On Being Charged with Domestic Violence Simple Assault in Washington, DC (Part One: The Arrest and Arraignment)
As a Washington, DC domestic violence attorney, I often represent clients with a very similar story. Here is how it typically goes; you get into an argument with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or fiancé. He or she may be upset with you and may even be intoxicated. There is a lot of screaming going on but you have not laid a hand on her/him. In fact, your domestic partner may even be the one who is hitting you. All you are trying to do is defend yourself from being hit and trying to restrain him/her. At this point it is just the two of you involved. Sometimes it is a neighbor who hears screaming and calls the cops. Other times your partner will dial 911 and the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police (MPD) officers arrive at your house or apartment.
At first you are not worried about the police because you know that you didn't assault anyone. In fact, you are actually the victim of any domestic violence. Unfortunately, that doesn't really matter. Normally an officer will stand with you and maybe ask you what happened while another officer interviews the person who called the police. The truth is, the police often don't take the time to hear both sides of the story and find out what really happened. You now find yourself sitting in the back of an MPD cruiser while your significant other is listed as the complaining witness or victim.
In the District of Columbia there is no bond on the night of the arrest. You are taken to whatever police district you happen to live in to be book and processed. You will then be transported by van to the MDP Central Block (CCB) where you will be held until the next court date. Normally this is the next day unless that day is a Sunday. After spending a night in what can only be described as a roach-infested dungeon, you will be given a very short van ride to the DC Superior Court. You are now in the U.S. Marshals' Cell Block. Here you will be asked to give a urine sample and interviewed to see if you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer.
You will then be brought up to court in handcuffs, leg irons, and a waist chain for your arraignment. Unless you have a prior record, and even if you do, you will probably be released on your own personal recognizance, told that you cannot possess a firearm, and given a date to come back to court for a status hearing.
In the next part of this blog post, I will discuss what happens at the status hearing. In the meantime, if you find yourself in this position, I strongly advise you to contact a lawyer who regularly handles domestic violence cases in Washington, DC so that you can discuss your case. Just having an open domestic violence case can have serious implications on your personal and professional life.