DC Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence is one of the most serious accusations a person could be faced with in Washington DC. There are numerous consequences that a defendant may be subject to, which could drastically impact a person’s personal, social, and professional life for years to come. If you are facing family violence allegations, reach out to a DC domestic violence lawyer. A well-practiced attorney could review your accusations and build your defense case.

Defining Domestic Violence Under DC Law

DC law does not define domestic violence. The district still does have intimate partner violence and intra-family violence that is categorized under the domestic violence section of the criminal code. While this may be slightly broader, personal violence is violence between people:

  • Who have lived together
  • Who share a mutual residence
  • Who are married or were married
  • Who are or were in a domestic partnership
  • Who are or were in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship

As an experienced domestic violence attorney in DC could explain, it may also include violence between two people who share an intimate partner in a so-called love triangle situation.

Intimate partner violence

Intimate partner violence occurs between people who are married, people who are in a domestic partnership, or people who are dating or in a sexual relationship.

Intra-family violence

Intra-family violence is violence committed against someone to whom the person is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership. If the person shares a child with the accuser, it also qualifies as intra-family violence. The DC Code has a category for intra-family offenses that include interpersonal, inter-partner, or inter-family violence. These are under the umbrella of domestic violence.

What to Expect if Accused of Domestic Violence in DC

If a person has been charged criminally with a domestic violence offense, they could anticipate a court date like any other case. Defendants will have to face the allegations and they may be held pending their court case. If it is a very serious offense or allegation, or if the person is put on probation or they have prior convictions for domestic violence offenses, they will likely be ordered to have no contact with the accuser. There is a specific domestic violence unit in the DC prosecutor’s office. The prosecutors deal with such charges very seriously. It may be advisable for accused individuals to speak with a hard-working attorney in DC about their domestic violence allegations.

Role of the Investigating Law Enforcement Officer

The duty of the law enforcement officer investigating the situation is to follow the laws. DC has some specific rules or laws for police or law enforcement officers investigating domestic violence or intra-family violence. If law enforcement has probable cause to believe that a person committed an intra-family offense that resulted in physical injury, the officer must arrest the person even if they did not witness it.

This is different from an intra-family offense. As an example, with two strangers, a law enforcement officer may have probable cause to believe that one person committed an assault against the other stranger that resulted in physical injury. While the law enforcement officer may arrest the person, they may or may not choose to do further investigation before seeking to arrest the person. If it is an intra-family offense, the law enforcement must arrest the person.

Similarly, the authorities must also make an arrest have if they have probable cause to believe that the offense put a person in fear. If the police think domestic violence occurred and there were some physical injuries, they have to arrest the person. This is different than non-domestic violence situations.

Types of Protective Orders in Domestic Violence Cases

There are specific protective orders that have been put into place to protect women given how common domestic violence, especially male-on-female domestic violence, is and the kind of social and cultural epidemic that is in some people’s minds. There are specific rules in place that may give women and alleged victims of domestic violence extra protections against a perpetrator under the Violence Against Women Act.

Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act gives the accuser extra protection as a result of the offense, over and above the court order. In such a standard court case, there would typically be an order from the court to have no contact or to stay away from the accuser. It should be noted that there are also additional protections basically available to the accuser and may also give them legal aid or other extra resources.

Laws Regarding Child Custody and Visitation After Domestic Violence Charge

The laws regarding child custody and visitation are administered by a family court. Consequently, the family court would modify them if there is any court order in place. While a criminal court has no power to directly modify child custody and visitation, an arrest can impact the decision in family court and almost always will. The criminal court could order someone to regulate contact between the defendant and the accuser.

The court may order the defendant to stay away and to have no contact. If there is a child in common, it could be modified to have no contact except in relation to sharing custody of the child and handing over visitation. There could be no contact except as it relates to the child. If there is an active custody order in effect, the judge in the family court will take the new arrest into consideration and would modify the custody order and visitation rights accordingly.

The person has the right to have a lawyer argue on their behalf when facing an accusation. The person may have a strong argument that custody rights should not be modified based solely on an allegation. They may be able to present evidence that the allegation is false or that the actual events are different than what is described in the allegations of domestic violence. Consequently, the criminal court will not directly modify visitation rights or child custody. They will modify the arrest itself, the charge, and any decisions by the criminal court. This could certainly have a significant impact on visitation and child custody.

What is a Civil Protection Order?

A civil protection order is a binding order by the court issued by a judge restricting a person from having contact or communications with another individual. While the specifics of the order vary, it is typically known as a stay-away order or a no-contact order with a person who has some sort of romantic or domestic relationship where the other individual feels that their safety is in danger. A person could get a protective order instructing them to have no contact, to stay away, or to only have contact under certain conditions with another individual. The standard length of civil protection orders is 12 months.

Qualifications Needed For Requesting or Serving a Civil Protection Order

While any person could request a civil protection order, there must be some form of relationship between the parties. It cannot be a random person on the street. In terms of serving the order, the person requesting the order could serve it themselves. The DC police can assist in service. A private process server who is a professional could issue service. Any individual over 18 years old is eligible to serve a protective order.

Ways that a Civil Protection Order May be Violated

The manner in which a civil protection order might be violated will depend on the terms of the protective order. Some protective orders could be violated by a phone call, by a text message, a social media message, contacting someone in person. or a message sent through a third party directly to the person that got a protective order. Some protective orders have stay-away components which mandate contact and physically keeping away from the person.

This could be violated if the subject of the protective order shows up at the person’s home, at the person’s business, or their place of work. Some protective orders have additional conditions, which include requiring a person to attend anger management or therapy classes. If the person fails to meet these requirements, it would also violate the protective order.

The consequences for violating a civil protective order include a criminal charge. There is a criminal statute for violating a protective order, and someone could go to jail for violating the terms of a protective order.

Importance of Having an Attorney Present at Civil Protection Hearings

It could be crucial for domestic violence defendants to have a DC attorney with them during their civil protection hearings since there are numerous different outcomes that are possible and not readily apparent. A skilled lawyer could help negotiate a resolution that may benefit the defendant. Without legal representation, the individual might commit themselves to certain obligations that they may not want to. They may end up admitting or confessing to certain behavior that may lead to numerous long-term and short-term consequences.

Since the hearing is a civil order, it will not be on a person’s criminal record. Defendants are simply agreeing to have no contact with the person. An attorney will help explain the hearing and ensure that the person is not submitting themselves to additional convictions, which include paying attorney’s fees or taking anger management courses.

An attorney could walk through the situation and the terms of the order and ensure that the person understands the terms and is satisfied with them. Alternatively, the person may not want to consent and, in that case, there could be a hearing. This is similar to a trial where both sides will present evidence and then a judge will make a decision. When the respondent understands the process and knows what their options are, the attorney should be an invaluable resource through the CPO process.

Impact of a  Civil Protection Order on a Person’s Employment

A civil protection order on a person’s employment depends on the employer. Most employers will likely not have a consequence just by the issuance of a protective order. With respect to the law, there is no finding of fact that the person committed any offense or anything wrong.

Since a person could maintain their innocence, an employee may not face consequences simply from a civil order. It should be noted that if the conditions of the protective order impact the person’s ability to do their job, it could cause some problems, Most employers are not going to terminate the person’s employment simply for the existence of a protective order.

Difference Between a Civil Protection Order and a Temporary Protection Order

A temporary protection order is what a person would get if they go and ask for protective orders. The requester will have to fill out a form and swear to the truth of their statement. They will be required to allege that there is some sort of relationship that qualifies a person for the protective order, whether there was a romantic relationship, they have lived together, or there is some other qualifying relationship. The person will then have to provide evidence that the other individual committed a crime, with the evidence being just their sworn statement.

As long as they meet those terms, they will be issued a temporary protective order. This generally lasts for up to two weeks. It will then be served on the respondent. Once it is served, the respondent must abide by the terms of the order. They will have a court date within those two weeks and will show up at the court date. Here, the judge could decide whether to issue a civil protection order or a temporary protective order.

The respondent has an opportunity to respond and to either negotiate the terms of the order or refuse it.  If the petitioner does not show up for the court date, the order will be dismissed.

Benefits of Having a DC Domestic Violence Lawyer

There are a host of benefits to having a DC domestic violence lawyer on a person’s side when they are accused of domestic violence. The attorney could help the person fight the charges, get a good outcome, resolve the case without a conviction, and set the case for trial and fight the charges. In a domestic violence allegation, there are often numerous other considerations regarding the relationship between the defendant and the accuser. The individuals who were involved may share a residence or children in common, which are factors that could be affected by the ongoing criminal case.

Before there is a verdict, there may be many ongoing issues that need to be dealt with. A seasoned lawyer may know what options a person has and what the court can and cannot do. A person’s legal counsel will able to make decisions with regards to the criminal case while keeping in mind how it might impact child custody, visitation, and other considerations. A lawyer could protect a person’s legal and criminal rights in the criminal case while ensuring that they get the best possible outcome from such criminal charges.

Domestic violence situations may be extremely complicated. While there could be countless moving pieces and things to consider, an attorney might know how to use the resources available and the court process to protect an accused person’s interests as much as possible.