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Domestic Violence Laws in Washington

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Washington treats domestic violence, or violence against a family or household member, as a very serious crime. If you are facing domestic violence charges, you may experience a significant shift in your life after a conviction. Domestic violence charges can include jail time, expensive fines, and serious charges on your record. Hiring a domestic violence attorney to assist you with your case can help you receive the best possible outcome – but make sure that your attorney is familiar with the following state laws on domestic violence. Call the Offices of Mark Treyz at (253) 272-8666 for a free consultation. 

What Does Domestic Violence Include?

Contrary to the popular definition, domestic violence is not the same as intimate partner violence. Washington state law defines domestic violence as violence against a member of the same household or a family member by blood or marriage.

That means law enforcement can arrest you for violence against a parent, child, or sibling, along with significant others. Domestic violence protections also extend to any adults living in your home, regardless of relation.

There are five primary categories of abusive behaviors that a domestic violence charge can include.

  • Physical violence
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Economic control
  • Neglect

Many different crimes can fall into these categories. Common charges include assault, manslaughter, rape, and reckless endangerment. Some of the less common domestic violence crimes include cyberstalking, property damage, and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

Can I Get Arrested If I Never Physically Hurt Anyone?

Yes. Outside of physical violence, the other categories of abusive behavior that can also fall under domestic violence include emotional abuse, economic control, and neglect. As stated above, crimes like cyberstalking, property damage, and interfering with reporting of domestic violence all can lead to domestic violence charges. 

If the Alleged Victim Doesn’t Press Charges, Will I Still Be  Charged?

Yes. In the state of Washington, the police at the scene where domestic violence may have taken place, they will write in the police report what they’ve observed. If the prosecution deems this as domestic violence, they will press charges and will most likely ask the alleged victim to testify. If the alleged victim is not in favor of pressing charges or denies that domestic violence takes place, charges still can be pressed against the accused if police or witnesses believe otherwise. 

What Happens During a Domestic Violence Arrest?

When a law enforcement officer responds to an incident of probable domestic violence, the law requires that he or she makes a mandatory arrest. Police officers do not need a warrant to make a domestic violence arrest with probable cause – but the alleged assault must have occurred within four hours.

If multiple household members were assaulting each other, the officer will arrest the person he or she believes is the primary aggressor in the situation. The victim cannot request that the police drop the charges or stop the arrest. Only a prosecutor has the authority to dismiss the case – even if the victim doesn’t provide testimony.

Potential Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges

Criminal penalties for domestic violence vary based on the severity of the crime. All people convicted of a domestic violence crime must pay a special $100 fee. Depending on the charge, a domestic violence crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.

  • If you receive a misdemeanor conviction for a domestic violence charge, you could spend up to 90 days in jail and pay a fine up to $1,000.
  • If you receive a gross misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, you could pay up to $5,000 in fines and spend up to one year in jail.
  • If you receive a felony conviction for a domestic violence charge, you could spend at least one year in jail or more.

In addition, no person who receives a conviction for domestic violence assault cannot own a gun or have a permit for concealed carry in Washington. The police may order you to stay away from the alleged victim by issuing a protective or no-contact order – violation of these orders can lead to additional felony charges, fines, and jail time.

Criminal Proceedings versus Civil Lawsuits for Domestic Violence

In some cases, defendants in domestic violence cases face civil litigation as well as criminal charges from the alleged victim. A person who has been injured during an act of domestic violence has the right to pursue a lawsuit against the alleged abuser to recover compensation related to the abuse, even if the state is pursuing criminal charges.

Criminal and civil domestic violence cases follow two different processes and yield two types of outcomes. The purpose of a criminal case is to punish the alleged perpetrator for his or her actions. The court will levy penalties like fines and jail time, depending on the conviction. 

The purpose of a civil case, however, is to compensate the victim for losses like medical expenses, psychological pain and suffering, disability accommodations, and other damages. At the conclusion of a civil domestic violence lawsuit, the defendant will not face additional fines or jail time, but he or she will be required to pay a settlement to the victim.

It is not unusual for a victim to pursue both civil and criminal charges against an alleged domestic violence perpetrator. If you are facing these proceedings, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options and next steps. 

You will likely need different lawyers to handle your civil and criminal cases, depending on the specializations of the attorneys you hire. If you have already obtained a criminal defense attorney, he or she may be able to refer you to a civil attorney who can guide you through the lawsuit process.

Domestic Violence Convictions and Immigration Challenges

A criminal conviction can have severe impacts on many areas of your life, especially if you are an immigrant in the United States. Depending on the severity of the alleged crime, the U.S. may consider you to be inadmissible, and you may be unable to obtain a visa, get a green card, or even enter the country at all.

If you have a domestic violence conviction on your record, immigration services may deem the charge as a crime of moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude is any act that shocks the conscience or is deemed inherently vile, depraved, or base. You may also be found permanently inadmissible if your conviction is an aggravated felony. 

In some cases, domestic violence crimes fall under the petty offense exception. Under this rule, you will still be eligible to receive a visa or green card if your case meets the following criteria.

  • The maximum jail time you could have received was one year or less.
  • You were not sentenced to more than six months in jail or prison.

If you are facing a domestic violence conviction while you are applying for a visa or green card, it is important to seek the help of a lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand how a potential conviction could impact your immigration journey and advocate aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

What to Do After a Domestic Violence Arrest

If law enforcement officers arrest you for domestic violence in Washington state, it is important not to fight back against the officers or to fight the alleged victim. Listen carefully to your Miranda rights during the arrest and remember to stay silent – anything you say could hurt your case in the future.

Do not speak to any investigator or officer until you contact a domestic violence defense attorney. After the officers release you from holding, do not attempt to contact the alleged victim – this could be a violation of a protective or no-contact order, which can lead to additional penalties.

If you are facing charges for domestic violence in Washington, stay calm and cooperate with law enforcement and contact an attorney as soon as you can. Your Tacoma domestic violence lawyer will listen to your side of the story, gather evidence and testimony, and help prepare you for the courtroom.

Why You Should Hire A Domestic Violence Lawyer

Being accused of a crime is a scary experience. Domestic violence charges can drastically impact your life and make you feel hopeless. With consequences including hefty fines, jail time, and charges that could stay on your record, it’s important to have someone on your side to advocate for you and walk you through the lengthy process. A domestic violence attorney can do those things and also aid in preserving your constitutional and legal protections. As a former prosecutor, Mark Treyz knows the inner working of the state’s criminal justice system. He now puts that knowledge and experience to work for you and will advocate for you. Mark Treyz understands what you are going through and will work tirelessly on your behalf, performing his own thorough investigation and safeguarding your right to a fair trial and the best available defense. Mark has experience in all Pierce County courts and routinely handles criminal cases in Pierce County Superior and District Court, Tacoma Municipal Court, Lakewood Municipal Court, Puyallup Municipal Court as well as the other surrounding areas. Call The Law Offices of Mark Treyz at (253) 272-8666 or contact us online.

Domestic Violence Laws In Washington

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