Virginia Domestic Violence Civil Actions
In Virginia domestic violence civil actions, the plaintiff or the accuser, in the vast majority of cases, is asking for a monetary redress from the court. In other words, they are asking for a judgment against the defendant that they can then use to collect money from them through receiving a property or a wage garnishment or the other modes that are available on the civil side to collect judgment.
In a civil case, the plaintiff always retains complete control over whether they want to move forward with their case. After they have filed their complaint or during the discovery phase or even in the middle of trial, the plaintiff always has the ability to tell the court that it is not going to continue with its case any longer. Contact a distinguished domestic violence lawyer regarding the penalties you may be facing due to a criminal accusation.
Difference from Criminal Actions
The fundamental difference between the civil side of the court and the criminal side of the court is what relief is being sought and what powers the court has. On the civil side, in general, people are suing someone else, looking either for the court to enter judgment against that person, meaning to find that they owe money in a certain amount or to order them to a particular thing.
If a person were to bring Virginia domestic violence civil actions for domestic violence, that would almost certainly be for money damages and the court would have the ability to enter judgment against the defendant for any amount that the plaintiff could prove is owed as a result of a battery having been committed. This can be anything from medical bills to other expenses, but also a court can award damages simply for the act of the battery itself.
On the criminal side, the individual is not the plaintiff in the case. Criminal actions are when the Commonwealth of Virginia has a case against the defendant. While the case begins because an act has been committed against an individual, in theory, the defendant party in the criminal case is the State of Virginia itself rather than an individual. The state then seeks redress from the court in the form of a criminal conviction and other punishment that is designed to deter the defendant from future acts as well as to simply punish them for the acts that they have already committed. That, in the vast majority of cases, will come in the form of jail time and a fine although it is possible for a court to order restitution to an accuser in a criminal case the same way that judgment can be entered in a civil case.
A prosecutor has the ability to compel the participation of any witness in the criminal case who they believe can offer testimony that will assist the case. A prosecutor has the ability to force someone to not only come to court but also testify. When someone does not come to court for Virginia domestic violence civil actions, they can be found in contempt and put in jail. If a person were to refuse to answer questions under oath, they could be found in contempt and placed in jail.
Neither a prosecutor or a judge cannot force an accuser to say any particular thing. The accuser still retains their ability to testify however they wish to but they do not have any Fifth Amendment right such as the accused does to simply not answer questions that might be incriminating. They have to take the witness stand and, in some cases, a prosecutor will force the accuser to answer questions under oath against their will.