What Happens If I'm Charged With Domestic Violence In Virginia?

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In Virginia, domestic violence is a Class 1 misdemeanor. That means it’s punishable by up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines. A conviction can also carry immigration consequences for anyone who isn’t a naturalized citizen.

Depending on the facts of the case, there are a variety of ways a defense attorney may help you get the charges reduced or, possibly, dismissed.

Everything Starts With The Facts

The first thing a good defense attorney will do is look at the facts of the case. There are a variety of defenses people often use, depending on the facts. Sometimes, there’s reason to argue self-defense. Sometimes, one partner will act in defense of others, such as a child. Sometimes, there’s no assault at all, and the defense needs to call the accuser’s credibility into question.

Your attorney will also need to look at the evidence against you:

  • Did you make a statement to the police?
  • Did you admit to assaulting the person?
  • Did you admit to retaliating against the other person’s assault?

It’s worth noting that the police are not there to arrest the person they think is guilty. They’re supposed to arrest the aggressor in the incident. They want to make sure there are no other issues after they leave.

The Gears Start Clicking Into Motion

When the police arrive to the scene, they will immediately start following a procedural checklist. This involves gathering evidence to serve as probable cause for arrest. It also means that after they make an arrest, the officers will get a 72-hour emergency protective order against the alleged aggressor.

This means that for 72 hours, if you’re charged with domestic assault and battery, you cannot go back home. You cannot call your partner or children. You cannot pick up your clothes without arranging the pick-up with an attorney or the police. If you cross the line and you violate any of these restrictions, you risk facing charges for the violation of a protective order. That’s another misdemeanor and can add more jail time to a possible sentence.

At the same time, your partner cannot correct a misunderstanding by dropping the charges. That’s not up to your partner. That’s up to the commonwealth. After the police arrest someone for domestic violence, that person’s case goes to the prosecution’s office. Only the prosecutors can decide whether to drop the case or move forward with it.

Mitigating The Potential Consequences

Even if your partner cannot drop the charges, he or she can still help. The first thing they can do is reach out to an attorney to learn what their rights are. They can decide whether or not they want to cooperate with Victim Services. This team is essentially an arm of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. They work hand-in-hand with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to ensure that witnesses show up to court and that the commonwealth has what it needs to prosecute a case. So, that’s one thing for your partner to consider.

They can also consider the statements they make to the prosecutor, the police or an attorney. Those statements are just as important as the statements you’ll make on your own behalf. While your partner cannot unilaterally dismiss the charge, the Commonwealth will often consider the victim's position prior to determining how to proceed with the case.

Of course, there are things you can do on your own. There are the defense strategies I noted earlier as well as different steps you can take toward mitigation. These include:

  • Treatment centers
  • Domestic violence treatment programs
  • Counselors
  • Couples therapy

You can take steps to identify, evaluate and treat some of the issues you face. When you address your triggers and work on them in advance of your trial date, you can provide that information to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. In some cases, the commonwealth may be willing to resolve the case without proceeding to trial.

Domestic Violence Charges Are More Serious For Immigrants

It’s important for anyone facing domestic violence charges to speak with an attorney, but it’s even more important for people who aren’t United States citizens. Even if you’re here on a visa or have your green card, you could face deportation. Alternatively, the courts could deem you inadmissible so that if you traveled outside the country, you may not be able to reenter it. This is on top of the other consequences.

The Pressure Is Immediate

Domestic violence charges present unique challenges for those who face them. There’s a whole scripted process. You cannot go back home, and even when the charge follows a misunderstanding, your partner cannot choose to dismiss them.

You don’t want to do the wrong thing after an arrest. The wrong actions will only make things worse. It’s important that you act carefully, with full knowledge of your rights and options.


The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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