In the District of Columbia domestic violence is classified as “intrafamily violence.” Intrafamily violence is defined as any criminal offense that would be listed under the criminal code. For example, assault, threats, battery, destruction of property, and theft. The only requisite is that in order to be listed as an intrafamily violence is that the alleged offender is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership. The definition also includes situations where the offender and victim have a child in common. Victims of intrafamily violence can obtain civil protective orders. The law also places certain duties upon law enforcement investigating allegations of intrafamily violence.
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A police officer is required by law to make an arrest wherever the police officer has probable cause to believe that a person committed an intrafamily violence offense that resulted in harm. It does not matter whether the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. The officer will or shall we say is supposed to take detailed accounts of the victims state of mind, appearance etc. In general when the police come to the house to deal with an intrafamily offense someone will probably be arrested. Police officers also must make written reports of investigations of intrafamily violence offenses. The reports must be submitted to and maintained by the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police force.
District of Columbia law provides temporary and final protective orders to persons claiming to be victims of intrafamily violence. Having an attorney represent an individual for or against a protective order is crucial as the orders can contain a variety of provisions affecting the conduct of the parties, the disposition of property, and child custody and visitation. A judge may issue a temporary protective order where the judge finds that the safety or welfare of the petitioner (that is, the person seeking protection) or a household member is immediately endangered by the respondent (the person from whom the petitioner seeks protection). The temporary protective order may be issued ex parte (that is, without the respondent’s presence or input), but the order may not last longer than 14 days, except that the court may extend the temporary protective order if necessary to conduct a hearing on the petition.
After a temporary order is granted the judge will conduct a full hearing where both the petitioner and respondent are present and the Judge will take testimony to decide whether the respondent committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against the petitioner.
The judge may issue a final protective order with any combination of the following provisions:
- prohibit the respondent from committing or threatening to commit crimes against the petitioner and other protected persons;
- prohibit the respondent from having any contact with the petitioner or other protected persons
- require the respondent to participate in psychiatric or medical treatment or counseling
- require the respondent to vacate or refrain from entering a dwelling that is marital property or property that is owned, leased or rented and occupied by both parties (joint occupancy is not required if the respondent’s actions caused the petitioner to vacate the property), or property that is owned, leased or rented by the petitioner individually or jointly with another person other than the respondent
- direct the respondent to relinquish possession or use of property jointly owned with the petitioner or property owned by the petitioner individually
- award temporary custody of the parties’ minor children and provide visitation rights with restrictions necessary to protect the petitioner
- award costs and attorney fees
- order the Metropolitan Police Department to take certain actions to enforce the court’s orders
- require the respondent to relinquish possession of any firearms
- award care, control, and custody of a domestic animal that belongs to either party or lives in the household, and
- Order the respondent to perform or refrain from other actions that the judge deems necessary to resolve the dispute between the parties.
- Any other conditions that the Judge deems necessary to protect the petition from harm
– The protective order will last for 1 year unless modified by parties.
(D.C. Code § 16-1005)
Violating a protective order
Any person who violates a temporary or final protective order will be charged with violation of protection or contempt and be fined up to $1,000, sentenced to 180 days in jail, or both.
Domestic Violence Criminal Calendar
The other side of domestic law is that the United Attorney’s office may pursue criminal charges independent of the petitioner’s wishes. In fact, the U.S. Attorneys views the petitioner as just a witness in their case against the Defendant. The Court has a separate calendar, a boutique court, called Domestic Violence calendar where only domestic violence cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. For more information download a free copy of our book.
Consult With a Lawyer
Allegations of intrafamily violence can result in criminal charges as well as affect your parental rights. If you face allegations of intrafamily violence in the District of Colombia, it is important that you speak with an attorney experienced in handling such matters. A skilled lawyer will protect your rights and guide you throughout the legal process. A skilled lawyer can evaluate your case, seek dismissal or a negotiated resolution, and represent you in front of a jury if your case proceeds to trial.