In Washington, “domestic violence” is designation that may attach to any number of criminal charges that are alleged by one family or household member against another family or household member. The relationship between an alleged victim and an alleged assailant can dictate whether the crime is charged as a crime of domestic violence or not.
Understanding “Family or Household Member”
Under the laws governing domestic violence, the definition of “family or household member” tend to be a bit broader than one might expect. When it comes to charges of domestic violence, “family or household member” includes not only spouses but also former spouses, as well as persons who have a child in common, regardless of whether they were ever married or lived together.
Crimes of Domestic Violence
Crimes that may be considered crimes of domestic violence include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Assault in the first degree
- Assault in the second degree
- Assault in the third degree
- Assault in the fourth degree
- Drive-by shooting
- Reckless endangerment
- Burglary in the first degree
- Burglary in the second degree
- Criminal trespass in the first degree
- Criminal trespass in the second degree
- Malicious mischief in the first degree
- Malicious mischief in the second degree
- Malicious mischief in the third degree
- Kidnapping in the first degree
- Kidnapping in the second degree
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Violating the provisions of a restraining order, no contact order, or protective order
- Rape in the first degree
- Rape in the second degree
- Residential burglary
- Interference with the reporting of domestic violence.
Criminal Penalties for Crimes of Domestic Violence
Criminal consequences for crimes of domestic violence vary based on the seriousness of the offense. In criminal law, cases are either misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies.
Up to $1,000
Up to $5,000
Up to $50,000
Time in Custody
Up to 90 days in jail
Up to 364 days in jail
Potential prison sentence
Of course, it is a rare case where the maximum amount of jail time or maximum fine is imposed. Nonetheless, loss of liberty and fines are real possibilities in domestic violence cases.
Issuance of a No Contact Order
Because of the risk of potential violence directed at alleged DV victims, when a person charged with or arrested for a DV crime is released from custody, RCW 10.99.040 gives the court discretion to prohibit that person from having any contact with the alleged victim while the criminal case is pending. The court authorizing the release shall determine whether that person should be prohibited from having any contact with the victim. If there is no outstanding restraining or protective order prohibiting that person from having contact with the victim, the court authorizing release may issue a no-contact order prohibiting the person charged or arrested from having contact with the alleged victim or from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance of a location. In issuing the order, the court shall consider the provisions of RCW 9.41.800. The no-contact order shall terminate if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dismissed. A willful violation of a court order will result in sanctions by the issuing court and may result in a new criminal charge of violating a no-contact order.
Domestic Violence Assessment
If you are charged with a crime that involves domestic violence, it may trigger family law and dependency legal issues and a conviction could result in serious collateral consequences. For example, if there were children present during a DV incident, a criminal charge may trigger a CPS investigation and subsequent family law proceedings.
Domestic Violence Assessments are specialized evaluations of domestic violence specific issues and are conducted using DV-specific evaluation protocols. Domestic violence evaluations for court proceedings address a wide variety of questions including:
- Whether or not specific conduct that allegedly occurred occur fits the behavioral definition of domestic violence?
- If the conduct is domestic violence, then who is the adult victim and/or who is the DV perpetrator of that conduct?
- If domestic violence has been or is present, what are the risks of future danger? To whom? And by whom? (Assessment of lethality and dangerousness?)
- What have been the impacts/harms of domestic violence on the adult victim?
- What have been the impacts/harms of domestic violence on the children (if children are involved)
- How does the domestic violence affect the parenting of the adult victim? Of the domestic violence perpetrator?
- What ongoing or future risks of harm does the domestic violence perpetrator pose to the adult victim? To children? To others?
- Is the DV perpetrator amenable to treatment/motivated to change?
- Are there co-occurring issues for the DV perpetrator that may negatively impact treatment/change?
A DV evaluation may be ordered by the judge prior to sentencing, requested by the prosecutor before making an offer or initiated by defense counsel for the purpose of negotiation or trial preparation. If the individual pleads guilty or is convicted of a DV charge, the court will review the assessment and consider whether the DV perpetrator has stopped the pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors. If there are children involved, the judge will consider whether the individual is safe to be around children. The judge will also consider whether the individual poses a safety risk to the public. An experienced defense attorney will be able to recommend a competent and trustworthy evaluator whose DV assessment will be respected by the court and opposing counsel.
Loss of Right to Possess Firearms
If convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a person will lose her/her right to possess firearms. This consequence has no designated timeline. It can last forever unless the convicted person successfully petitions the court for reinstatement of the right to possess firearms. Violation of the prohibition against the possession of firearms is a new criminal offense, with additional potential fines, jail, or prison time.
If You Face a Domestic Violence Charge...
If you face a domestic violence charge, you should know you don't have to face these charges alone. Many people feel shame, anger, fear, and confusion after being charged with domestic violence. You need an attorney who is experienced in defending crimes of domestic violence, as well as a safe space where you won't be judged based on the allegations in the criminal complaint. Sheri Pewitt understands that what is written in a criminal complaint, often doesn't tell the whole story. Even when the criminal complaint accurately reflects the circumstances, Sheri Pewitt works to understand the big picture and the whole person so as to best represent an accused's interests. Contact Attorney Sheri Pewitt today at 206-941-0009.