Dating violence, a form of domestic violence, involves the use of force or threat of force between two individuals involved in an intimate or romantic relationship. While an assault or battery that occurs between two strangers can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in a regular criminal court, an assault or battery that occurs between romantic partners is often dealt with by a domestic violence court. In addition, dating violence may also involve non-criminal actions between romantic partners, such as stalking and harassment. Through the domestic violence court system, a complainant may seek a restraining order or protective order.
Domestic violence court is a specialized court system that is similar to regular criminal court: defendants are arraigned on charges, defense attorneys are appointed or retained, and defendants can enter into diversion, plead guilty or proceed to trial. They are afforded all of the same rights and benefits of regular criminal defendants. However, domestic violence courts are specially equipped to handle spats between lovers and help the parties sort out related civil and family law issues at the same time, such as child support if the couple has a family together and property rights if the couple lives together.
Although domestic violence involves offenses that are classified as crimes under state statutes, these cases are frequently transferred to a domestic violence judge instead of a criminal judge due to the nature of the relationship between the parties. Also because of the emotional and sometimes physical closeness of the parties, the judge handling the case will typically issue stay away orders that require the defendant to stay within a certain number of yards of the complainant or complainant’s home or work while the case is ongoing.
What Actions Are Classified as Dating Violence?
Domestic violence involves parties who:
- Are/were married
- Are/have dated
- Are related
- Lived together, including roommates
- Enjoyed another form of a physically and emotionally intimate relationship such as "friends with benefits"
Dating violence includes:
- Assault and battery
- Sexual battery and rape
- Stalking and harassment
Defenses to Dating Violence
If you were accused of violent or harassing conduct toward an individual you were intimately or romantically involved, you will be afforded the opportunity to defend against the accusations. In domestic violence cases involving criminal convictions and penalties, you have a constitutional right under the 6th Amendment to defend yourself. Common defenses include:
Restraining Orders and Protection Orders
Restraining orders and other protection orders are issued by domestic violence judges. The victim petitions the court for the restraining order or other protection order. The petition must be made in good faith and enumerate valid reasons for the request.
If a petition for restraining order or other protection order is filed against you in your case, you will be given an opportunity to respond either via written opposition or in person at a hearing.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Most plaintiffs and defendants involved in restraining order and protection order cases do not retain counsel. Without counsel, the parties are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, many restraining orders and other protection orders are granted in cases without adequate cause. As such, hiring a family law attorney is imperative for successfully rebutting false accusations.