Prosecution of DC Domestic Violence Cases

Facing a domestic violence charge can be difficult to navigate without the help of an attorney. When a person is looking at a family violence charge, it is important for that person to understand how they got to that position. Many people are under the impression that they are facing a domestic violence charge because an accuser has pressed charges against them or has filed a charge against them and therefore has the ability to withdraw the charge. It is important for someone to seek out the advice of an experienced domestic violence attorney to educate themselves as thoroughly as possible. Read below to learn more about the prosecution of DC domestic violence cases.

Process of a Domestic Violence Offense

When a person is accused of a domestic violence offense, that typically means that an accuser has made a complaint to a local police agency. This is not the same as pressing charges. Filing a complaint is notifying law enforcement of an allegation of some kind of crime, whether that crime is an assault, a threat, stalking, destruction of property or any number of other criminal offenses.

Once that allegation or that complaint has been made to the police, then the complainant or the accuser has a very little role at that point in deciding whether the suspect is going to get arrested and charged with a crime. For the most part, when an accuser makes a complaint, the accuser leaves decision-making to DC prosecution of domestic violence cases. In some situations, police are able to make an arrest immediately upon receiving the complaint.

Arrest Warrants

Arrest warrants can be obtained in the DC prosecution of domestic violence cases. In the event that the police are not responding to the scene of an offense but need to conduct further investigation, then the police would need to seek out an arrest warrant in order to arrest the suspect. An arrest warrant is provided by a magistrate judge ruling that the police have probable cause to conclude that the committed a crime, and the warrant, therefore, gives permission to the police to make an arrest of the suspect.

In the warrant process, the defendant is not involved. Defense attorneys are often not involved in that decision-making process. There are usually no hearings at which a defendant or a defense attorney would be present, but if a judge signs off on an arrest warrant, then the police have the ability to make an arrest and the prosecutors would then move forward on criminal charges. Again, this is not a decision made by an accuser and, in some situations, the accuser may have no say at all as to whether police or prosecutors would move forward on arrest warrants.

What is the Impact of Police Involvement and Probable Cause?

If the police arrive at the scene of an alleged crime within a short period of time of the allegation, then DC rules state if the police have probable cause to make an arrest, then they are required to do so. Probable cause is a very low standard, meaning the police do not need proof, they do not need to be firmly convinced or reasonably sure that a crime was committed. DC rules say that if the police believe they have probable cause that a suspect committed a domestic offense, then they are required by law to make an arrest.

Role of a Prosecutor

The prosecutors may make their determination as to whether they move forward on a family violence case based on limited information. It may be solely on a one-page affidavit written by a police officer and prosecutors sometimes make their decision to prosecute without even speaking to an accuser.

A decision by a prosecutor to move forward on criminal charges does not necessarily mean that a suspect is going to be convicted or that a judge has already found that a prosecutor has proven their case. It would result in enough information to arrest and bring charges against a person and that person would then have the ability to force a prosecutor to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction.

The prosecutors are required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and produce evidence through testimony or physical evidence such as photographs or injuries or, potentially, eyewitnesses including the testimony of an accuser to prove a defendant guilty.

Evidence for Conviction

To convict a person of any family violence offense, a prosecutor must prove that there is no reason to doubt when considering whether a defendant committed a crime. If the prosecutors cannot meet that burden, then the court in a domestic violence case will be required to enter a judgment of not guilty.

The exact evidence that a prosecutor would need to produce depends on the charge faced by the defendant. If a defendant is facing, for example, an assault charge in the domestic violence court, then the prosecutors would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed some kind of unlawful touching and that the defendant committed that touching intentionally and did so without any legal justification. For example, DC prosecution of domestic violence cases would have to prove that the defendant did not commit the touching by accident or in self-defense.

Corroborating Testimony

Something that a prosecutor would not necessarily need to produce as evidence is corroborating testimony. Prosecutors do not necessarily need to produce a witness who can corroborate the testimony or back up the testimony of a complainant. In theory, prosecutors could produce evidence that consists solely of the testimony of a single accuser, known as the complaining witness. There is pertinent information that a person might not know regarding the DC prosecution of domestic violence cases. To ensure that you are fully equipped to handle a case, call a qualified attorney.