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DC Domestic Violence Lawyer

If you are facing allegations or charges of domestic violence, an important first step to take is to contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer who specializes in handling such matters. Domestic violence is extremely difficult for all parties involved as it is complicated by emotions, family, finances, and sometimes claims of self-defense. Obtaining assistance from an attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases is paramount, as nearly every aspect of your life can be affected by protective orders and related charges.

Therefore, if you are facing domestic violence charges or have any questions, contact a DC domestic violence lawyer today to discuss your case. Only a qualified DC domestic violence attorney can explain how the complex law surrounding domestic violence applies to your situation.

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Domestic Violence Crimes

Domestic violence is a term that encompasses a variety of criminal offenses.  In Washington, DC, if a crime is alleged to have been committed “intrafamily” it may be filed as in the Domestic Violence division of the DC Superior Court, which has specialized judges, prosecutors, and procedures.  “Intrafamily” offenses can be between immediate or extended family members, non-blood relatives, intimate partners, and even roommates.

A single instance of assault, stalking, or other crime against the person can be considered a crime of domestic violence. In Washington, DC, any of the following acts, or threatened acts, can fall under the definition of a domestic violence offense:

Only misdemeanor offenses, defined as a crime carrying a possible maximum penalty of one year or less in jail, are filed in the Domestic Violence Division.  The exact penalty an alleged offender faces or receives depends on the specific offense. Similar rules and constraints apply in nearby states, such as Maryland and Virginia. If you have been charged with domestic violence in either of those jurisdictions, it is important that you seek qualified counsel in those regions. 

Domestic Violence Victims and Offenders

In the District of Columbia, the types of individuals who can be implicated in a crime of domestic violence are listed under Title 16, Chapter 10: Proceedings Regarding Intrafamily Offenses of the DC Official Code. Unlike other jurisdictions in the United States, “domestic violence” is not literally defined in the criminal code, but certain categories of violence are considered to constitute domestic violence. More specifically, if one is charged with a crime of domestic violence, he or she will be accused of committing an “intrafamily offense,” which consists of interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence (§ 16-1001(6)-(9)). Interpersonal violence is considered a threatened or committed criminal offense against an individual in which the perpetrator shares (or has shared) a mutual residence, or, if the perpetrator has (or had) one of the following relationships with the victim or intended victim:

  • Marriage
  • Domestic partnership
  • Divorced or separated
  • Romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.

Interpersonal violence is slightly broader than intimate partner violence, as the former can implicate two individuals who simply lived together, whereas the latter is confined to two individuals who are (or were previously) married, in a domestic partnership, divorced or separated, or in a romantic, dating or sexual relationship.

The third and final categorization of violence, with respect to domestic violence under DC law, is “intrafamily violence.” Such conduct refers to a threatened or committed criminal offense in which the offender is “related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership, or with whom the offender has a child in common” (§ 16-1001(9)).

DC Domestic Courts

Two courts are involved in domestic cases. The first is the Family Court, which is principally responsible for adjudicating divorce, custody, visitation, paternity, support and similar non-criminal cases. The Domestic Violence Unit, on the other hand, handles misdemeanor criminal cases involving an intrafamily offense, as well as civil protection orders against people related by blood, legal custody, marriage, a common child, residence, romantic relationship, or a claim of stalking.

Depending on the criminal offense charged, domestic violence cases can be bench trials or jury trials. If the offense is punishable by a 180 day jail or less, then the trial is a bench trial. If the offense is punishable by more than six months or more, then the trial is a jury trial. In either case, the prosecution has to prove that the offense was an intrafamily offense, meaning the relationship between the defendant and the complaining witness is either interpersonal, intrafamily, or an intimate partner relationship.

What is Considered When Making a Domestic Violence Arrest?

In cases of intrafamily violence, the officer is required by law to make an arrest if the officer witnesses the violence or has probable cause to believe an offense occurred with the intention of causing harm or fear. Probable cause is stronger than reasonable articulable suspicion, as it is based upon facts the officer obtains through questioning and observation. If the officer feels the accused has created fear in another of physical harm, the officer is required to arrest the accused and then submit a written report to the Police Department explaining the reason for the arrest. It is important to note that even if the accuser objects, an arrest is required if the officer feels harm has occurred or may occur based on probable cause. The criminal charge pertaining to the act in question is pursued by the United States Attorney’s Office, not the victim, and therefore, the victim does not have the power to drop such charges. Since the accused is up against a government prosecutor, it is crucial to have an experienced DC domestic violence lawyer who knows the specifics of the law.

Shawn Sukumar in His Own Words

Below are several links to question-and-answer pages excerpted from an interview with Shawn Sukumar in which he discusses domestic violence cases in Washington, DC.

Contact a DC Domestic Violence Lawyer

Charges stemming from domestic violence can permanently change your life and the lives of your loved ones. There is a stigma associated with such violence that can cause family and friends to alienate the accused, which makes it all the more important to retain experienced legal counsel. Shawn Sukumar is a DC domestic violence attorney who will fight passionately to protect your rights and, when necessary, construct and pursue an aggressive defense strategy. If you are facing charges of domestic violence, contact Shawn Sukumar Attorney at Law today for a free initial consultation of your case.

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