domestic violence graffiti

Difference between domestic violence and simple assault in D.C.

Jamison KoehlerDomestic Violence

People often confuse the specific crime (simple assault, for example) with a general category of crimes (domestic violence) of which assault is just one example.  Other offenses that are also covered by the domestic violence category include criminal threats, destruction of property, theft, contempt of court, and violation of a civil protection order.  

The government must still prove the exact same elements with respect to one of these offenses.  In the case of simple assault, for example, the government must prove either that the defendant assaulted or attempted to assault another person or that the defendant intended to put that other person in fear of bodily injury.  The maximum penalties are also the same – in most cases, 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  

But, reflecting our society’s concern about the evils of domestic abuse, the consequences of being convicted of one of these offenses are more serious in the context of a domestic violence case. 

For example, although the maximum penalty is the same, a person who is convicted of a domestic violence offense is more likely to receive a longer sentence or be sentenced to jail. The court tends to impose more restrictive conditions while on probation, including the requirement to complete the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP).  Finally, unlike most misdemeanor convictions which can be sealed after 8 years, a conviction for a domestic violence offense can never be sealed.