Answering Your Domestic Violence Questions

Domestic violence charges can come with harsh, lasting penalties upon conviction. Even before a domestic violence case is resolved, however, there can be serious impacts — like spending time in jail, being forced out your home, losing a job and suffering damage to personal relationships.

At MacDowell Law Group, P.C., our attorneys are aware of how ruinous domestic violence charges can be and how important it is to vigorously fight them. That is one of the reasons why our Fairfax lawyers are focused on helping the accused build the strongest possible defense against domestic violence charges.

As fierce litigators who have decades of experience protecting the rights of the accused, our attorneys are ready to help you fight prosecutors' allegations and bring your domestic violence case to the best possible outcome.

What You Need To Know About Arrests, Charges And Cases

Being accused of domestic violence can be upsetting, distressing and maybe even frustrating and scary. Knowing what to expect from the charges and case, however, can help relieve some anxiety and start to reveal the best options for fighting the allegations.

To this end, the following provides some helpful answers about Virginia domestic violence laws and cases.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Virginia law defines domestic violence as "family violence" or "family abuse" that can include acts of violence or psychological abuse committed against:

  • A spouse or a former spouse (even if no longer living with you)
  • A person with whom you "cohabited" in the last 12 months
  • A person with whom you have a child in common
  • Certain members of your immediate family

Actions that could constitute domestic violence include:

  • Physical violence that constitutes a "battery," such as pushing, punching, slapping or kicking
  • Assault, which is the threat of force that reasonably puts another in fear of an unwanted, offensive touching
  • Sexual assault
  • In civil cases (such as protective orders), domestic violence could include emotional abuse or neglect, or economic control

What Happens After A Domestic Violence Call Is Made To Police?

When law enforcement officials respond to domestic violence calls, Virginia law requires them to make an arrest if:

  • The officer has probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred for either domestic assault or a violation of protective order; and
  • The officer determines, based on the totality of circumstances, who was the predominant physical aggressor (unless there are special circumstances which would dictate a course of action other than arrest)

Virginia law also requires an automatic arrest when there is probable cause to believe that protective orders have been violated. This means that police do not need to obtain a warrant before or in order to make a legal arrest for domestic violence.

Are Virginia Domestic Violence Charges Misdemeanors Or Felonies?

It depends on whether the accused person has any prior domestic violence convictions. In general, domestic violence charges will be filed as:

  • Misdemeanors for first and second offenses — In these cases, the charges will typically be Class 1 misdemeanors that can be publishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fines.
  • Felonies when the accused individual is facing his or her third offense (that is, he or she has at least two prior domestic violence convictions on his or her record) within the past 10 years. In these cases, the charges will usually be Class 6 felonies that can be punishable by up to five years in prison (or up to 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines).

How Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped?

The only way for domestic violence charges in Virginia to be dropped is by the Commonwealth's Attorney dropping them. Unlike what people see on TV or the movies, an alleged victim cannot simply drop the charges (or try to get them dropped by refusing to testify in court). In some situations, the victim who wishes to "drop charges" may need to seek independent counsel on how to best understand their rights.

Should I Hire An Attorney For My Criminal Case?

Yes. An attorney can review the facts and evidence in your case and help you determine and move forward with your best defense option(s).

How Can A Lawyer Help Me With My Case?

In addition to helping you build and present a strong defense case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you:

  • Refute the Commonwealth's Attorney's attorney's allegations
  • Work to get as much of the evidence against you discredited or, when possible, thrown out
  • Protect your rights and interests at every point in the criminal justice system
  • Obtain the best possible outcome to your case

The bottom line is that the right lawyer can help you favorably resolve your domestic violence case and minimize its potential impacts on your life.

Contact Our Firm To Get More Answers Now

If you have been arrested for or charged with domestic violence in Virginia, contact our criminal defense team at the MacDowell Law Group, P.C., by calling 571-748-5647 or filling out our short contact form. We offer FREE initial consultations in all criminal defense cases, including those involving domestic violence.

Our lawyers are ready to provide you with the answers — and aggressive defense representation — you need to fight the allegations and bring your case to the best possible resolution. We are licensed to practice in all Virginia courts (including the Virginia Supreme Court). Our lawyers provide exceptional defense representation to people throughout Fairfax County and the state of Virginia.