Can a spouse be charged with domestic violence if the victim is deceased?

Let’s say the cause of death is unrelated to the abuse, but it comes out after a person’s death that she was being beaten (severely) by her husband (let’s say there were witnesses). What could happen legally in that situation?

The husband could still be charged with abuse, provided there is enough proof, and the statute of limitations as not expired.

Agree. I know of no legal principle which voids a crime if the victim dies of unrelated causes.

I do recall from law school that in the old days, if the victim of a tort died before verdict, his or her cause of action died along with him or her. Nowadays, that rule has been reformed, but perhaps that was what you were thinking of.

It occurs to me that normally when a spouse gets charged with domestic violence, he is hit with a restraining order too. I doubt that a spouse in such a situation could or would be restrained by the court.

The spouse could be charged with domestic violence but without a victim to help follow-up and pursue the charge nothing would ever happen. Law enforcement officials don’t like to charge domestic violence even with live victims so it’s unlikely this would ever happen. I asked mom, she’s a director of a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She agrees, without a victim there will probably never be a charge. By the way, often a victim will get their spouse out of jail and deny the charges.

[hijack] Isn’t it odd that along with the non-gender-specific “spouse” and “person” we have liberal use of “he” and “she” in this thread?[/hijack]

I used “he” and “she” in my “hypothetical” OP.

Let’s face reality: Most of the folks charged with d/v are husbands and boyfriends. I realize that girlfriends and wives frequently engage in violence towards their male partners, but for better or worse, American society takes male on female violence much more seriously than female on male violence.

I think the point is that after using gender non-specific language, you used he and she in a gender specific way - i.e. that it was the husband who was beating the wife, rather than vice versa.

I note that hlanelee’s statement is one about the practical reality of the situation. While I don’t disagree on that basis, from a purely legal standpoint the earlier posters are correct – there is no theoretical legal reason which would stop the Government from bringing a charge. Of course, if the victim is dead and therfore inavailable to testify, it’s going to be a hard row for the Government to hoe.


I don’t see why it matters. I asked the question that way because it seems, to me, that in court it would matter if the victim was male or female. In my “hypothetical” scenario, the victim is female.

In my scenario the victim is no longer living, but there are witnesses and ER records.

[hijack mode=continue]I suspect you may be right, but ain’t it sad?[/hijack]

if the abuse occurred before death, a crime likely was committed. A prosecutor, however, likely will only bring charges if there is a reasonable or significant chance of a conviction. So if the victim is dead, it would depend on the quality of the available evidence. Most prosecutors dont’ have the resources to bring hypothetical charges. But if an injustice has been committed, and the perpetrator is going to get off scott free, then they may be more likely to bring charges all things being equal. IN contrast, if they killed the victim by burning the house down, and they can put the spouse away for arson, they are not likely to to bring a difficult case for DV even if there is some proof of that crime.

In a civil action (tort), the victim’s heirs in most states will inherit the right to sue (cuase of action), but in many states its technically a different cause of action and in most states the damages are calculated different from how the victim would have calculated damages, often less. For example, the right to pain and suffering is often lost to the heirs, and they often get only hte economic meaure of damages - lost wages over a lifetime, etc.