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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Domestic Violence in Criminal and Civil Court

Domestic Violence in Criminal and Civil Court


Most Americans have a very complex view of domestic violence, mostly depending on their gender and ethnicity. The method of communication is important as well.

Civil and criminal domestic violence laws, however, apply equally to everyone. Police officers usually aren’t too concerned about disputes they see as civil matters. Domestic violence is an exception. On the civil side, protective order and other such laws haven’t changed, but the application has changed. More on that below.

In this new environment, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer has an excellent chance to successfully resolve the criminal and civil charges normally associated with a domestic violence incident. Normally, these resolutions keep the matter off the defendant’s permanent record.

Criminal Court

Usually, domestic battery is an ordinary assault matter. Occasionally, prosecutors file aggravated assault charges in these matters, especially if there’s any mention of any object that could be used as a weapon, like a golf club or a frying pan, in the police report.

These charges usually feature procedural and/or substantive defenses. An affirmative defense may be available as well.

Procedurally, a disturbance call usually sends officers to the scene. This tip must have been reliable at the time officers received it. A call from a neighbor might be accurate, but it might not be reliable. Some people call the police just to get other people in trouble.

If the tip was unreliable, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer can get the arrest, and the rest of the case, thrown out of court.

Substantively, assault charges almost always hinge on the alleged victim’s testimony. Eyewitnesses to the assault, like a neighbor, child, or police officer, are rare. Under Virginia law, most alleged assault victims simply aren’t reliable.

Our brains are not recording devices. We remember things selectively. Furthermore, if the alleged victim was drinking or otherwise impaired at the time, the alleged victim’s memory and recall was faulty. Finally, as mentioned above, some people, including some alleged victims, have ulterior motives in these situations.

Self-defense might be available in some cases. However, the alleged victim must strike the first blow, at least in most situations. Verbal abuse hurts, but it very rarely legally justifies a physical response.

Civil Court

When officers respond to disturbance calls, they must generally arrest the person they identify as the agitator. Officers must also inform alleged victims of their right to request civil restraining orders.

Once upon a time, judges practically rubber-stamped protective order applications. Now, many attitudes have changed. Judges still grant protective orders, but they scrutinize these applications.

The lower burden of proof in civil court is often a two-edged sword. It’s easier to establish a case, and it’s also easier to erode the evidence in a case. We discussed that process above. In civil court, this process usually includes a parallel family law matter, like a divorce or child custody case. Alleged victims rarely inflate or fabricate assault allegations to get a leg up in these proceedings. But that’s happened before and it will happen again.

Frequently, an attorney negotiates a consent decree agreement. A judicially-enforceable consent decree has the same provisions as a protective order, but avoids the stigma of a protective order.

Work With a Diligent Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.



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