DC Domestic Violence Investigations

In domestic violence cases it is most common for law enforcement officers to be dispatched to a home after someone has already called 911. In these cases an investigation will likely take place at the scene. If law enforcement then has probable cause to believe that a person committed an intra-family offense that resulted in physical injury, pain, or illness, the officer must arrest that person, even if the offense was not committed in the officer’s presence. In these cases, it is important the individual accused consult with a DC domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to deal with any ongoing investigation and begin building a defense.

Determining The Aggressor

A law enforcement officer will most likely consider several factors in determining which party was the primary aggressor in a domestic violence situation. First the officer will likely talk to all parties including any witnesses to determine the order of events. The officer will also likely consider the surroundings and the state of affairs in the home.

This includes checking if anything was broken or thrown about as a result of the incident. Law enforcement will also consider any visible marks or injuries on a person’s body. Based on his or her findings, the officer makes a determination on who is believed to be the primary aggressor.

How Does This Differ From Other Types of Investigations?

The major difference between domestic violence investigations and other criminal investigations are the people involved in the alleged crimes. People involved in domestic violence offences share or have shared close personal relationships. This is different from other criminal investigations where the people have little to no knowledge of the other person.  A shared personal relationship sometimes has an impact on how much information is provided by the parties for officers to consider.

Role of Law Enforcement

In DC, when a law enforcement officer is investigating a crime that is committed between people who share an interfamily, intimate partner, or interpersonal relationship, the officer is required to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe the person committed an offense that resulted in physical injury, physical pain, or illness. The officer has this duty even if this alleged offense was not committed in his or her presence. The officer is also required to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person committed an intra-family offense that was intended to cause or actually caused a reasonable fear of imminent serious physical injury or a reasonable fear of death.

Even if the law enforcement officer does not make an arrest, after his or her investigation, the officer is required to file a written report of the incident and investigation, which must also include the disposition of the incident. The DC metropolitan police is required to maintain the officer’s written report.

Your Rights During an Investigation

If you are being investigated for a domestic violence crime and have not been charged by the prosecution, you are not required to provide law enforcement with incriminating evidence or speak to officers. If you are arrested and charged with a crime after a law enforcement investigation, you will be brought before a judge who will formally read the charges that have been filed against you.

At this juncture, the judge will most likely order you to stay away or have no contact with the complaining witness. This can make a person feel as if they have already been convicted; however, this is solely a condition to be released from jail and does not mean that you have been convicted of anything.

Role of An Attorney

If you are being investigated for a domestic violence crime, it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you have not yet been charged, your lawyer can advise you on what to do and what not to do in an effort to avoid being charged. For example, law enforcement officers may want to interview you before making a decision to seek an arrest warrant. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of the risks and potential benefits, if there are any, of being interviewed. Your lawyer will also explain your constitutional rights during the investigative process.