Alabama Domestic Violence Laws
Alabama Domestic Violence Defined: The Code of Alabama defines domestic violence as “any incident resulting in the abuse, assault, harassment, or the attempt or threats thereof, between family, household, or dating or engagement relationship members” . This includes a current or former spouse, parent, child, any person with whom the defendant has a child in common, a present or former household member, or a person who has or had a dating relationship or engagement with the defendant.
Domestic violence in Alabama also includes attempts or threats of harm, as well as verbal and emotional abuse, harassment and stalking are included as actionable offenses. Domestic violence can be a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense, depending on the circumstances and level of assault.
Protection from Abuse Order (PFA): Anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse in Alabama is eligible to file for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, a civil court order, filed at the County Courthouse (or Family Court). A PFA is intended to keep an abuser from hurting their victim anymore and establishing financial support for the victim. If a victim is in immediate danger, an Emergency PFA may be issued without having to go through a full court hearing and without having the abuser present. This Emergency PFA will protect the victim until a full court hearing can take place (usually within 14 days) where the judge hears both sides and decides whether to issue a Final Protection from Abuse order. Final PFA’s are good for up to one year. A victim would have to apply to have the PFA extended.Warrantless Arrest: The police can arrest an abuser without first obtaining a legal document, if the offense involves domestic violence and the arrest is based on probable cause or a reasonable belief that a crime was committed. Alabama “Cooling Off” Bill: A victim of abuse used to be able to file a report against their abuser without requesting the abuser be put in jail, in the hope that the abuser would realize the seriousness of their actions and stop the abuse before an arrest was made. Often however, an abuser could post bond and be back home within a few hours.
As of August 2000, a report of domestic violence results in the perpetrator being held for at least 12 hours to “cool off”, reduce tensions in the household and provide time for the victim to find shelter or safety before the abuser is released.Child Custody and Domestic Abuse: A judge must consider the safety of the child and the victim of domestic abuse, as well as the abuser’s history of violence when making child custody determinations. Certain conditions, including supervised visitation, ordering an abuser to attend counseling, prohibiting overnight visitation, etc, can be included in a custody order.
Mediation: In Alabama, mediation may be ordered by the court in some instances or by request of one or both of the parties. In custody or visitation proceedings, the judge cannot order mediation if there is evidence of domestic violence. Additionally, mediation cannot be used for resolution of issues involved in an order for protection, such as whether domestic violence occurred or what procedures are necessary to protect the victim from further abuse.Alabama Code §6-6-2-(f) states that a mediator who receives a referral or order from a court to conduct mediation shall screen for the occurrence of domestic or family violence between the parties. If there is evidence of domestic violence, mediation can continue only 1) if the victim requests it, 2) mediation is provided by a mediator trained in domestic and family violence in a manner that protects the safety of the victim, and 3) the victim is allowed to have a supporting person in attendance at the mediation sessions.
Crime Victims Act: The Alabama Crime Victims Act requires law enforcement to provide a victim of domestic violence with information about emergency and crisis services, victim’s compensation, criminal prosecution and victim’s rights within 72 hours.Agencies & Other Resources:
The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Alabama 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline
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