There has been much made in the last few years in many states about laws that require at least one person to be taken to jail if the police respond to a domestic violence call and they find any evidence of abuse. There has been controversy associated with these laws because, in many instances, parties refuse to press charges yet someone ends up with an arrest record anyway. There have also been allegations in many jurisdictions that it is presumed that the man in the situation is the batterer even though that may not be indicated by the evidence in front of the police.
Virginia’s Domestic Violence Law
Virginia terms domestic violence as “family abuse.” Family abuse occurs in Virginia when a family member commits assault and battery against another family member or a member of the household. There are many relatives considered to be covered as family as well as a number of different household situations and living arrangements that are required for family abuse charges to be brought. Suffice it to say, if the violence involves blood relatives, family abuse can be charged regardless of the current living situation among the parties. It is also important to note that the Virginia law includes any member of the household that has lived in the residence in the last 12 months. In plain English, this means that a current or former roommate (in the last 12 months, at least) is covered by this law.
What About Automatic Jail?
Virginia’s law does not require one party in a domestic dispute to go to jail, per se. However, in family abuse situations, Virginia’s law allows responding police officers to make an arrest without a warrant if there is probable cause that a domestic assault and battery has occurred.
Ordinarily, police can only arrest someone in two circumstances:
With an arrest warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.
If they witness the commission of a crime.
For example, if the police are called to a house on a noise complaint, they can issue a ticket for a noise violation if they witness the violation. They cannot, however, arrest you for a burglary they believe you committed two weeks ago while responding to the noise complaint. If, however, the police had obtained a warrant for the burglary, they could then arrest you. This is not the case in family abuse situations.
In Virginia, if the police respond to a family abuse situation, they can make an arrest with probable cause. They can determine probable cause in many ways. Obviously, the physical condition of the parties is often the determining factor. If someone is bloody but claims he or she fell down the steps, for example, it does not preclude an arrest. Often, the police will ask to examine both parties. In the example above, if they find the other party has bloody knuckles, chances are pretty high that that party is going to jail even though the other denies the assault and battery.
Virginia does not absolutely require that one party in a family abuse situation must go to jail. However, the police are empowered to make an arrest in many situations that they otherwise would not be allowed to. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you are in definite legal jeopardy. You need an experienced attorney to help you navigate both the law and the facts. Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Jad Sarsour has helped many defendants in Northern Virginia protect their rights and liberty against family abuse charges. Give him a call today at (571) 316-2639 to set up your initial consultation immediately. Not all domestic violence situations are as they necessarily appear to police and Jad has years of experience setting the record straight.
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The Fairfax Criminal Defense Law firm of Jad Sarsour, represents clients throughout Northern Virginia and regularly appears in all courts, including: Fairfax County | Fairfax City | Prince William County | Arlington County | Alexandria City | Loudoun County | Federal Court (Eastern District/VA)