Domestic violence is a serious and sensitive issue that affects countless people every year. This crime can dramatically alter the lives of those involved, especially when legal actions such as a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) are initiated.
Facing a DVPO can be an overwhelming experience, often leading to confusion, distress, and a whirlwind of emotions. In these situations, it’s common to want to reach out and make things right with the accuser—but doing so can do more harm than good. It’s crucial to understand the nature of a DVPO, its implications, and the appropriate steps to take if you find yourself facing one.
A DVPO is a legal measure designed to protect people from harm by someone they share a close relationship with. This order is used to separate the alleged perpetrator, known as the restrained person, from the alleged victim, or the protected person. The primary aim of a DVPO is to ensure the safety and well-being of the protected person by legally restricting the actions of the restrained person.
Domestic violence is a crime that involves acts or threats of violence committed by one family or household member against another. The relationships covered under this order typically include intimate partners, family members, or people who share a residence.
The grounds for a DVPO can vary but often include stalking, sexual assault, or any action that causes or instills a fear of imminent harm. These orders are not limited to physical violence but can also address psychological and emotional abuse, which are equally damaging.
People must also have an established relationship with the abuser that qualifies the alleged act or threat as domestic violence. Under Washington state law, the following individuals may request a DVPO:
The terms of a DVPO are tailored to each case, focusing on the safety of the protected person. Common conditions include prohibiting acts of domestic violence, maintaining a distance from the protected person’s home, workplace, or school, and refraining from any form of contact or harassment. Additionally, the restrained person may be required to surrender firearms.
DVPOs are not necessarily permanent. They can be renewed or modified based on the circumstances. The petitioner has the right to request an extension or termination of the order, and similarly, the respondent can seek to modify or terminate the order, subject to court approval.
To apply for a DVPO, a person must first submit a petition that outlines the instances of domestic violence that the intimate partner or family/household member allegedly committed. The court will then review the petition and may issue a temporary order, which is effective for up to 14 days. If this temporary order is denied, the petitioner has the opportunity to file an amended complaint within 14 days.
The order will then need to be served to the alleged perpetrator. The petitioner can request that law enforcement serve the respondent, especially in cases involving weapon surrender, vacating a shared residence, child custody transfer, or if the restrained person is incarcerated.
Finally, a final hearing will take place where the court will issue a final decision regarding the DVPO. This hearing can take place in person, over the phone, or online if requested in advance. Here, both parties will present their cases and evidence either proving or disproving the victim’s allegations. After the hearing, the court will decide whether to deny or grant the DVPO.
Violating a DVPO carries serious consequences in Washington state. If an alleged perpetrator intentionally breaches specific provisions of the order, they will likely be arrested. For example, if the order prohibits the accused from going to the home that they share with the alleged victim, but they do so regardless, they will likely be arrested.
Most violations of protection orders are prosecuted as gross misdemeanors, potentially leading to jail time, fines, or both. If convicted, the maximum punishment is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, the perpetrator may be subject to electronic monitoring. If the violation is serious, the penalties can increase to class C felony charges. This crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Due to these potential consequences, it is imperative to adhere to the terms of a DVPO if you are facing one. Being served a DVPO can be a distressing experience, but it’s crucial to remain calm and avoid any actions that might exacerbate the situation, such as attempting to contact the protected person. Violating these terms, even unintentionally, can lead to serious legal consequences.
The most important step to take upon receiving a DVPO is to seek legal counsel. A Washington criminal defense attorney can provide guidance and support through this challenging time. An attorney can help you understand the specifics of the order, your rights, and the best course of action moving forward. They can also argue for modifications to the order if necessary or request for it to be dropped completely.
If you are facing criminal charges for domestic violence, your Tacoma domestic violence lawyer can also represent you in court proceedings, explain what to expect during the process, and work to protect your interests each step of the way. As soon as possible following your arrest, seek the assistance of a Washington domestic violence attorney who can provide the support and representation that you deserve.