picture of domestic violence law book on desk with gavel

Virginia Law Takes Spousal Assault Charges Very Seriously

There is a common misconception that a spouse can unilaterally drop domestic assault charges. The reality is more nuanced. Even if the husband or wife no longer wants to press charges, the domestic violence case can still proceed. Virginia criminal defense attorney James E. Short can offer valuable guidance and representation, ensuring those accused of domestic assault understand their legal rights and options.

Prosecution Is Not the Alleged Victim’s Choice to Make

Domestic assault accusations are common in Virginia, and, in some cases, the person who reported the incident later changes their mind. For example, the spouse reporting the alleged assault may have wanted the police to de-escalate the situation or may have exaggerated the facts during a marital argument.

Once a spouse has been charged with domestic assault, though, it is no longer in the other spouse’s power to drop the domestic assault charge. Instead, it is up to the Commonwealth of Virginia to decide how to proceed. The alleged victim can tell the prosecutor they no longer want to pursue criminal charges, but the prosecutor has the final say on whether the criminal case will proceed.

Virginia’s Arrest Laws for Domestic Violence

Virginia law treats allegations of domestic violence very seriously. In many cases, a call to the police will result in a domestic violence arrest. Law enforcement is legally obligated to respond to domestic assault calls and to determine if there is probable cause for an arrest.

Code of Virginia Section 19.2-81.3 states that an officer can arrest a person without a warrant in cases of assault against a family or household member as long as the arrest “…is based on probable cause or upon personal observations or the reasonable complaint of a person who observed the alleged offense or upon personal investigation.”

Reasons Prosecutors May Proceed With a Criminal Case Over a Spouse’s Objections

Despite what television shows and movies may depict, alleged victims of domestic violence cannot simply “drop” charges. The criminal case can proceed more smoothly for prosecutors if the alleged victim cooperates, but cooperation is not required.

Even if the complainant doesn’t want to “press” charges, the prosecutor may proceed with the criminal case. They may do this for several reasons:

  • They believe the accused coerced or threatened the complainant
  • They believe the alleged victim is still in danger and want to protect their safety
  • They believe the person accused of domestic assault is a danger to the community
  • The accused has a prior criminal record
  • The accused has a history of dropped domestic violence charges
  • They believe they can win the case without the victim’s willingness to testify

Valid Reasons to Dismiss Domestic Violence Charges

While a spouse can’t drop domestic violence charges, the Commonwealth can at the trial. Alternatively, domestice assault charges may be dismissed by the Court afer all the evidence has been presented.

You don’t have to sit back and hope the prosecution does the right thing. Instead, you can contact experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer James Short, who will consider all possible domestic violence defenses.

Some defense strategies and effective reasons to dismiss domestic assault charges may include:

  • The alleged victim provides a clarifying statement about what happened
  • There is insufficient evidence to proceed with the case
  • The defendant qualifies for Virginia’s first offender program
  • The defendant was acting in self-defense or protecting someone else from injury
  • The defendant was trying to protect their property
  • The alleged story of what happened is untrue or misinterpreted
  • The perceived act of violence was accidental

Get an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side

A domestic assault conviction can have serious consequences. Even a first offense is usually a Class 1 misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. The court may issue a no-contact order. A domestic violence conviction can affect immigration, employment, firearm ownership, living situations, child custody, and more. It is vital to take these allegations seriously.

If you’ve been accused of spousal assault but your partner wants to drop the charges, speak with attorney James E. Short right away. We can delve into the circumstances leading to your domestic assault charge and devise approaches aimed at either having the charge dropped or securing a dismissal.