The District of Columbia Superior Court has a separate division within the Family Court system that handles domestic violence cases. The government prosecutes domestic violence cases in DC aggressively. In fact, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (“USAO-DC”) also has as separate division within the agency that specifically prosecutes 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 domestic violence case is something called a deferred sentencing agreement (“DSA”). In a domestic violence 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 be also required. While a DSA does not constitute a conviction, the probation office does supervise the defendant while completing the requirements.
If a defendant successfully completes the terms of the DSA, instead of getting sentenced on the charge, 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.
The main difference between domestic violence cases and other criminal law in DC is that a DV case must involve an “intra-family relationship.” When you hear that term, intra-family relationship, you tend to think 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.
That’s right getting into a scuffle with your roommate can land you in court facing a domestic violence charge in DC. Accordingly, its not the type of crime that dictates whether you face a domestic violence charge. What matters in deciding whether you get a DV charge is the relationship you have with the person alleging you committed a crime against them. The most common crimes charged in DV cases in DC are assault, threats, destruction of property, stalking, and theft.
These charges all carry the same maximum penalty as if you were charged in normal criminal court. However, the big difference is the more aggressive prosecutions in DV cases and the collateral consequences that can arise from a domestic violence charge.
Arrest and/or conviction for a domestic violence charge can make it illegal under federal and DC law to possess a firearm. In addition, the general stigma of going through domestic violence court and having that charge on your record is also more serious than a normal misdemeanor criminal offense in DC.
Because these cases can be more serious than regular non-DV criminal offenses in DC, its important you find and hire a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney to represent you. At Scrofano Law PC, we pride ourselves on fighting aggressively on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for a full case evaluation. We pride ourselves on honesty, persistence, and commitment to getting you out of a tough situation that can have a lasting impact on your life.