Our justice system takes domestic violence very seriously, so seriously that as soon as one family member (usually a wife or girlfriend) makes a claim, the other family member (usually a husband or boyfriend) is assumed guilty.
Domestic violence is basically an assault and battery, but the victim is a family or household member of the alleged offender. Many of these claims are false. Heated arguments turn into false claims or sometimes there is an assault but the female is the aggressor. Most often these claims are seen in divorcing or separating couples, and can be used to gain an advantage in the divorce.
I have often dealt with cases that involve the parties wanting to drop the charges. Once people sober up, calm down, or work out their problems there is often no need for court involvement. This can be very difficult though. In certain jurisdictions throughout Hampton Roads, especially Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, the prosecutor often refuses to drop the charges. These situations must be handled by a lawyer that understands the system and has experience in domestic violence.
While not criminal, a domestic violence claim is often accompanied with a protective order. There are three types: emergency, preliminary, and permanent.
The emergency protective order is put in place for 72 hours, and you are not allowed to present any evidence in your defense. They generally require that you not have any contact with the alleged victim and that you not return home. I have seen military members be unable to retrieve uniforms for work due to these. After 72 hours, the alleged victim can requests preliminary protective order which generally lasts for about two weeks. Your first real opportunity to defend yourself comes at the hearing to determine if you should have a permanent protective order put in place against you. These can last up to two years and have serious consequences. The house, child custody, automobiles, and certain bills can be decided through these orders. This is why they are common in divorce proceedings.