Washington Domestic Violence ("DV")
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, and 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. That being said, if you are charged with DV, the odds are already stacked against you, and it is recommended you seek help from a lawyer right away.
Moreover, Washington State law has a broad definition of domestic violence ("DV"). State law defines DV as virtually any criminal act committed by one "family or household member" against another. The crime of DV is covered in Title 26 of the Revised Code of Washington (See26.50- "Domestic Violence Prevention") and Title 10, Chapter 10.99of 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 a DV victim. See RCW 9A.48.070.
No-Contact Orders Protect the Victim
Victims of domestic violence 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' which gives rise to one's right to file the petition.
No-Contact Orders on the other hand, are criminal orders that must be 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. No-contact orders can also be a condition of release from jail.
No-Contact Orders also Protect Children of the Victim
In Washington, domestic violence in the presence of a child is an “aggravated circumstance” for sentencing purposes, meaning that that a judge may deter from the standard penalty of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine and increase penalties. See RCW 9.94A.553. Additionally, while DV in the presence of a child does not by itself constitute child abuse, judges and courts typically do not hesitate to bring a minor child under the protection of a no-contact order should a petitioner file for one-- even if the child was not physically harmed. Moreover, Washington allows no-contact orders covering children to ban the respondent from going within 500 feet of the child(ren)s school or daycare.
No-Contact Orders also Apply to Pets
Courts and the public perception increasingly view the family pet and other companion animals as family members, and the legal trend of covering pets in DV protective orders will only increase. 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. It is important to note that any domesticated animal that cohabitates with you is considered a family pet-- it does not matter if the animal is a dog, goldfish, or pet rodent.
Washington law (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.” Because of that, a court may also prohibit the respondent from knowingly coming within or remaining within a specified distance where the pet is regularly found.
Penalties for Violation of No-Contact Orders
It is extremely easy to violate a no-contact order. Each communication (including text messages) serves as a seperate violation of the order and can result in an additional criminal charges. Violations of protective and no-contact orders as they relate to children or the family pet still are still violations.
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. See RCW 26.50.100.
If you have been served with a no-contact order, it is recommended you keep a journal of daily events and conversations to help rebut false claims of unwanted contact. Also, if the petitioner is the one to make contact, it is recommended you not respond, but also save their communications and also notify your lawyer of the other party's contact, immediately.
Greater Seattle Area and King County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with domestic violence or violating a no-contact order, 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 those wrongfully accused by a vindictive spouse for decades. He represents people in any state criminal court in Washington facing a wide range of misdemeanor, juvenile, and felony criminal charges- including charges of domestic violence, assault, and malicious mischief. Contact a Seattle DV attorney or call 206-660-6200 to schedule a free initial consultation.