How Does Washington Define Domestic Violence?

Washington State law defines domestic violence offenses as virtually any criminal act committed by one “family or household member” against another. Municipal and District courts hear misdemeanor domestic violence offenses including: assault, property destruction, harassment and telephone harassment, intimidation with a weapon, reckless endangerment and violation of no contact or domestic violence protection orders. Felony domestic violence offenses, such as a No Contact Order violation involving an assault, a third violation of a No Contact Order, assault with a deadly weapon, or even murder, are heard in Superior Court. A “family or household member” includes persons who are now or have been married or resided together, who have been or are presently in a dating relationship so long as both parties are at least sixteen years of age, and persons who have a child in common. In addition, parent-child and step-parent, step-child relationships, grandparent-grandchild (including step-grandparents) and siblings come within the definition of a “family or household” relationship.

Domestic violence offenses charged as misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, or gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony domestic violence offenses are punishable by more than one year in jail.

A person who has been convicted of a domestic violence assault cannot possess a firearm or get a concealed weapons permit in the State of Washington. Violation of this provision is a felony.

Many times, an individual who is alleged to have committed domestic violence, may also be charged with interfering with reporting domestic violence. Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence occurs when a person prevents or attempts to prevent a victim or witness from calling 911, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.

Interfering with reporting is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The law requires a police officer responding to an incident of domestic violence to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence assault or other serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours.

If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor. State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.

A person arrested for a domestic violence offense will usually be held in jail until he/she appears before a judge, usually the following day. The Court may require a defendant charged with domestic violence to sign a No Contact Order as a condition for release from jail prior to trial.

Prior to arraigning domestic violence defendants, Court probation counselors attempt to contact victims to determine whether they wish a No Contact Order to be issued. Probation staff in the jail can also determine whether or not a defendant has been released from jail.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a domestic violence change, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their domestic violence charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for domestic violence should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Domestic Violence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a domestic violence in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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