Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter I. Intrafamily Proceedings Generally.


§ 16–1001. Definitions.

For the purposes of this subchapter, the term:

(1) “Attorney General” means the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

(2) “Court” means the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(3) “Custodian” shall have the meaning as provided in § 16-2301(12).

(4) “Domestic partnership” shall have the same meaning as provided in § 32-701(4).

(5) “Domestic Violence Unit” means any subdivision of the court designated by court rule, or by order of the Chief Judge of the court, to hear proceedings under this subchapter.

(6) “Interpersonal violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person:

(A) With whom the offender shares or has shared a mutual residence; or

(B) Who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with another person who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with the offender.

(7) “Intimate partner violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person:

(A) To whom the offender is or was married;

(B) With whom the offender is or was in a domestic partnership; or

(C) With whom the offender is or was in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.

(8) “Intrafamily offense” means interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence.

(9) “Intrafamily violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person to whom the offender is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership, or with whom the offender has a child in common.

(10) “Judicial officer” means the Chief Judge, an Associate Judge, or a Magistrate Judge of the court.

(11) “Minor” means a person under 18 years of age.

(12) “Petitioner” means any person who alleges, or for whom is alleged, that he or she is the victim of interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence, stalking, sexual assault, or sexual abuse.

(13) “Respondent” means any person 12 years of age or older against whom a petition for civil protection is filed under this subchapter.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 546, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 2, 29 DCR 3131; Apr. 30, 1991, D.C. Law 8-261,§ 2(c)(1), 37 DCR 5001; Mar. 21, 1995, D.C. Law 10-237, § 2(a), 42 DCR 36; Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 10(i), 45 DCR 745; Apr. 24, 2007, D.C. Law 16-306, § 206(a), 53 DCR 8610; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 107(a), 55 DCR 9186; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 3(b)(2), 56 DCR 1338.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1001.

1973 Ed., § 16-1001.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-1401.02, § 2-1402.21, § 4-1305.06, § 4-1345.01, § 7-2501.01, § 14-306, § 14-310, § 14-311, § 16-801, § 16-831.01, § 16-914, § 22-3020.53, § 22-4503, § 31-2231.11, § 32-131.01, § 42-3505.01, § 42-3505.07, § 42-3505.08, and § 51-131.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-306 rewrote par. (5).

D.C. Law 17-281 redesignated existing pars. (1) to (6) as pars. (2) to (7); and added par. (1).

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote the section.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 206(a) of Omnibus Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 (D.C. Act 16-445, July 19, 2006, 53 DCR 6443).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 206(a) of Omnibus Public Safety Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 (D.C. Act 16-490, October 18, 2006, 53 DCR 8686).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 206(a) of Omnibus Public Safety Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-10, January 16, 2007, 54 DCR 1479).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 206(a) of Omnibus Public Safety Second Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-25, April 19, 2007, 54 DCR 4036).


§ 16–1002. Complaint of criminal conduct.

A petitioner has a right to seek relief under this subchapter. This right does not depend on the decision of the Attorney General, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, or a prosecuting attorney in any jurisdiction to initiate or not to initiate a criminal or delinquency case or on the pendency or termination of a criminal or delinquency case involving the same parties or issues. Testimony of the respondent in any civil proceedings under this subchapter shall be inadmissible as evidence in a criminal trial or delinquency proceeding except in a prosecution for perjury or false statement.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 546, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 3, 29 DCR 3131; Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81,§ 10(j), 45 DCR 745; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 3(b)(2), 56 DCR 1338.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1002.

1973 Ed., § 16-1002.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote the section.


§ 16–1003. Petition for civil protection.

(a) A petitioner, or a person authorized by this section to act on petitioner’s behalf, may file a petition for civil protection in the Domestic Violence Unit against a respondent who has allegedly committed or threatened to commit one or more criminal offenses against the petitioner; provided, that:

(1) If the petitioner is a minor, the petitioner’s parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult may file a petition for civil protection on the petitioner’s behalf;

(2) A minor who is 16 years of age or older may file a petition for civil protection on his or her own behalf;

(3) A minor who is at least 12 but less than 16 years of age and a victim of intimate partner violence may file a petition for civil protection and participate in a hearing to seek a temporary protection order without a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult acting on his or her behalf, but, under these circumstances, the court may appoint an attorney for the minor in accordance with section 16-1005(a-1)(3), if necessary, and if doing so will not unduly delay the issuance or denial of a temporary protection order;

(4) A minor who is at least 12 but less than 16 years of age and a victim of interpersonal or intrafamily violence may petition for civil protection only if his or her parent, guardian, or custodian files the petition on his or her behalf;

(5) A minor who is less than 12 years of age may petition for civil protection only if his or her parent, guardian, or custodian files the petition on his or her behalf; and

(6) A custodial parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor may not file a petition for civil protection against the minor.

(b) The Attorney General may provide individual legal representation to a petitioner, or person authorized by this section to act on petitioner’s behalf, who files a petition in accordance with subsection (a) of this section. Whenever the Attorney General represents a petitioner under subsection (a) of this section, the representation shall continue until the civil protection order terminates or the Attorney General withdraws his or her appearance, whichever is earlier.

(c) If a petitioner is unable to file a petition on his or her own behalf or with the assistance of a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult in accordance with subsection (a) of this section, the Attorney General may file a petition for civil protection on the petitioner’s behalf at the request of the petitioner, the petitioner’s representative, or a government agency. When proceeding on a petition filed under this subsection, the Attorney General represents the interests of the District of Columbia.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 546, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 4, 29 DCR 3131; Mar. 21, 1995, D.C. Law 10-237,§ 2(b), 42 DCR 36; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 3(b)(2), 56 DCR 1338.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1003.

1973 Ed., § 16-1003.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-1005 and § 16-2301.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote the section.


§ 16–1004. Petition; notice; temporary order.

(a) Upon a filing of a petition for civil protection, the Domestic Violence Unit shall set the matter for hearing, consolidating it, where appropriate, with other matters before the court involving members of the same family.

(b)(1) If, upon the filing of a petition under oath, a judicial officer finds that the safety or welfare of the petitioner or a household member is immediately endangered by the respondent, the judicial officer may issue, ex parte, a temporary protection order.

(2) An initial temporary protection order shall not exceed 14 days except, if the last day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, a day observed as a holiday by the court, or a day on which weather or other conditions cause the court to be closed, the temporary protection order shall extend until the end of the next day on which the court is open. The court may extend a temporary protection order in additional 14 day increments, or longer increments with the consent of the parties, as necessary until a hearing on the petition is completed.

(3) If a respondent fails to appear for a hearing on a petition for civil protection after having been served in accordance with the Rules of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and a civil protection order is entered in accordance with § 16-1005, the temporary protection order shall remain in effect until the respondent is served with the civil protection order or the civil protection order expires, whichever occurs first.

(c) A temporary protection order issued pursuant to this section shall include a notice explaining that:

(1) If the day on which the temporary protection order is set to expire is a Saturday, Sunday, a day observed as a holiday by the court, or a day on which the weather or other conditions cause the court to be closed, the temporary protection order shall remain in effect until the end of the next day on which the court is open; and

(2) If the respondent fails to appear for a hearing on a petition for civil protection after having been served, and a civil protection order is entered, the temporary protection order will remain in effect until the respondent is served with the civil protection order or the civil protection order expires, whichever occurs first.

(d) Pursuant to the Rules of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the respondent, and in cases where the respondent is a minor, the respondent’s custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, shall be served with notice of the hearing and an order to appear, a copy of the petition, and a temporary protection order, if entered. The court may also cause notice to be served on others whose presence at the hearing is necessary to the proper disposition of the matter.

(e) If a minor has filed a petition for civil protection without a parent, guardian, or custodian, and if the minor is residing with a parent, guardian, or custodian, the court shall send a copy of any order issued pursuant to subsection (b)(1) of this section and notice of the hearing to that parent, guardian, or custodian, unless, in the discretion of the court, notification of that parent, guardian, or custodian would be contrary to the best interests of the minor. If the court does not send notice to the parent, guardian, or custodian with whom the minor resides, the court may, in its discretion, send notice to any other parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 547, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 5, 29 DCR 3131; Mar. 2, 2007, D.C. Law 16-204, § 4, 53 DCR 9059; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-353, § 143, 56 DCR 1117; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 3(b)(2), 56 DCR 1338.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1004.

1973 Ed., § 16-1004.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-1005.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-204, in subsec. (d), designated existing text as paragraph (1); in newly designated paragraph (1), substituted “of not more than 14 days duration, subject to extensions as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection” for “of not more than 14 days duration”; and inserted new paragraphs (2), (3) and (4).

D.C. Law 17-353 validated a previously made technical correction.

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote the section.


§ 16–1005. Hearing; evidence; protection order.

(a) Individuals served with notice in accordance with § 16-1004 shall appear at the hearing.

(a-1)(1) In a case where the Attorney General files the petition on behalf of a petitioner pursuant to § 16-1003(c), the petitioner is not a required party.

(2) In a case where a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult files a petition on behalf of a minor petitioner under the age of 12, the minor petitioner is not a required party.

(3) In a hearing under this section, if a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult has petitioned for civil protection on behalf of a minor petitioner 12 years of age or older, the court shall consider the expressed wishes of the minor petitioner in deciding whether to issue an order pursuant to this section and in determining the contents of such an order.

(4) If a respondent is a minor, or if the petitioner is a minor and at least 12 years of age, and if the minor is not accompanied by a parent, guardian, custodian, other appropriate adult, or represented by an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the minor if such an appointment would not unduly delay the issuance or denial of a protection order. The court may promulgate rules for the appointment of attorneys.

(b) Notwithstanding section 14-306, in a hearing under this section, one spouse shall be a competent and compellable witness against the other and may testify as to confidential communications, but testimony compelled over a claim of a privilege conferred by such section shall be inadmissible in evidence in a criminal trial over the objection of a spouse entitled to claim that privilege.

(c) If, after hearing, the judicial officer finds that there is good cause to believe the respondent has committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against the petitioner or against petitioner’s animal or an animal in petitioner’s household, the judicial officer may issue a protection order that:

(1) Directs the respondent to refrain from committing or threatening to commit criminal offenses against the petitioner and other protected persons;

(2) Requires the respondent to stay away from or have no contact with the petitioner and any other protected persons or locations;

(3) Requires the respondent to participate in psychiatric or medical treatment or appropriate counseling programs;

(4) Directs the respondent to refrain from entering, or to vacate, the dwelling unit of the petitioner when the dwelling is:

(A) Marital property of the parties;

(B) Jointly owned, leased, or rented and occupied by both parties; provided, that joint occupancy shall not be required if the respondent’s actions caused the petitioner to relinquish occupancy;

(C) Owned, leased, or rented by the petitioner individually; or

(D) Jointly owned, leased, or rented by the petitioner and a person other than the respondent;

(5) Directs the respondent to relinquish possession or use of certain personal property owned jointly by the parties or by the petitioner individually;

(6) Awards temporary custody of a minor child or children of the parties;

(7) Provides for visitation rights with appropriate restrictions to protect the safety of the petitioner;

(8) Awards costs and attorney fees;

(9) Orders the Metropolitan Police Department to take such action as the judicial officer deems necessary to enforce its orders;

(10) Directs the respondent to relinquish possession of any firearms;

(10A) Directs the care, custody, or control of a domestic animal that belongs to petitioner or respondent or lives in his or her household;

(11) Directs the respondent to perform or refrain from other actions as may be appropriate to the effective resolution of the matter; or

(12) Combines 2 or more of the preceding provisions.

(c-1) For the purposes of subsection (c)(6) and (7) of this section, if the judicial officer finds by a preponderance of evidence that a contestant for custody has committed an intrafamily offense, any determination that custody or visitation is to be granted to the abusive parent shall be supported by a written statement by the judicial officer specifying factors and findings which support that determination. In determining visitation arrangements, if the judicial officer finds that an intrafamily offense has occurred, the judicial officer shall only award visitation if the judicial officer finds that the child and custodial parent can be adequately protected from harm inflicted by the other party. The party found to have committed an intrafamily offense has the burden of proving that visitation will not endanger the child or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.

(d) A protection order issued pursuant to this section shall be effective for such period up to one year as the judicial officer may specify, but the judicial officer may, upon motion of any party to the original proceeding, extend, rescind, or modify the order for good cause shown.

(e) Any final order issued pursuant to this section and any order granting or denying extension, modification, or rescission of such order shall be appealable.

(f) Violation of any temporary or final order issued under this subchapter, or violation in the District of Columbia of any valid foreign protection order, as that term is defined in subchapter IV of this chapter, or respondent’s failure to appear as required by subsection (a) of this section, shall be punishable as contempt. Upon conviction, criminal contempt shall be punished by a fine of not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01] or imprisonment for not more than 180 days, or both.

(g) Any person who violates any protection order issued under this subchapter, or any person who violates in the District of Columbia any valid foreign protection order, as that term is defined in subchapter IV of this chapter, shall be chargeable with a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01] or by imprisonment for not more than 180 days, or both.

(g-1) Enforcement proceedings under subsections (f) and (g) of this section in which the respondent is a child as defined by § 16-2301(3) shall be governed by subchapter I of Chapter 23 of this title.

(h) For purposes of establishing a violation under subsections (f) and (g) of this section, an oral or written statement made by a person located outside the District of Columbia to a person located in the District of Columbia by means of telecommunication, mail, or any other method of communication shall be deemed to be made in the District of Columbia.

(i) Orders entered with the consent of the respondent but without an admission that the conduct occurred shall be punishable under subsection (f), (g), or (g-1) of this section.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 547, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 6, 29 DCR 3131; Aug. 25, 1994, D.C. Law 10-154,§ 2(c), 41 DCR 4870; Mar. 21, 1995, D.C. Law 10-237, § 2(b), 42 DCR 36; Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 10(k), 45 DCR 745; Apr. 11, 2003, D.C. Law 14-296, § 2(b), 50 DCR 320; Mar. 13, 2004, D.C. Law 15-105, §§ 10(a), 54(b), 51 DCR 881; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 107(b), 55 DCR 9186; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368, § 3(b)(3), 56 DCR 1338; June 3, 2011, D.C. Law 18-377, § 5, 58 DCR 1174; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 281(a), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1005.

1973 Ed., § 16-1005.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-1402.21, § 5-127.04, § 7-2502.03, § 16-1003, § 16-1004, § 16-1042, § 42-3505.07, and § 42-3505.08.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-296 rewrote subsecs. (f) and (g); and added subsecs. (h) and (i).

D.C. Law 15-105, in subsec. (h), substituted “subsections (f) and (g)” for “subsection (g)”; and, in subsec. (i), substituted “subsection (f) or (g) of this section” for “§ 16-1005(f) or (g)”.

D.C. Law 17-281, in subsec. (c), inserted “, or animal cruelty,” in the lead-in language, deleted “or” from the end of par. (10), and added par. (10A).

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote subsecs. (a) and (c); added subsecs. (a-1) and (g-1); in subsec. (d), substituted “judicial officer” for “Family Division” in two places; in subsec. (f), substituted “or respondent’s failure to appear as required by subsection (a) of this section” for “and respondent’s failure to appear as required by § 16-1004(b)”; and, in subsec. (i), substituted “(f), (g), or (g-1)” for “(f) or (g)”.

D.C. Law 18-377, in the lead-in language of subsec. (c), substituted “criminal offense against the petitioner or against petitioner’s animal or an animal in petitioner’s household,” for “criminal offense against the petitioner,”; and added subsec. (c)(10A).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “of not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01]” for “not exceeding $1,000” in (f) and (g).

Cross References

Metropolitan police, execution of orders under this section, see § 5-127.04.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Technical Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-137, July 29, 2003, 50 DCR 6861).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Technical Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-220, November 7, 2003, 50 DCR 10049).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Technical Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-328, January 28, 2004, 51 DCR 1597).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 505 of Public Safety Legislation Sixty-Day Layover Emergency Amendment Act of 2010 (D.C. Act 18-693, January 18, 2011, 58 DCR 640).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 505 of Public Safety Legislation Sixty-Day Layover Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2011 (D.C. Act 19-45, April 20, 2011, 58 DCR 3701).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 281(a) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of the Domestic Violence Protection Orders Technical Temporary Act of 2003 (D.C. Law 15-48, December 9, 2003, law notification 51 DCR 1783).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 16–1006. Jurisdiction.

A petitioner may file a petition for protection under this subchapter if:

(1) The petitioner resides, lives, works, or attends school in the District of Columbia:

(2) The petitioner is under the legal custody of a District government agency; or

(3) The underlying offense occurred in the District of Columbia.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 548, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 131(a); Sept. 14, 1982, D.C. Law 4-144, § 7, 29 DCR 3131; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-368,§ 3(b)(4), 56 DCR 1338.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 16-1006.

1973 Ed., § 16-1006.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-368 rewrote the section, which had read as follows: “The Family Division may dismiss a petition if the matter is not appropriate for disposition in the Family Division.”