Must Police Make an Arrest in a Domestic Violence Case in VA?

Couples, family members, or household members who are involved in a physical altercation after an argument typically express immediate regret, especially when the police arrive. It is not uncommon for the alleged victim to request that law enforcement officials avoid making an arrest or for both parties to be uncooperative during a domestic violence investigation or later on at court.

This potential change-of-heart factor is what makes domestic violence cases unique, which is why law enforcement officials approach these incidents differently compared to other crimes. In Virginia, the police must arrest the “primary aggressor” if they have “probable cause” that an offense occurred.

When the primary aggressor is taken into custody, they will be brought before a magistrate, who will determine whether to set bail and whether there should be contact between the parties pending the court date. If the primary aggressor is not facing a serious felony charge or does not have a bad criminal record, he/she will usually be given a bond and released.

Additionally, the magistrate is required to issue an emergency protective order, lasting up to 72 hours. In most cases, a person will be facing a criminal charge and a protective order. The magistrate can allow peaceable contact if the circumstances are appropriate for contact.

If an alleged victim wishes to have the charges dropped, only the Commonwealth Attorneys have the authority to do so. Again, having a change of heart is the main reason why the State only has the power to drop a domestic violence case. They want to make sure the person charged has not coerced or forced the victim to drop the case.

However, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney early in the case can help an alleged victim provide evidence to the prosecution to dismiss the case or negotiate the most favorable result possible. Whether you are accused of domestic violence in Northern Virginia or a victim in a pending matter, The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC can protect your rights and best interests throughout the legal process.

Contact us today at (703) 940-0001 and schedule a free consultation. Serving Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William Counties and The City of Alexandria.