In DC, domestic violence cases have their own separate court in the family division of Superior Court. Specific judges are assigned to the domestic violence calendar and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (“USAO”) has a separate division that prosecutes domestic violence offenses.
DC criminal law makes an offense a “domestic violence” offense where an intra-family relationship exists between the person arrest and the complaining witness. The law defines intra-family relationship broadly to include, among others, parent/child, boyfriend/girlfriend, or husband/wife. In fact, DC Superior Court judges have interpreted intra-family relationship so broadly it includes roommates, siblings, cousins, former lovers, and even individuals who engaged in a one-night stand.
A domestic violence conviction can carry greater consequences than regular criminal convictions. For example, someone charged with simple assault in DC faces a maximum penalty of 180 days and/or a $1,000.00 fine. However, if someone is charged with simple assault in domestic violence court, the prosecutors will prosecute the case more aggressively, the judge may look at the facts with greater scrutiny, and additional consequences can result. One such consequence is that federal law prohibits individuals who are convicted of a domestic violence offense from owning or possessing a firearm.
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, its important to consult an experienced DC criminal defense lawyer who will fully investigate the charges against you and help you put on an effective defense.