Laws vary by state, but domestic violence is generally defined the crime of assault where the victim is 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 or engagement relationship with the defendant. A person may often be arrested for domestic violence without a warrant.

If a person abused by domestic violence decides not to have the abuser arrested, they may ask for a civil protective order that may order the abuser to stay away from and stop assaulting the person. Injunctions may also be issued to prevent the abuser from trespassing on certain property. The order is only effective if it has been served on the abuser.