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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. Hiring an 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.

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.

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 probably 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 coule 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.

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 attorney will listen to your side of the story, gather evidence and testimony, and help prepare you for the courtroom.

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