambulance.

He tried to pass it off as an accident. When she recovered, she made the truth known. Since both she and the baby lived, he could not be charged with murder, but he was charged with felony domestic violence.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 12, 2011

I had often suspected that my neighbor was beating his wife, but I couldn’t be sure. She always seemed scared and shy, and the area around her eyes stayed dark. She wore her hair in her face, so it was hard to see if she had bruises or not.

One day around twilight, I heard her screaming. Her husband was yelling at her. I was scared to go over there because he might kill me, so I called 911.

When the cops arrived, they found her hanging from the ceiling by a hook through her shirt. He was swinging a baseball bat at her as if she were a pinata. This was a sure felony.

By shell4life — On Sep 11, 2011

My cousin was abused by her father. Everyone in the family knew he was violent, but they didn’t know what to do about it. After one particular episode, they knew they had to turn him in.

Late one Friday night, my cousin had shown up at my house. She was holding her arm like it was broken, and she had a black eye. She was crying so hysterically that my parents could barely understand her.

She told us that her dad had beaten her the hardest that he ever had. She was only fourteen. My dad called the cops and reported him. He got charged with felony domestic violence.

It can be difficult for family members to report each other to the authorities. However, when they cause other family members to suffer, it becomes a bit easier.

By Perdido — On Sep 11, 2011

When the cops were called to a domestic disturbance at my best friend’s home, they did not charge her abusive husband with anything. He had shoved her against a wall multiple times, and she was in pain. However, since the cops could not see any bruising, they let him off with a warning.

A few weeks later, neighbors reported another disturbance there. They walked in to find my friend beaten unconscious. They charged her husband with felony domestic violence and called an ambulance.

He had fractured some bones in her face, and she required surgery. It took months for her to recover physically, and I doubt she ever will recover emotionally.

By mutsy — On Sep 10, 2011

@ManyKitties2 -I hope that your aunt is careful. I wanted to tell you that years ago I used to work as a manager of a department store and had a young female employee that had a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend because of prior violence against her.

He continued to stalk her even though there was a restraining order against him. On her last day at work she was telling me how excited she was to go away to college and her last words to me was. “You are going to miss me when I am gone.”

Later that evening her ex-boyfriend broke into her parent’s home and shot her to death in front of her mother. It was really heartbreaking. These cases always get worse, so when you see the first signs of someone being abusive you really need to get out before it is too late. No one deserves to be treated like this and this type of crime always escalates.

By Sunny27 — On Sep 09, 2011

@Manykitties2- I wanted to add that a conviction of domestic violence cannot be expunged from the defendant’s record and will stay with him or her forever.

I was reading that this is considered a public safety crime that has a high recidivism rate which is why the information has to remain public. In some states a first time domestic violence assault results in a 3rd degree felony punishable by a minimum of five years in prison.

By Sara007 — On Sep 08, 2011

@manykitties2 - I am really sorry to hear about your uncle's terrible behavior. There are some people that ask, "Is domestic violence a felony? And I always want to shout at them, "Yes!"

While some cases of domestic violence can be a misdemeanor or a felony, I think that when a person is seriously hurt by someone in their home, that felony law needs to recognize it and make sure they spend a good long time in prison.

I think domestic violence is just as bad as something like felony burglary, because it also violates a person in their own home and makes them feel victimized and unsafe.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 08, 2011

My uncle was charged with felony domestic violence a few years back after he was charged for felony battery. He has been a pretty bad alcoholic for years and while he had gotten in trouble with the law before, by getting a misdemeanor DUI, he went way too far with my aunt and he ended up seriously hurting her.

While my uncle hired a good felony attorney he still ended up with a sentence of three years in prison and will end up back in prison if he ever commits any other felonies and misdemeanors in the future. I certainly hope he has learned his lesson.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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