DC Domestic Violence
In domestic violence cases, there is a lot at stake. A DC domestic violence lawyer from Scrofano Law PC is ready to defend your rights.
What Is Considered a DC Domestic Violence Case?
The main difference between domestic violence cases and other criminal law cases in the District of Columbia is that a domestic violence case must involve an “intra-family relationship.” When you hear that term, intra-family relationships, you tend to think of brother/sister, spouses, domestic partners, etc. However, the statute defines the terms so broadly it can encompass anyone you have ever had a romantic relationship with, in-laws, any familial connection, and even roommates.
In the District of Columbia, domestic violence can include intimate partner violence between individuals who are dating, in a sexual relationship, married, or in a domestic partnership. An act of violence upon an individual with whom the offender shares a residence can also be labeled as interpersonal violence.
In other words, inter-family violence can occur not just between individuals related by blood or marriage, but also among those related by adoption, domestic relationship, or legal custody.
Getting into a scuffle with your roommate can land you in court facing domestic violence charges in the District of Columbia. Accordingly, it’s not the type of crime that dictates whether you face a DV charge. What matters is the relationship you have with the person alleging you committed a crime against them. The most common crimes charged in DV cases in the District of Columbia are assault, threats, destruction of property, stalking, and theft.
Protective Order in a Domestic Violence Case
Often, the complainant in a domestic violence case will simultaneously press charges and file for a civil protection order against the defendant. A civil protection order is basically the same thing as a restraining order. It usually requires that the defendant have no contact with the complaining witness. In addition, during the arraignment process in a DV case, the judge will often impose as a pretrial condition an order that the defendant stays away from the complainant.
It can be particularly difficult when these court orders are imposed when the parties live together. Because of the court order, the defendant may be required to move out of their home to avoid being found in contempt of court. It often also requires the defendant to get a police escort to collect their belongings upon moving out.
Retain a Competent DC Domestic Violence Lawyer
The District of Columbia Superior Court has a separate division within the Family Court system that handles DV cases. The government prosecutes DV cases aggressively. In fact, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (“USAO-DC”) also has a separate division within the agency that prosecutes specifically these types of cases. In domestic violence cases, the prosecutors have more limited diversion options than with other non-DV misdemeanors.
The only diversion the USAO-DC will offer in a DV case is something called a deferred sentencing agreement (“DSA”). The defendant must plead guilty and then complete a rigorous anger management course called the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. Other conditions like community service and fines may also be required. While a DSA does not constitute a conviction, the probation office does supervise the defendant while completing the requirements when it is entered in the DV court.
If a defendant successfully completes the terms of the DSA, instead of getting sentenced, the defendant can withdraw his guilty plea, and the government will dismiss the case. Unfortunately, the government will only offer DSA in a limited amount of cases where it’s the defendant’s first offense, and the allegations are not serious.
In domestic violence cases, there is a lot at stake. The complainant usually tells their side of the story immediately, and the defendant gets arrested without telling theirs. Whether you are charged with a violent felony, theft, or another domestic violence offense, the team of attorneys at Scrofano Law PC is ready to defend your rights.
Evidence in Domestic Violence DC Cases
Because domestic violence offenses are prosecuted by a separate division within the United States Attorney’s Office, prosecutors will often treat these cases more aggressively than regular misdemeanors.
Oftentimes in a DV situation, the complaining witness may ultimately not wish to go forward with the case, for a variety of reasons. However, DV prosecutors will often go forward in prosecuting these cases even when the complainant does not want to go forward.
That means the prosecutors may seek a material witness warrant if the complainant doesn’t show up. This occurs when the government properly serves a subpoena on the witness, and the witness fails to show up for the trial date. In extreme cases, judges may send out the United States Marshal Service to arrest the witness.
In other instances, the government may go forward in trying to prove their case at trial, even without the complainant’s testimony. Normally, prosecutors cannot get what is called “hearsay” evidence into trial. Hearsay is basically a statement made out of court that the proponent tries to get in as evidence without having a live witness testify to the fact asserted in the statement. There are some exceptions to the rules of evidence that allow for hearsay statements to be admitted in trial. In DV cases, the government may try to get those statements in through hearsay exceptions to prove their case even without the alleged victim’s testimony.
These cases can be more serious than regular non-DV criminal offenses in the District of Columbia. Because of that, it’s important you find and hire a skilled and aggressive criminal defense and domestic violence attorney to represent you.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Washington DC Offenses
Misdemeanor charges for domestic violence offenses all carry the same maximum penalty as if you were charged in a regular criminal court. Most misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 180 days and/or a $1,000.00 fine. However, the big difference is the more aggressive prosecutions in these cases and the collateral consequences that can arise from a domestic violence charge.
If the defendant has a prior history of domestic violence charges, in cases where excessive property damage exist, or in cases of assault, harassment, and protection order violations, he or she could face felony charges.
If you are charged with a felony offense involving someone you have an intra-family relationship with, the maximum penalties will be much higher. All felony offenses carry a maximum penalty greater than one year in prison. Common felony domestic violence offense usually includes assault with significant bodily injury and felony threats.
Domestic abuse offenses can also carry a number of collateral consequences. Arrest and/or conviction on domestic violence charges can make it illegal under federal and DC law to possess a firearm. In addition, the general stigma of going through a DV court and having that charge on your record is also more serious than a regular misdemeanor criminal offense in the District of Columbia. Having domestic violence charges or conviction on your record can cause problems for an individual’s security clearance as well.
Domestic violence cases sometimes face the possibility of false accusations. Although they may be false, a domestic violence accusation should be taken very seriously. There are many defenses a DC domestic violence lawyer can use in these cases, such as: proving the accusations were false, self-defense, proving that the accused person didn’t cause the injuries or that they were a result of an accident.
Make sure to explore defense possibilities with your domestic violence attorney in order to have the best chance of avoiding tough penalties.
What Is the Domestic Violence Hotline DC?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a leading resource with a toll-free number survivors can call from anywhere in the United States. They are available 24/7 to provide help and services regarding safety planning and other information. If you are in immediate danger, please contact emergency services and the National Domestic Violence Hotline to protect yourself and get to a safe place.
Because domestic abuse and violence cases often happen within the same household, they are especially emotional and complex. If you are dealing with a domestic violence situation, make sure to contact an experienced DC domestic violence attorney as soon as possible. Our team at Scrofano Law PC understands that there is often more to the story than the police or outsiders see, and we are here to help.
What Services Do Domestic Violence Organizations DC Provide?
There are various domestic violence organizations in the District of Columbia that provide services and resources to the persons who have survived DV. For example, DC Safe provides 24/7 support for domestic violence victims through emergency services, legal and other services.
At Scrofano Law PC, we have experience both prosecuting and defending petitions for Temporary Protection Orders (TPOs) and Civil Protection Orders as well as other criminal defense practice areas. Reach out to us and let us build a powerful defense. And, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the following organizations if you need resources or assistance with domestic violence.
DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence or DCCADV is the statewide coalition of DV programs, organizations, and individuals organized to make sure that this type of violence is eliminated in this area. It provides resources to survivors of domestic violence, adults, children, and organizations assisting them. Their goal is also to create awareness that DV creates other problems as well, such as poverty, and help fill gaps in the system.
What Is the Domestic Violence Intake Center DC?
The Domestic Violence Intake Center (DVIC) is a collaborative project of governmental and non-governmental agencies. DVIC provides various coordinated services to survivors of this type of violence in DC. These services consist of counseling, safety planning, helping victims get protective orders as well as free legal representation.
Domestic Violence Shelter DC: Resources and Information
Women, children, and families who have experienced domestic violence need a safe and stable environment. There are several DV and abuse shelters and programs in Washington, DC.
Women’s shelters DC often provide safe housing, support, and services to survivors and their families as they try to rebuild their lives. Various programs can be selected based on location, language, and services needed. More information about national and local DV resources, organizations, counseling centers can be found on the Metropolitan Police Department website.
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