What happens when you get a domestic violence charge?

Domestic violence in DC Superior CourtWhat happens when you get a domestic violence charge in the District of Columbia?   If the police are called to a home for a domestic violence charge the police are required to arrest upon a showing of probable cause (physical injury) that an intra-family offense occurred.   In fact, In 1990, the Council of the District of Columbia passed legislation providing that: A law enforcement officer shall arrest a person if the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the person: (1) Committed an intra-family offense that resulted in physical injury, including physical pain or illness, regardless of whether or not the intra-family offense was committed in the presence of the law enforcement officer; or (2) Committed an intra-family offense that caused, or was intended to cause reasonable fear of imminent serious physical injury or death. D.C. Code § 16-1031(a).

What happens after you are arrested for Domestic Violence Charges

After you are arrested pursuant to Mandatory arrest law, you will be scheduled for an arraignment.   A domestic violence misdemeanor case is assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit at arraignment in Courtroom 119. Similar to a non-domestic violence misdemeanor, the next court date following the arraignment and initial appearance in Courtroom 119, is a status hearing. The status hearing will be scheduled within three weeks of the arraignment and will be held in either Courtroom 117 or 118.

Arraignment Hearing for DC Domestic Violence Charge

The first hearing for a domestic violence charge in the District of Columbia is an arraignment hearing.  Unless this a felony domestic violence charge you should be released with the condition that you stay away from the accuser.    The next hearing will be the status hearing

Status hearing for a DC Domestic Violence Charge

After the arraignment hearing   In misdemeanor cases assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit, the next court date scheduled after the arraignment is a status hearing.  The status hearing is usually scheduled within three weeks of the arraignment. Criminal cases with no related civil matters are assigned.  At the status hearing, the judge assigned to Courtroom 117 or 118 will inquire whether a plea offer has been made and, if so, whether the client wishes to enter a guilty plea or schedule a trial date.   The Judge may also inquire whether diversion is offered.    At DC domestic violence status hearing a decision will need to be made regarding the direction of the case.    You may request another status hearing if you need more time to make a decision.  

  • Plea guilty
  • Set a Trial Date
  • Enter into Diversion

What Are stay away Orders

In almost Domestic violence charges the Government request a stay order.  A Stay Order is a Court order requiring you to stay away from a place or person. 

Where you Live While the Domestic Violence Case is Pending

While the domestic violence charge is pending there can be collateral consequences.    For example, it can determine where you live.   The Judge may order you to leave your home.    The Judge could order that you not enter the home and that you find another place to live.    Another issue is that if you are not a citizen of the United States it could cause  deportation and denial of citizenship or reentry.    Hiring a DC Domestic Violence can help you work through these issues prevent those consequences.    This is why it’s important to know, understand, and consider all of the collateral consequences.

What is Diversion with respect to Domestic Violence Cases

Washington DC Domestic Violence LawyerThe only diversion option offered in Domestic Violence Charges in DC Superior Court is a deferred sentencing agreement (DSA).   A deferred sentencing agreement is an agreement between the United States of America and you whereby you enter a plea of guilty to a charge or charges and agrees to abide by certain conditions over a specified period of time (usually nine months). The parties agree that sentencing will be deferred until after the nine-month period. In return, the government agrees that if the client successfully abides by the agreed upon conditions, at the time of sentencing the government will not oppose a motion by the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea and will enter dismiss the case thereafter.  Eligibility for deferred sentencing is left to the discretion of the prosecutor. Generally, it is only offered to first offenders in cases where the circumstances surrounding the offense are less serious.   Sometimes where it is not offered initially a good Domestic Violence Attorney can convince the prosecutor why it is everyone’s interest to enter into an agreement. 

What happens at a Domestic Violence Trial

So you may think to yourself, I can convince the victim not to show at the trial.    NO. No.  You would be taking a small misdemeanor and making it much more complicated.  Furthermore, the complaining witness does not have the ability to dismiss the case.  Only the prosecutor can dismiss the case.   Try the case.   Most domestic violence cases are not so simple because rarely does any one person have clean hands.

What are the Potential Consequence If I lose my Domestic Violence Trial

One of the reason we seek diversion first is because the consequences can be quite severe.  Domestic Violence charges while most are misdemeanors have a permanent consequence.  For example, domestic violence conviction can not be expunged or sealed.   Furthermore, a conviction can lead to jail time, probation, fines, restitution. Obviously a permanent criminal conviction can affect the person’s job and their ability to possess or purchase firearms.  Lastly, domestic violence charges can have immigration consequences if you are not a United States citizen.

Hire a Domestic Violence Lawyer

This is not a time to think you can handle it on your own.  Domestic Violence are one of the more serious misdemeanors in the District of Columbia.   Ask the lawyer some very basic questions:

  1. How long have you been handling domestic violence charges (Experience)
  2. How many trials have you had in DC Superior Court dealing domestic violence

Lastly, but most importantly do you get a long with this lawyer, do you feel confident he/she can handle your domestic violence charge.   At Rollins and Chan we have done over a thousand domestic violence over 22 years and we can help you.