Differences Between DC Assault and Domestic Violence


According to DC law, domestic violence is not a criminal charge in and of itself. The differences between DC assault and domestic violence usually fall under the classification of the crime. Domestic violence is a type of court in the Superior Court in the District of Columbia that hears specific types of cases. The cases are charged and prosecuted by domestic violence prosecutors with the US Attorneys’ Office. A person cannot be charged with a crime called domestic violence because that is not actually a charge.

If you want to know more about the difference between assault and domestic violence cases in DC, contact an experienced domestic violence attorney who has knowledge of how local laws may affect your case. For a criminal offense to be charged in the Domestic Violence Unit of Superior Court of the District of Columbia, there must be an allegation of a crime committed such as an assault, threat, stalking, obstruction of property, or another type of criminal offense. The relationship between the person charged and the alleged victim must be intrafamily in nature.

Domestic Violence Relationships

One difference between assault and domestic violence cases in DC is the intrafamily relationship means that the person charged and the alleged victim have a blood relationship, a sexual or dating relationship, a prior sexual or dating relationship or share a domicile.

An intrafamily relationship does not necessarily need to be between a husband and a wife or between two people who are romantically involved. Two cousins can be in an intrafamily relationship. Even two roommates who have no romantic connection or no familial connection can have an intrafamily relationship.

Criminal allegations against the person who has one of the intrafamily relationships with the alleged victim can be charged with a criminal offense by domestic violence prosecutors at the US Attorneys’ Office. Their case is heard before a domestic violence judge in the Domestic Violence Unit of the DC Superior Court.

Types of Domestic Violence Charges

A person cannot be charged with a domestic violence offense. Instead, a person is charged with a crime such as simple assault, threats, destruction of property, or stalking. The charge is filed with a domestic violence judge by a domestic violence prosecutor. The case is heard in a specialized court that deals only with domestic violence cases.

When a person is charged before a domestic violence judge, they must be charged with a criminal offense such as assault, threats, or stalking. A person cannot be charged with domestic violence because there is no such charge in the District.

Criminal offenses heard in domestic violence courts and prosecuted by domestic violence prosecutors are misdemeanor offenses. Cases that may not be charged in court include when there is an allegation of a more serious criminal offense committed against a person who has an intrafamily relationship with the person accused of domestic violence. They can be charged in a felony level court with a different judge and proceed as any other criminal offense. When a case is filed in the domestic violence court, it is charged as a misdemeanor level offense.

Common Myths about Domestic Violence Charges

The idea of being charged with a domestic violence offense is a common misconception. There are several misconceptions for domestic violence cases such as the idea that an accuser can press charges or drop charges. Another misconception is that domestic violence cases can be resolved in a civil legal way between an accuser and an accused without involving the courts. This is not the case for criminal domestic violence matters. Criminal domestic violence matters are charged by prosecutors with the US Attorneys’ Office and the decision to prosecute is made exclusively by the US Attorneys’ Office, not by alleged accusers.

For example, before an assault case is heard in a domestic violence court, the case is reviewed by a DC prosecutor who decides to move forward with criminal charges. The DC prosecutor files the specific charges such as assault, threats, or stalking and must be able to prove those charges at trial by calling witnesses, presenting testimony, and presenting other evidence. The prosecutor must be able to prove a defendant guilty of the actual criminal offense.

Types of Assault Offenses

As defined by DC law, assault is a use of force or a threatened use of force against another person causing that person to have a reasonable apprehension of imminent, harmful, or offensive contact. An assault does not necessarily require physical contact. Another difference between assault and domestic violence cases in DC is assault can include one or two different types of situations.

The first type of assault is attempted battery. An attempted battery assault is where a person injures or attempts to injure another person. The injury is not necessarily a visible physical injury like bruising or cuts or something else that requires medical treatment. An injury can be as minimal as an unwanted physical contact.

The second type of simple assault is an intent-to-frighten assault. An intent-to-frighten assault is a threatening act that puts another person in reasonable fear of an immediate injury. Even if an individual did not intend to assault another person, by putting another person in a reasonable fear of being injured, the individual can be charged with simple assault.

DC Assault Charges

There are other varying levels of assault charges in Washington DC depending on the circumstances of the assault. Such as, whether any weapons were used in the commission of the assault and the extent of the injuries suffered by an alleged victim. More serious types of injuries that require immediate medical attention, like, a loss of consciousness, or sustains permanent disfigurement can be charged as felony-level assaults.

If a person is accused of committing assault with a weapon, even if there are no serious injuries. That person can also be charged with a felony level assault called assault with a dangerous weapon. The circumstances of the assault change the penalties a person could face is a main difference between DC assault and domestic violence. The misdemeanor simple assault charge carries a maximum penalty of 180 days of jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.