Federal Domestic Violence Laws – VAWAs Impact on Colorado Domestic Violence Cases
By Colorado Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg
Colorado domestic violence laws have been dramatically impacted by the passage of several federal laws that have “caused” massive responsive changes in state law. Understanding the federal “pressure” placed on the states to bring about these changes assists the Colorado criminal defense lawyer with crafting arguments that help DA’s and judges comprehend the underpinnings of state domestic violence statutes and rules.
Federal Domestic Violence Laws – The Violence Against Women Act or VAWA
Before 1994 all laws addressing alleged acts of domestic violence were based on the state law.
In 1994, the Violence Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (‘VAWA’) were passed.
In 1996, Congress added several federal domestic violence crimes to VAWA, and again in 2000 by the passage of amendments to the VAWA statutes. VAWA comprises numerous federal statutes to prosecute domestic violence offenders in the federal courts…
VAWA contains seven subtitles that address domestic violence: Subtitle A, Safe Streets for Women; Subtitle B, Safe Homes for Women; Subtitle C, Civil Rights for Women; Subtitle D, Equal Justice for Women in Courts; Subtitle E, Violence Against Women Act Improvements; Subtitle F, National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction; Subtitle G, Protection for Battered Immigrant Women and Children.
The Federal Crime Of Interstate Travel to Commit Domestic Violence
It is a federal crime for a person to cross state lines with the specific intent to kill, injure, harass or intimidate that person’s intimate partner, if in the course of or as a result of such travel the suspect commits or attempts to commit a violent crime.
The term “intimate partner” includes a spouse, a former spouse, a past or present cohabitant (as long as the parties cohabitated as spouses), parents of a child in common, and any other person similarly situated to a spouse who is protected by the domestic or family violence laws of the State or tribal jurisdiction in which the injury occurred or where the victim resides.
“Intimate partner” does not include a girlfriend or boyfriend with whom the defendant has not resided, unless protected by state law. This section also does not require either a completed commission of a crime of violence or bodily injury.
It is also a federal crime to cause an intimate partner to cross state lines by force, coercion, duress or fraud, and during, as a result of, or to facilitate such conduct or travel, commit or attempt to commit a crime of violence.
This law does not require a showing of specific intent to cause the spouse or intimate partner to cross state, but it does require proof that the interstate travel resulted from force, coercion, duress or fraud.
Federal Interstate Stalking
It is a federal crime to cross a state line with the specific intent to kill, injure, harass or intimidate another person, if in the course of, or as a result of such travel, the defendant places such person in reasonable fear of death to, or serious bodily injury to, that person or that person’s immediate family.
The term ‘immediate family’ includes a spouse, parent, sibling, child or any other person living in the same household and related by blood or marriage.
And under the 2000 amendments, it is a federal crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce (including the Internet) with the intent to kill, or injure, or place in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, a person in another State
….or to engage in a course of conduct that places such person in reasonable fear of death, or serious bodily injury to themselves, their intimate partners, or a member of their immediate family. 18 U.S.C. 2261A(1)
This provision requires a ‘pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts, evidencing a continuity of purpose.’
Federal Laws Governing The Interstate Travel to Violate an Order of Protection
It is a crime to travel, with the specific intent to violate the portion of a valid protection order that prohibits or provides protection against violence, threats, repeated harassment, contact, communication with, or physical proximity to another person. 18 U.S.C.§ 2262(a)(1)
It does not require an intimate partner relationship (although such a relationship may be required by the state or other governmental body issuing the protection order), and it does not require bodily injury. It does, however, require an actual violation of the protection order.
It is also a crime to cause a person to cross state lines by force, coercion, duress or fraud, and during, as a result of, or to facilitate such conduct or travel, engage in conduct that violates the portion of an order of protection. 18 U.S.C. § 2262(a)(2)
This law does not require a showing of specific intent to cause another person to cross state or reservation lines, but does require proof that the travel resulted from force, coercion, duress or fraud, and proof that the person violated the relevant portion of the protection order during the course of, as a result of, or to facilitate the forced or coerced conduct or travel.
Federal Penalties For Domestic Violence Crimes
The Federal Penalties for violations of VAWA sections 2261, 2261A, and 2262 depend on the extent of the bodily injury to the victim and whether a weapon is used. Terms of imprisonment are incremental, and range from a maximum of five years when there is no injury to the victim, ten years if there is serious bodily injury or if a dangerous weapon is used, twenty years if there is permanent disfigurement or life threatening bodily injury, up to life imprisonment if the crime of violence results in the victim’s death. 18 U.S.C. § 2621(b); 18 U.S.C. § 2262(b) .
The Federal Gun Control Act
The Federal Crime of Possession of a Firearm While Subject to an Order of Protection
It is a crime for a person to possess a firearm while subject to a court order restraining such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) .
The protection order must have been issued following a hearing for which the defendant had notice and an opportunity to appear, and includes a specific finding that the defendant represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the victim or an explicit prohibition against the use of force that would reasonably be expected to cause injury.
The Federal Crime of Transfer of a Firearm to a Person Subject to an Order of Protection
It is a crime to knowingly transfer a firearm to a person subject to a court order that restrains that person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(8) .
The Federal Crime of Possession of a Firearm After Conviction of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence
An amendment to VAWA makes it a crime to possess a firearm after conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, even if the conviction occurred before the law’s effective date. ( the effective date was 1996 ) 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(8) .
The Federal Crime of Transfer of a Firearm to a Person Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence
It is a crime to illegally and knowingly transfer a firearm to a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(9). An amendment to the Brady statement requires purchasers of firearms to state that they have not been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. 18 U.S.C. § 924
The Penalties For These Federal Crimes
The maximum term of imprisonment for a violation of sections 922(d)(8), 922(g)(8), 922(d)(9), or 922(g)(9), is ten years. If, however, the defendant has three or more convictions for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, the defendant must be imprisoned for not less than fifteen years, and the court may not suspend the sentence or grant probation. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1)
Federal Enforcement Under The Full Faith and Credit Clause For Orders of Protection
Pursuant to federal law, a qualifying civil or criminal domestic protection order issued by a court in one state or Indian tribe shall be accorded full faith and credit by the courts of other states or tribes, and enforced as would their own orders. 18 U.S.C. § 2265
Qualifying protection orders may be permanent, temporary or ex parte, but they must be issued by a court that has jurisdiction over the parties, and provide the defendant with reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard, consistent with due process.
Mutual protection orders do not qualify if (a) the original respondent did not file a cross or counter petition seeking a protective order or (b) if such a cross or counter petition was filed, but the court did not make specific findings that each party was entitled to such an order. 18 U.S.C. § 2265
The Interstate Enforcement of State Domestic Violence Laws – The Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act
The Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act was approved in 2000. This Act establishes uniform procedures that enable courts to recognize and enforce valid domestic protection orders issued in other jurisdictions. This uniformity will enable courts to treat such cases consistently, thereby better serving the needs of victims of domestic violence. This Act supplements VAWA’s full faith and credit provisions.
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Federal Domestic Violence Laws
H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.
In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations. Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277
If you have questions about Federal Domestic Violence Laws in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.
In the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters as regards Federal Domestic Violence Laws.