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Differences Between DC Assault and Domestic Violence

In DC, domestic violence is not one specific charge but instead encompasses many criminal charges that may be considered domestic violence depending on the nature of the relationship between the accused and the complaining witness. For example, if a person commits an assault against a roommate, spouse, ex-spouse, romantic partner, or ex-spouse’s new boyfriend or girlfriend, that assault would be considered domestic violence because of the nature of their relationship.

That person would be charged with the crime of assault; domestic violence would not be an additional charge, but rather be the type of assault. The consequences that result from a domestic violence conviction can alter a person’s life. For this reason, it is important to have a strong defense from an experienced DC domestic violence lawyer on your side to combat the charges against you and to fight for your rights and freedom.

Classification of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence and assault are not charged differently in DC, but the relationship of the people involved would impact whether an assault was also considered domestic violence.

If a person is charged with assault, it may be considered domestic violence because the people involved are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or at one time were romantically or sexually involved. Even if the relationship of the people involved makes the case a domestic violence case, it is not a separate crime so the prosecution cannot charge a person with both domestic violence and assault.

Domestic Violence Versus Assault Cases

If a case is considered to be domestic violence, there are some differences between that case and a criminal case that do not involve people that have domestic relationships. In DC, there is a domestic violence unit in the courthouse that will hear all misdemeanor criminal cases involving people that are related by blood, marriage, have a child in common, share the same home, have romantic relationship, or have a partner in common. These domestic relationships are referred to as inter-family relationships.

Often, domestic violence is treated more seriously than charges that are not domestic. For example, even though two people may be charged with simple assault, a person that allegedly assaulted a family member, spouse, romantic partner, or roommate will often be treated more harshly by the prosecution than a person who allegedly assaulted an acquaintance, friend, or stranger.


The statutory penalties for a given offense will be the same, whether the case is considered a domestic violence case or not. If a person is convicted of threats to do bodily harm in DC, the maximum statutory penalties are six months in jail, $1,000 fine, or both. Plea agreements from the prosecution, however, may differ depending on whether a case is considered domestic violence or not even when the charge is the same.

For example, the prosecution may offer a plea that entails a term of probation in exchange for a plea of guilty to a charge of simple assault in both a domestic violence case and a non-domestic violence case. It is likely that in the domestic simple assault case, the prosecution will require completion of a domestic violence intervention program as a term or condition of probation. In a non-domestic violence simple assault case, the prosecution may offer anger management classes as the term of probation instead.

Defense Strategies

A defense lawyer will defend your case aggressively regardless of whether you are charged with a domestic violence charge or a charge that does not involve people who share an interfamily relationship. In either case, but especially when the relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant is interfamily, your lawyer will be able to guide you through the process, provide sound legal advice, and alleviate some of the emotional burden that the criminal case may cause.

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