What is Domestic Assault & Battery?
Domestic Assault and Battery involves violence or threats of violence against a family or household member. More specifically, battery is the harmful, offensive, and unwanted touching of another person and assault is the attempt to commit battery. What makes the assault and battery “domestic” is that either the perpetrator, the victim, or both are members of the same family or household. Family or household members include current and former spouses, parents, siblings, grandparents, in-laws, a co-parent, and anyone who currently resides in the home or resided with the person within the past year.
In Fairfax, the prosecution of this Class 1 Misdemeanor takes place in the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR). This specialized court provides more remedies to disputes than would be otherwise available in the county’s General District Court (GDC).
Reporting an Incident
If an incident of domestic assault and battery occurs, the victim or a witness may report the incident to Fairfax County Police Department or contact emergency services. After reporting the incident, law enforcement will respond to the scene, assess the situation, and take statements from those involved or anyone who may have witnessed the incident.
In Virginia, the general rule is that when responding to these types of cases, law enforcement officers are required to make an arrest in order to ensure that the victim is protected and to prevent further harm. In order to make an arrest, however, the responding officers must have probable cause to believe that domestic assault and battery has occurred. If there is probable cause, the accused perpetrator will be arrested. Sometimes, however, the individuals involved in the dispute will point fingers toward the other, accusing that person of being the instigator. Where this is the case, law enforcement will arrest the person they believe to be the predominant physical aggressor based on their knowledge of the circumstances.
Emergency Protective Orders (EPO)
Following an arrest for domestic assault and battery, the victim can seek an Emergency Protective Order. This is a court order that provides immediate protection by prohibiting the arrested individual from contacting the victim. EPOs typically take affect for a period of 72 hours, giving the victim time to seek additional legal remedies or other assistance.
After their arrest, the accused will appear before a magistrate for a bond hearing. At this hearing, the magistrate will hear the facts and determine whether the accused should be released from custody pending trial and, if so, the conditions necessary for their release. Other factors for the magistrate’s consideration include the seriousness of the offense and the risk to the victim and others in the community.
As a condition of pre-trial release, the court may issue a no-contact order, prohibiting the accused from having any form of contact with the victim. This includes physical contact, phone calls, text messages, emails, or any indirect communication through third parties. If the accused were to violate the no-contact order, they may face additional criminal charges.
Consulting an Attorney
At this stage, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney who has experience handling domestic assault and battery cases in Fairfax County. Obtaining the services of an experienced attorney will ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the strongest defense strategy based on the specific circumstances of your particular case. Moreover, it will be your attorney’s responsibility to handle all of the pretrial motions and discovery as well as to communicate with the prosecutor’s office to work out a plea deal or prepare for trial.
The first conviction for Domestic Assault and Battery is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and the maximum penalties include a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. If this is your second conviction within 20 years for Domestic Assault and Battery, strangulation, or other specified violent crimes, it becomes a Class 6 Felony. Penalties for the felony conviction range from one year to five years imprisonment. Thus, given the severity of the charges, if you are facing charges of Domestic Assault and Battery in Fairfax County, consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible so that they can guide you towards the best path forward.
Contact us for a consultation if you have been charged, and we can discuss your options, and defenses today.