What is Domestic Violence (DV?)
Washington State law defines domestic violence (DV) offenses as virtually any criminal act committed by one "family or household member" against another. The crime is covered in Title 26 of the Revised Code of Washington (See 26.50- domestic violence prevention) and Title 10, Chapter 10.99 of the Revised Code of Washington. “Criminal acts” include: assault, property destruction, harassment and telephone harassment, intimidation with a weapon, reckless endangerment and violation of no contact or domestic violence protection orders. Additionally, the state of Washington recognizes malicious mischief as a DV crime, which makes it a Class B felony to damage the property of the DV victim. See RCW 9A.48.070.
While the majority of the state's DV cases are misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, domestic violence may also be a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, or a felony assault punishable by more than one year in jail- depending on the severity. The Seattle Municipal Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor domestic violence offenses.
It All Starts with a Call to the Police
When police receive a call with suspected DV occurring, they must go to the site to investigate. This means they will show up in your home. Moreover, they must complete a police report whether or not an arrest occur. The City Attorney's Office will review the police report to determine whether or not to file charges. It does not matter if the victim does not want to file charges. If charges are filed, only the prosecutor has the authority to drop them. A judge must approve the prosecutor's request to dismiss a case. The victim then becomes a witness for the City and has no authority to drop charges.
Protection and No-Contact Orders
If charges are filed, the cards are already stacked against you. The Seattle City Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit will provide Domestic Violence Victim Advocates to assist domestic violence victims during the process of a domestic violence case through Seattle Municipal Court.
Victims of domestic violence also have the right to file a petition requesting a Domestic Violence Protection Order (“protection order”) which will prohibit the respondent from contacting and/or harassing the petitioner. Protection Orders also bar the respondent from visiting the home, school, or place of employment of the petitioner, as well as from the minor children covered in the order. Protection Orders are different from No-Contact Orders in that they may be filed by the petitioner in the King County Courthouse regardless of whether there have been criminal charges. For the purposes of a Protective Order, the acts of physical harm, injury, assault, sexual assault, stalking, or fear of injury/assault will constitute ‘domestic violence.'
No-Contact Orders on the other hand, are criminal orders that are brought on by the judge for the duration of a case if a party has been charged with a criminal domestic violence offense, or as part of the sentencing for a conviction of DV. A violation of a no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor punishable by 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000 even if there was no assault or injury involved.
Other Issues to Look Out For
- a. Protection orders apply to pets.
Courts and the public perception are increasingly viewing the family pet and other companion animals as family members. This trend responds to the evidence that 71% of women entering the shelter system has reported that their abusers injured, killed, or threatened to injure the family pet as a revenge mechanism. As such, RCWA 26.50.060 explicitly covers the family pet in its provisions for protective orders in cases of domestic abuse.The court may either order the petitioner (the person alleging domestic abuse) to be granted exclusive custody or control of any pet just as it would grant custody of a minor child because the pet is considered a “personal effect.” A court may also prohibit the respondent from knowingly coming within or remaining within a specified distance where the pet is regularly found. While the case law on this specific topic is still developing and sparse, this likely means that violation of a protective order as it relates to the family pet will still serve as a strike against you, and you will face additional criminal charges for a violation of a no-contact order against a pet who is ‘protected.' See RCW 26.50.100. Alternatively, you may potentially face animal abuse charges if you are convicted of assaulting a companion animal.
- b. Domestic violence charges can also be further be complicated by the presence of children.
It is undeniable that it is in the public interest to protect children and any judge or prosecutor will take a domestic assault in the presence of children very seriously. Both protection orders and no-contact orders apply to minor children in a DV case. A judge may order temporary custody of minor children, establish temporary visitation, and restrain the other parent from interfering with custody. Violations of these orders, even to see your child whom you have never assaulted, will be considered contempt of the court as well as a gross misdemeanor, punishable by large fines and jail time.
Probation Supervision and Counseling
Defendants who are convicted of domestic violence offenses are usually placed on supervised probation for two years. Most defendants are court ordered to complete a one year specialized, State certified domestic violence treatment program. A good lawyer will always seek rehabilitation before jail time.
Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."
When you understand the potential consequences of a misdemeanor or felony conviction, you will understand how important it is to work with an experienced attorney who knows the local courts and inner workings of law enforcement. Seattle criminal defense lawyer Steve Karimi has been zealously defending people's freedom for decades. He represents people in any state criminal court in Washington facing a wide range of misdemeanor, juvenile, and felony criminal threat charges- including charges of domestic violence, felony assault, and malicious mischief. Contact a Seattle DV attorney or call 206-621-8777 to schedule a free initial consultation. 24-hour-a-day call service is available at 206-660-6200.