Silence is Golden: Complying with Domestic Violence Pre-trial Release Conditions

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Silence is Golden: Complying with Domestic Violence Pre-trial Release Conditions

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Time and time again in Washington D.C. domestic assault cases, I find myself standing in court with my client, trying to explain to the judge why he or she shouldn’t go to jail while we are waiting for trial. It’s frustrating, because this conversation is completely avoidable. But let’s back up. . .

Washington D.C. domestic violence cases generally start with the police being called out in response to a 911 call. The police arrive at the house, talk to the person who called 911, and to the person who is accused of committing an assault or destruction of property. If the accuser seems at all credible, or if there is any other evidence that a crime occurred, the accused is arrested, and taken off to jail.

Fast-forward to the arraignment, which is when the accused first goes before the judge. The most important part of the arraignment is the decision made by the judge as to whether the accused will be released pending the next court date, or held in jail until the case is resolved. If released (and your D.C. domestic assault lawyer will argue strenuously for this), the judge will impose certain conditions on the accused. These conditions must be followed, if the accused is to remain free while the case is on-going.

In domestic violence cases, the most common and almost automatic condition, is that the accused stay away from or have no contact with the complaining witness. Staying away from someone is self-explanatory. You can’t go to their house, or job, or walk up to them on the street. If you see them out and about, turn around and walk away. It’s easy to understand. But if a no contact order is given, things usually get a little more complicated–more complicated to understand, and more complicated to comply with.

In today’s world of cell phones, texting, email, facebook, and a hundred communications apps, communication is easy and constant. If we want to “talk” to someone, we can do so almost instantly, without any chance to reflect. But when a judge says, “no contact,” that means no contact of any kind. No drunken texts, no facebook postings, no quick emails. No contact also means that you can’t have your friend or a family member contact the complaining witness. In no way whatsoever can you communicate with this person who you previously may have seen or talked to every day. That’s hard, but it’s necessary, and here’s why. . .

Because here I am again trying to explain to a judge why my client made a phone call to his ex-girlfriend while he was on release and while a no contact order was in place. I can’t tell the judge that my client made the call because he thought his ex wouldn’t report it, and he really wanted to talk to her. I can’t tell the judge that he never thought that she would record the call, so that there was ironclad evidence that he violated the order. There is almost no good explanation, and when that’s the case, clients end up in jail waiting for trial. No contact means no contact, period. And your Washington, D.C. criminal lawyer should make that very clear to you, or he isn’t doing his job.

If you’re charged with domestic assault or destruction of property in Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia, contact JPMLegal for a free consultation.