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DV Laws in Washington

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & WASHINGTON'S STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

Washington's domestic violence statutes are found throughout the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 10.99.010 with the primary purposes of protecting the domestic violence victim and treating domestic violence as a serious crime. The Washington statutes do not define a separate crime of domestic violence, as is done in some states. With limited exceptions, the Washington approach is to rely on the existing criminal statutes, but to supplement them with special procedures in cases involving domestic violence. As a result of statutory changes in 2010 that allow prior domestic violence–related misdemeanor offenses to be scored in felony sentencing, the status of the relationship should be alleged in the information and found by the jury or the court.  For other purposes, the status of the relationship need not be alleged in the information or found by the jury. State v. Felix, 125 Wn. App. 575 (2005) (Constitutional analysis); State v. Goodman, 108 Wn. App. 355 (2001) (Statutory analysis).

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

RCW 10.99.020 establishes the following definitions for domestic violence proceedings:

“Family or household members” means spouses, former spouses, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time, adult persons related by blood or marriage, adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship, and persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren. A dating relationship is defined in RCW 26.50.010(3) as: “[A] social relationship of a romantic nature. Factors that the court may consider in making this determination include: (a) The length of time the relationship has existed; (b) the nature of the relationship; and (c) the frequency of interaction between the parties.”

DON'T GRAB THE PHONE! 

Interfering with the Reporting of a Domestic Violence Offense is a Crime.

In 1996, the legislature adopted RCW 9A.36.150, Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence. A person commits the crime of interfering with the reporting of domestic violence if the person:

  • Commits a crime of domestic violence, as defined in RCW99.020; and
  • Prevents or attempts to prevent the victim of or a witness to that domestic violence crime from calling a 911 emergency communication system, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement

Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“Domestic violence” includes but is not limited to any of the following crimes when committed by one family or household member against another:

RCW 26.50.010 defines domestic violence as:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members;
  • [S]exual assault of one family or household member by another; or
  • [S]talking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household

Mandatory Arrest Without Warrant

A police officer with probable cause to believe that one of a variety of domestic violence orders has been violated or that an assault between family or household members has occurred within the previous four hours is required to arrest the perpetrator. RCW 10.31.100(2). Even when arrest is not required, the officer has discretion to effect a warrantless arrest in virtually any domestic violence situation. RCW 10.31.100(1) authorizes arrests without warrants for all felonies and for misdemeanors that involve violence or threats of violence to persons or property, the wrongful taking of property, and acts of criminal trespass.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.