Washington State Domestic Violence Law

by ECL Writer
Washington State Domestic Violence Law

In the heart of the Pacific Northwest lies Washington State, a region celebrated for its natural beauty, thriving cities, and diverse communities. However, beneath this outward tranquility, the issue of domestic violence persists, affecting countless lives across the state. To address this pressing concern, Washington has implemented a robust framework known as the Washington State Domestic Violence Law, aimed at safeguarding individuals from the pain and harm caused by domestic abuse.

In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will take a closer look at the essential aspects of Washington State Domestic Violence Law. From its objectives and definitions to the measures put in place to protect victims and hold offenders accountable, we will provide a simplified overview of this crucial legal framework.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence, often known as intimate partner violence, involves more than just physical force. Any action taken with the intent to gain or keep control over a spouse, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, or close family member qualifies. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not brought on by rage, psychological issues, drugs, alcohol, or other typical justifications.

A few of the most common ways abusers control victims:

  • Isolation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Using children
  • Dominating finances, family resources and access to healthcare
  • Physical and sexual assault

Domestic Violence Charges in Washington

Since the legal definition of domestic violence is so broad, many acts or crimes may qualify as domestic violence if they are carried out by one member of the family or home against another. This can involve doing things like:

  • Assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Burglary
  • Coercion
  • Criminal trespassing
  • Property damage
  • Violation of protective orders

While each of these acts constitutes a crime when it is perpetrated against a person, when it occurs at home amongst members of the same family or household, it is often seen as domestic violence. This is significant from a legal standpoint since Washington has rules requiring immediate arrest in cases of domestic violence.

If a police officer investigates a 9-1-1 report of domestic violence and discovers probable cause to think that a domestic violence offense had place within the previous four hours, the officer is required by law to make the principal aggressor the subject of an arrest. Even if charges are later dropped, this is also referred to as the “four-hour rule,” as only a small amount of evidence is needed to make an arrest.

Washington State Domestic Violence Law

Domestic violence is defined in Washington as the commission of a violent or threatening felony, such as rape, assault, stalking, trespass, or burglary, against a member of the offender’s family or household.

Contrary to many other states’ laws, Washington’s laws require a special fine for offenses like assault (causing, attempting, or threatening physical injury), even though the victim was a member of the defendant’s family or household.

Family and household members include:

  • spouses and former spouses
  • domestic partners and former domestic partners
  • people who have children together
  • adults related by blood or marriage
  • adults who live together or who have lived together
  • people over the age of 16 who live together or who have lived together and who are or were romantically involved
  • people over the age of 16 who are dating
  • parents and children (including stepparents and stepchildren), and
  • grandparents and grandchildren.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 10.99.020, 10.99.901.)

Domestic Violence Arrests In Washington State

In Washington, a police officer must make an arrest without a warrant and take someone into custody if the officer has probable cause to believe (a reasonable belief) that the person has violated a protective order (see below) or has assaulted a member of their family or household within the previous four hours.

If an officer has reason to think that a person has committed a misdemeanor that involved actual bodily violence or threats of harm to a person or piece of property, the officer may make an arrest without a warrant.

These are exceptions to the general rule that an officer can only conduct a warrantless arrest for a felony or for a misdemeanor that takes place in their immediate vicinity. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 10.31.100, 26.50.110.)

Legal Protection From Domestic Violence

There are various legal safeguards available to victims of domestic violence in the state of Washington. A domestic violence order for protection is one of the most popular ways to defend yourself. The Court Clerk can provide the necessary forms for this kind of order. Once the documentation is completed, a judge will get in touch with you to discuss it. A 14-day temporary order may be issued in an emergency situation, and a full hearing with a judge will be scheduled within two weeks. The outcome of this hearing will determine if the order needs to be prolonged for another year or even longer, depending on how serious the issue is.

A domestic violence order of protection prevents the respondent—the individual who is accused of domestic abuse—from leaving a shared dwelling or remaining away from her home, among other things that assist victims. It can also create a parent’s temporary visitation privileges and temporarily provide one parent sole custody of the children. The use of a family vehicle and the ability to collect important personal things from a home are both possible with an order of protection.

However, child custody is not permanently resolved by an order of protection. Additionally, it doesn’t cover the equitable distribution of property, child support, or spousal maintenance.

Restraining orders are frequently mistaken for orders of protection, although they are a different category of court order. A restraining order is typically issued in the context of a divorce or other family law matter, and it has more authority than a protective order in terms of things like child support, spousal maintenance, and asset partition.

Last but not least, if there are active domestic violence charges, the court may issue a no-contact order. You don’t need to request this kind of order because the court will decide during the accused’s arraignment, bail hearing, or sentencing. It does not include options for spousal support, asset split, or child custody and support.

Violating a Protective Order In Washington

In Washington, a person commits a crime if he or she violates a provision of a protective order or no-contact order that:

  • prohibits acts or threats of violence or stalking
  • prohibits the respondent from contacting another person
  • excludes the respondent from going to or near a particular place, or
  • prohibits the respondent from interfering with a pet.

Violating a protective order is also contempt of court (disobeying a court’s order). Contempt is punishable by time in jail and a fine.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 10.99.040, 26.50.110.)

Domestic Violence – Misdemeanor or Felony?

Criminal sanctions for offences involving domestic abuse in Washington State fall into two broad categories: misdemeanors or severe misdemeanors and felonies. Felons are submitted in Superior court, whereas misdemeanor offences are filed in District and Municipal courts.

Domestic Violence Misdemeanor In Washington State

Gross misdemeanors include harassment, simple assault DV, assault 4 DV, malicious mischief 3rd degree DV, interfering with reporting a crime of domestic violence, and violating a no contact order (without committing an assault or having two or more prior convictions for violating a no contact order). Accordingly, they may be sentenced to 0–364 days in jail and a 0–$5000 fine.

Domestic Violence Felonies In Washington State

Felons include violating a no-contact order with an assault or two or more prior convictions, malicious mischief in the first or second degree, harassment in the third degree, and assault in the first, second, or third degree with domestic violence.

Class A crimes are the most serious felonies, with class B and class C felonies following closely behind. The maximum sentences for each category of felonies are as follows:

  • Class A Felonies: Up to life in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.
  • Class B Felonies: Up to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.
  • Class C Felonies: Up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The Washington State Sentencing Guidelines determine the penalties for felonies committed in Washington State. These regulations establish a typical sentencing range for felonies involving domestic abuse in Washington State. The severity of the offence and the defendant’s relevant criminal history (also known as the defendant’s “offender score”) establish a defendant’s standard range. Unless special aggravating or mitigating elements are demonstrated that allow a judge to impose an extraordinary sentence above or below the standard range, the judge must adhere to this sentencing range. Various elements, such as the addition of a dangerous weapon or handgun, might also add additional required punishments to felony cases.

Last but not least, certain offenders in criminal cases may be eligible for a sentencing option like a first-time offender waiver or a drug offender sentencing alternative.

As you can see, it can be very difficult to determine the possible punishments for a felony conviction in Washington. An expert criminal defense lawyer in Washington State can offer you a better picture of the potential punishments you could face in your case and the possible sentencing choices you might have.

Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses In Washington State

Depending on the stated circumstances, assault might be classified as a “first-degree” offense or a “fourth-degree” offense. Any claimed act of assault that results in “great bodily harm” or the purposeful use of a fatal weapon or a “destructive or noxious substance,” such as poison, is considered an assault in the first degree. It is a class A felony, punishable by up to life in prison or a $50,000 fine. Other allegedly purposeful assaults could fall under the second or third-degree assault categories, which are crimes in class B or class C.

A gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a $5,000 fine, assault in the fourth degree is essentially defined as any purposeful or careless act of assault that does not result in serious physical injury. The severity of an alleged sexual assault offense also varies based on the defendant’s intent and the claimed injury.

The legal definition of “stalking” calls for evidence that the accused regularly followed or tormented the claimed victim, putting them in reasonable fear of being hurt. This includes the need for evidence showing the alleged stalker knew the claimed victim was terrified or had malicious intent to make her afraid. It is often a severe misdemeanor, but if the person has a history of stalking convictions or disobeys a protective order, it might be a class C felony.

A judge may issue a “no contact” order at any point during a criminal case involving allegations of domestic abuse, preventing the defendant from getting in touch with the alleged victim and, in some situations, the alleged victim’s family. This may entail both a ban on speaking on the phone or sending emails as well as actual physical exclusion from particular locations or the area around the alleged victim.

Defending Against a Domestic Violence Charge

A thoughtful and detailed defense is crucial since an alleged domestic violence offense conviction can result in severe penalties. The prosecution must show both that a defendant engaged in an accused offense and that the defendant did so with the intent to cause harm or the fear of harm. However, even in the event of a conviction or plea agreement, it can result in significantly reduced penalties, including probation or even deferred adjudication. This is because challenging the prosecution’s proof of a defendant’s stated purpose is frequently essential to winning an acquittal or dismissal of the charges. It is best to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Washington State to help you get off it.

Domestic Violence Prevention And Awareness Programs In Washington DC

Preventing domestic violence is an important part of ending the cycle of abuse. In Washington DC, there are many programs and organizations dedicated to preventing domestic violence and raising awareness about the issue. The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides training and education for professionals, community members, and survivors. The House of Ruth provides education and outreach to schools, businesses, and community organizations. The National Network to End Domestic Violence provides resources and support to organizations working to end domestic violence.

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