With shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders enacted throughout the US to counter the novel coronavirus COVID-19, tempers can flare among family and household members in close quarters. Not surprisingly, the result is an increased number of calls and allegations regarding domestic violence. According to an NBC News article from April 5, 2020, 18 of 22 law enforcement agencies contacted by the channel had seen a rise in domestic violence arrests during March. Some officials reported a spike as high as 20 percent.
An increase in arrests doesn’t mean that convictions for domestic violence will also go up. In many cases, there may be defenses available or other strategies for fighting the charges. You gain an advantage in your case if you follow a few tips, the first of which is retaining a Virginia domestic violence defense lawyer. In addition:
- Exercise Your Civil Rights: As with any other criminal offense, you have the right to remain silent when you’re under arrest for domestic violence under Virginia law. Don’t make any statements to officers and avoid communicating with your accuser during the encounter with police. Once you’re in custody or brought in for questioning, decline to answer any questions. Immediately request to speak to your attorney, who will ensure protection of your other civil rights.
- Gather Evidence: By Special Continuing Order for Prince William Circuit Court, all criminal cases are proceeding according to normal practice, so you need to be proactive in your own defense. Your lawyer will handle the complicated legal details, but you can do your part by gathering relevant evidence. Examples include:
- Conversations with your accuser via email and text;
- Social media comments, posts, photos, and videos; and,
- Contact information for witnesses.
In addition, write down your recollections and thoughts about the incident and circumstances surrounding your arrest for domestic violence. Details matter, so your notes might help refresh your recollection later.
- Strictly Comply with a Protective Order: An arrest for domestic violence is often accompanied by an injunction that prohibits you from taking certain actions. It’s common for a court to order you to stay away from and not contact your accuser, among other conditions. In some cases, you may need to leave the residence – even under the current situation with COVID-19.
You should absolutely, strictly follow the terms of any protective order. Not only does a violation put you in an unfavorable light with respect to the domestic violence criminal charges, but it’s also a separate crime. You already face Class 1 Misdemeanor charges for assault and battery against a family member, with a potential sentence of one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500. Violating a protective order means additional punishment if you’re convicted.
- Consider Counseling, Treatment, or Other Appropriate Program: You may qualify for probation in certain domestic violence cases, which usually carries the requirement to complete court-approved programs. Examples include sessions for alcohol and/or drug abuse, anger management, and victim sensitivity. By getting started on a counseling or treatment regimen even before the court imposes an order, you demonstrate to the court that you’re taking the allegations seriously.
Contact a Virginia Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Right Away
Our team at Leary Law, P.C. has extensive experience defending those accused of domestic violence, so we’re prepared to fight for your rights in court. We’re working hard to protect our clients’ interests during the COVID-19 pandemic, so please contact our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA to learn how we can assist with your case. We’re happy to conduct a consultation by phone or other remote methods, during which we can develop a defense strategy.