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Domestic Violence Charges in Virginia

Sean Sherlock Criminal Defense Lawyer
Written by Sean A. Sherlock

Domestic violence charges in Virginia are serious! They can have a devastating and wide-reaching effect on a person’s life. They can affect possession of a residence, child custody and support, and spousal support. Domestic violence charges can also negatively affect a person’s immigration status or their employment.

Domestic Assault and Battery

The most common charge in a domestic violence case is Assault and Battery of a Family or Household Member. This is most commonly reffered to as Domestic Assault and Battery. The Virginia law section is § 18.2-57.2. The elements of Domestic Assault and Battery are:

(1) an unlawful touching.

(2) done in an angry, rude, offensive, or vengeful manner,

(3) by one family or household member against another. 

You do not have to cause actual injury. Simply putting your hands on your spouse in any way during an argument is can result in a charge of domestic violence.  

Emergency Protective Order

When there is an arrest for domestic violation, the Magistrate will almost always issue a Protective Order. The protective order will prohibit the person charged from returning home or having any contact whatsoever with the other party.  The protective order can also award sole possession of the residence to one party. It can also require the person charged with domestic violence to pay spousal support or child support.  To learn more about protective orders in domestic violence cases click here.

Domestic Assault and Battery – Class 1 Misdemeanor & First Offender

A first offense for Domestic Assault and Battery is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. This means the maximum penalty is up to 12 months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500. While it is possible to receive only a fine if convicted, a domestic violence charge will usually result in an active or suspended jail sentence and probation upon conviction.  There is a first-offender diversion program for Domestic Assault and Battery. This allows the charge to be dismissed after 2 years upon completion of a period of probation and good behavior; however, a person who enters the first-offender program is not eligible to have the charge later expunged from their record.  However, while this avoids a conviction, just entering the program may have a negative impact on a person’s immigration status or employment.

Mandatory Arrest

Domestic violence charges in Virginia are a “mandatory arrest offense.”  This means that if the police have probable cause that a family member put their hands on another family member, they have to make an arrest.  This often comes as a shock to a person who may have only called the police in the hopes that they would help mediate a dispute that was volatile, but ultimately not dangerous.  

While the “mandatory arrest” law has undoubtedly saved lives in serious domestic violence situations, it has also resulted in many instances of people being charged with a serious crime for things that most people would not consider to be criminal.  For example, a parent who suffers a domestic violence arrest for using used force to try to stop their teenage child from leaving the home in the middle of the night.  Or a spouse who physically moves their spouse out of their way just so they can leave the home during a heated argument.  These are not just hypothetical examples. At Dischley Law we have successfully represented people who faced domestic violence charges in exactly these kinds of scenarios. Every case is unique. However, we have the knowledge and experience it takes to successfully handle these cases to a successful conclusion. 

No-Drop Policy

Another surprising aspect of domestic violence in Virginia are prosecutors’ offices’ “no-drop” policies. Many prosecutors’ offices in Virginia have adopted “no-drop” policies on domestic violence cases.  This means that, even if the victim later tells the police or prosecutor that they want the charges dropped, the prosecutor will not do so.  In these scenarios it is crucial that the domestic violence attorney understand how to defeat the government’s attempts to convict the accused without the victim’s participation. 

We Can Help!

If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense in Virginia you will need an experienced and knowledgeable domestic-violence lawyer to fight for you.  Contact the domestic-violence attorneys at Dischley Law today for a free consultation about your case.

Alexandria Office
108 N. Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Manassas Office
9255 Center Street, Suite 300B
Manassas, Virginia 20110
Fairfax Office
10509 Judicial Drive, Suite 102A
Fairfax, VA 22030