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Defending Domestic Violence Cases in DC

Depending on the offense, you can face penalties up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine if convicted. Additionally, a conviction for a domestic violence offense will make you ineligible to have your arrest record sealed in the future. It is important to contact a DC domestic violence lawyer if you have been criminally charged with a domestic violence offense.

First Steps

Hiring a lawyer is the first step a person should take to help their domestic violence case. A lawyer can explain the criminal process, as well as explain what to expect if the complaining witness files a petition for a civil protection order based on the criminal allegations.

The individual should explain the events from their perspective to their lawyer so as to assist him or her in understanding what happened and preparing their defense against the allegations.


One common defense in domestic violence cases is self-defense because often a person is charged with assault in a domestic violence situation.

One way to explain the assaultive action is to show that the behavior was actually in response to an initial aggressor in an effort to protect one’s self. Self-defense is the right to use a reasonable amount of force if that person believes he or she is in imminent danger of bodily harm. The person must have reasonable grounds to hold that belief.

For example, if a girlfriend and boyfriend are engaged in a verbal argument and the girlfriend yells in frustration, “I hate you,” the boyfriend cannot in response slap the girlfriend and claim self-defense. It would not be reasonable for the boyfriend to believe he was in imminent danger of bodily harm just because the girlfriend was upset and yelling.

On the other hand, if during the argument, the girlfriend was yelling and picked up a knife while charging towards the boyfriend, it would be reasonable for the boyfriend to believe that he was in imminent danger of bodily harm and to use a reasonable amount of force to defend himself.

Defense of Others

Another defense that is commonly used in domestic violence cases is defense of others. Defense of others is the right to use a reasonable amount of force in defense of another person if you believe the other person is in an imminent danger of bodily harm and if you have reasonable grounds for that belief.

Whether a person can use this as a defense depends on whether they reasonably believed the other person was in imminent danger and if they used a reasonable amount of force. Information about witnesses will be essential to a lawyer in preparing a defense. Any information that would discredit the complaining witness or any other government witnesses is always helpful.

For example, if the complaining witness was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the allegations, this would help discredit the testimony. Also, any witnesses that could help substantiate the individual’s version of events would strengthen their defense.

Hiring a Domestic Violence Lawyer

It is beneficial to hire an experienced DC lawyer to help prepare the defense. A local lawyer will be familiar with how these cases are handled by local judges, law enforcement, and prosecutors.

Domestic violence charges are taken seriously in DC, especially by the prosecutors. It is helpful to have an attorney in regular contact with the prosecutors assigned to these cases for negotiation purposes.

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