Definition of Injunction (Domestic Violence)
In Washington DC, a Domestic Violence Injunction (Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence) is court order, issued in connection with a prior “domestic violence” petition, that restricts or prohibits family or household members from having contact with one another.
Under Section 741.30, Washington DC Statutes, any person who is either the victim of domestic violence or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence, has standing in the circuit court to file a sworn petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. A petition may also be filed by family or household members. If the Circuit Court grants the petition (or if the court issues a temporary injunction prior to the formal hearing on the injunction) then the respondent becomes subject to a domestic violence injunction (Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence).
For additional information about how injunctions are obtained in Washington DC, visit our How to Obtain an Injunction web page.
Penalties for Violating an Injunction in Washington DC
In Washington DC, a violation of a domestic violence injunction, dating violence injunction, sexual violence injunction, or repeat violence injunction is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation and a $1000 fine. In some cases, a person can be charged with the felony offense of “Aggravated Stalking” if there are multiple violations of the injunction and the violations are calculated to harass or threaten.
Other Types of Injunctions
Repeat Violence Injunctions
Section 784.046(2), Washington DC Statutes, creates a cause of action for an injunction for protection in cases of “repeat violence.” “Repeat violence” means two incidents of violence or stalking committed by the respondent, one of which must have been within 6 months of the filing of the petition, which are directed against the petitioner or the petitioner’s immediate family member. The sworn petition shall allege the incidents of repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances that form the basis upon which relief is sought.
Sexual Violence Injunctions
Section 784.046, Washington DC Statutes, also creates a right to pursue an injunction for “sexual violence.” sexual violence means any one incident of Sexual battery (as defined in Chapter 794, Washington DC Statutes), a lewd or lascivious act (as defined in chapter 800) committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age, luring or enticing a child (described in chapter 787), sexual performance by a child (described in Chapter 827), and any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted. A sexual violence injunction may be sought by a petitioner regardless of whether criminal charges based on the incident were filed, reduced, or dismissed by the state attorney.
Dating Violence Injunctions
An injunction may also be sought for any person who is the victim of “dating violence” and has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of another act of dating violence. “Dating violence” is defined as violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.
Ways to Violate an Injunction
There are innumerable ways to violate a Washington DC injunction, and the best source to avoid a violation is the court order itself. Depending on the specifics of the injunction, a person may be charged for any of the following:
- Refusing to leave or vacate the dwelling or home that the parties share;
- Going to, or being within 500 feet of, the petitioner’s residence, school, place of employment, or a specified place frequented regularly by the petitioner and any named family or household member;
- Committing an act of domestic violence against the petitioner;
- Committing any other violation of the injunction through an intentional unlawful threat, word, or act to do violence to the petitioner;
- Telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating with the petitioner directly or indirectly, unless the injunction specifically allows indirect contact through a third party;
- Knowingly and intentionally coming within 100 feet of the petitioner’s motor vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is occupied;
- Defacing or destroying the petitioner’s personal property, including the petitioner’s motor vehicle; or
- Refusing to surrender firearms or ammunition if ordered to do so by the court.
How Long Does an Injunction Last?
The best source is the court order itself. Read the injunction carefully, as the length of time can vary widely from case to case. Also keep in mind that, under Section 784.046(7)(c), Washington DC Statutes, a Circuit Court Judge can order that an injunction remain in full force and effect permanently. This could mean that the injunction will last forever unless it is modified or dissolved by the issuing court.
Although either person may ask the court to modify or dissolve the injunction, neither party may change the terms of the injunction without obtaining the permission of the court first. Contact an experienced Washington DC injunction violation lawyer and criminal defense lawyer before seeking a modification.
What if the Other Person Wants Contact?
Stay away. Many people who are subjected to injunctions in Washington DC make the mistake of assuming that the person who petitioned for the injunction can decide whether resuming contact is permissible. This is not the case. An injunction, once granted, must be modified through a court hearing before a Circuit Court Judge.
Even if you and the petitioner have reconciled and the relationship is amicable in every respect, you can still be charged with violating the injunction. Remember: the essence of the offense is that there is a violation of a court order. The petitioner cannot modify or lift that order without leave of court. Note that Section 784.046(13), Washington DC Statutes, gives law enforcement the discretion to arrest and charge you for a violation of an injunction regardless of the “victim’s” consent to contact. Therefore, the permission of the “victim” will not stop an arrest.
Defenses to Violation of Injunction
There are multiple defenses available to contest a Washington DC injunction violation charge. The more common defenses include:
- Lack of Intent to Violate- to constitute a violation of an injunction in Washington DC, the prosecution must prove that the defendant willfully violated the injunction. To be “willful,” the defendant’s actions in violating the court’s order (as contained in the injunction) must be done “knowingly, intentionally, and purposely.” Often, the defendant was not aware of the full scope of the injunction’s prohibitions, or believed that his or her actions were in compliance with the injunction. If the violation was not willful, this can serve as a complete defense to the charge;
- Lack of Notice of Injunction- notice of an injunction is an essential element of the charge of violating its provisions. Cordova v. State, 675 So. 2d 632, 634 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1996); Thus, a conviction cannot be sustained and a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal must be granted where the State fails to prove that the defendant was served with the injunction or had some other notice. See Robinson v. State, 840 So. 2d 1138, 1139 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003) (reversing trial court’s denial of defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal where the State failed to establish that the accused knew the permanent injunction had been entered against him, either through proof that the accused had been served with the permanent injunction, or through proof that the accused had some other notice);
- Other Injunction Issued / Conflicting Injunction- occasionally, a defendant accused of violating an injunction is, at the time of the alleged violation, subject to two conflicting injunction orders. If this is the case, then the alleged violation of one injunction is arguably not willful, so long as the defendant complied with the other injunction and believed that the other injunction was the one that had legal effect at the time of the alleged offense;
- Mistake as to the Meaning, Effect, or Scope of the Injunction- a mistaken belief as to the meaning, effect, or scope of an injunction, if reasonable and well founded, can provide a defense to an injunction violation charge. If there is a good faith mistake or misunderstanding, then the violation is arguably not willful. One common example is where a defendant is ordered to have “no contact” with the alleged victim. Most of the time, judges do not explain the full scope of the no contact provision to respondents. Thus, it can be unclear whether “no contact” means only direct contact, or whether it encompasses indirect, third party contact;
- No Intentional Contact- where the injunction orders a defendant to have “no contact” with the alleged victim, the State must establish that the contact in question occurred intentionally. Thus, if a defendant communicates to third party about the alleged victim and the third party (a family member, friend, or colleague), without the defendant asking, relays the message to the victim, this is not intentional.
If you have been charged with a violation of a domestic violence injunction, dating violence injunction, repeat violence injunction, or sexual violence injunction in Washington DC, Washington DC, you may have defenses available to fight the charge or to minimize potential penalties. Contact an experienced Washington DC Criminal Attorney today for a free consultation.