Officers must be familiar with Federal laws that pertain to domestic violence in order to assess whether Federal crimes have been committed.  Contact the U.S. Attorney in your jurisdiction for an update.  For the following Federal crimes, the law defines State to include: a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, a Commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.

In the federal code, Title 18, Chapter 110A is titled "Domestic Violence and Stalking." As these are federal crimes, they can often only be used by victims when the facts involve travel over state lines

Interstate Travel to Commit Domestic Violence - 18 U.S.C. § 2261

It is a Federal crime for a person to travel interstate, or leave or enter Indian country with the intent to injure, harass or intimidate and intimate partner when in the course of (or as a result of) the travel the abuser commits a violent crime that causes bodily injury.  The abuser must intend to commit the domestic violence at the time of travel.  The definition of partner is broad and basically includes a person with whom the abuser has cohabited in an intimate relationship (including a current or former spouse) or a person who has a child in common with the abuser.

It is also a Federal crime to cause an intimate partner to cross state lines, or leave or enter Indian country by force, coercion, duress, or fraud if the abuser intentionally inflicts bodily injury to the partner during, or as a result of, the conduct.

Interstate Stalking - 18 U.S.C. § 2261A

It is a Federal crime to cross a state line with the intent to injure or harass any person if, during the course of or as a result of the travel, the traveler places the person or a member of the person's immediate family in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.  The definition of immediate family is broad and includes a spouse, parent, child, sibling and all household members related to the primary victim by blood or marriage.

Interstate Violation of an Order of Protection - 18 U.S.C. § 2262

This law basically prohibits interstate travel or leaving or entering Indian country with intent to violate a valid protection order that forbids credible threats of violence, repeated harassment, or bodily injury.  The abuser must intend to violate the order at the time of travel and a violation of the order must occur.

It is also a Federal crime to cause an intimate partner to cross state lines, or to leave or enter Indian country by force, coercion, duress, or fraud, if during or as a result of the conduct, the abuser intentionally inflicts bodily injury to the victim in violation of a valid protection order.

Firearms - 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)

Federal law prohibits an abuser subject to a qualifying order of protection from possessing firearms and ammunition.  When an officer determines that a valid order of protection has been issued against an abuser, the officer should enforce the firearms prohibited.  Seizing weapons subject to the prohibition, if allowed under state law, is essential to victim and community safety.  Officers also should be knowledgeable about their own jurisdiction's law authorizing or precluding possession of transfer of weapons to third parties by a person subject to an order of protection.


Edited by Laure Ruth

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