DC and Virginia Domestic Assault Law
In both Virginia and Washington, D.C., domestic assault is an assault that is committed against any household member, or against any family member, whether you live with that individual. The definition of family or household member is broad and includes your spouse or former spouse, and any individual who you have a child in common with. Specifically, in DC, domestic assault charges are prosecuted by a specialized division of the United States Attorney’s Office. Moreover, the Superior Court has an entirely separate calendar for domestic violence crimes. These charges, however, are not limited to assault. Theft, destruction of property, unlawful entry, stalking, and threats are all common crimes charged in domestic violence court in DC.
In fact, it’s not the charge that gets you landed in domestic violence court, it again depends on the relationship to the complainant. The prosecutors tend to use more aggressive tactics and offer fewer diversion options than in regular misdemeanor court.
In non-domestic misdemeanor court in DC, prosecutors may offer certain misdemeanor cases Deferred Prosecution Agreements or Deferred Sentencing Agreements. These are examples of diversion options where the government will enter into a contract with the defendant to complete a set number of community service hours over a set time period and dismiss the charges if the defendant complies and does not get rearrested. Prosecutors might also offer other pretrial options like Mental Health Court or Drug Court.
Domestic violence prosecutors will not offer these agreements other than a Deferred Sentencing Agreement that has far more rigorous requirements. DV Deferred Sentencing Agreements require community service, stay away orders, completion of a lengthy Domestic Violence Intervention Program (or “DVIP”), and supervision by a probation officer. Having said that, a DV DSA does provide the opportunity for the case to get dismissed if all the requirements are met. DV DSA’s also include an additional court date and can be for lengthier periods of time.
Another example of the difficulties imposed by domestic violence court is the release conditions imposed by the judge. Even simply being charged with domestic assault can be a huge burden and inconvenience for the defendant because a frequent condition of release is that the defendant stay away from the complaining witness while the case is pending. What this often means, is that that the domestic assault defendant must find an alternative place to live until the case has concluded if the judge issues a stay away no-contact order. If convicted, the defendant may have to stay away from the complaining witness for up to three years in Virginia and two years in D.C.
In Washington, D.C., domestic assault is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, or a fine of $1000, or both. Domestic assault is punishable in Virginia by up to 12 months in jail or a fine of up to $2500, or both. If you are convicted of a third domestic assault, you can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and you will have a felony record.
An experienced domestic assault attorney in Washington, D.C. or Virginia can help you prepare a vigorous defense to this serious crime. Many domestic assault cases come down to he said/she said, and for that reason, often end up going to trial. They often require significant investigation and in many cases, go to trial. Your D.C. or Virginia domestic assault attorney should be prepared for that eventuality.
If you have been charged with domestic assault in Washington, D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, or Fairfax County, call Jay P. Mykytiuk at Scrofano Law PC for a consultation.