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Washington’s Domestic Violence No-Contact Criminal Order

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Facing an accusation of domestic violence can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. The situation becomes more complex when a Domestic Violence No-Contact Order (DVNCO) is involved. 

These orders are legal instruments used in Washington to ensure the safety of people who have been subjected to domestic violence. Their implications are far-reaching and can have a significant impact on the lives of those involved—which is why, if you are served a DVNCO, it is important to adhere to its terms as closely as possible. 

Washington's Domestic Violence No-Contact Criminal Order

Washington’s Domestic Violence Laws

In Washington state, domestic violence involves a range of actions committed by one family or household member against another. It can include physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing fear of imminent harm between family or household members. It also covers sexual assault and stalking within these relationships. Domestic violence crimes are taken very seriously, and are often punishable by prison time, fines, and various protection orders.

Washington’s definition of family or household members include the following:

  • Spouses and former spouses
  • Parents who share a child
  • Legal guardians
  • Adults who are related by blood or marriage
  • Adults who live together or who have lived together in the past
  • People who share a biological or legal parent-child relationship
  • People 16 years or older who have or have had a dating relationship
  • People 16 years or older who live together or who have lived together in the past and have or have had a dating relationship

What Is a Domestic Violence No-Contact Order?

A DVNCO in Washington is a legal order that prohibits any form of contact between the involved parties. This includes direct communication like phone calls, emails, texts, as well as indirect contact through third parties. 

The order also typically restricts the accused from approaching the protected person’s home, workplace, or school. It’s vital to take these orders seriously, as violating them is a criminal offense, regardless of whether the protected person desires contact. The legal system often views any breach of these orders stringently, and the punishments can be severe.

When Can a DVNCO Be Issued?

A DVNCO can be issued under various circumstances in Washington. It may arise from a civil lawsuit where a victim alleges domestic violence and requests protection. Alternatively, it can stem from a criminal charge after an act of domestic violence has been reported to the police. 

The court has the authority to issue these orders, even against the wishes of the alleged victim. A DVNCO can be initiated at any stage of the legal process, from the pre-trial phase to after a conviction, and are enforceable in various courts. 

What Are the Terms of a DVNCO?

The terms of a DVNCO are comprehensive and designed to protect the victim during the trial and sentencing phases and can be a condition of the sentence, remaining effective for its duration or until probation concludes. They not only prohibit contact but can also include restrictions on the accused’s movement and activities.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, the DVNVO may also include the following terms:

  • Restrictions on Proximity: The order typically specifies a minimum distance that the accused must maintain from the victim’s home, workplace, school, or other locations frequented by the victim.
  • Surrender of Firearms and Weapons: The accused may be required to surrender any firearms or dangerous weapons they possess and may be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms during the term of the order.
  • Restriction on Visiting Specific Locations: The order can list specific locations, such as the victim’s family members’ homes or places where the victim regularly visits, which the accused is barred from approaching.
  • Monitoring Compliance: In some cases, the court may impose electronic monitoring to ensure the accused complies with the terms of the order, which the accused may need to pay for.

Are Domestic Violence No-Contact Orders Permanent? 

DVNCOs vary in duration based on the specific facts of each case. Generally, these orders are not permanent, and the length that they are valid will depend on when they are issues. For example, a no-contact order issued before charges are filed will expire within 72 hours if the prosecutor does not pursue charges against the alleged perpetrator.

If the case reaches the pre-trial stage, the order remains in effect until a court decision is made. If the charges are dismissed or the defendant is found not guilty, the pre-trial order will be terminated. 

If a no-contact order is issued after the perpetrator is convicted, it remains effective until the expiration date mentioned in the order. However, it is important to note that the court has the authority to extend, modify, or terminate a no-contact order before its expiration date. Both the victim and the defendant have the legal right to file a motion for the modification or termination of the order. 

What Are the Penalties for Violating a DVNCO?

Violating a DVNCO can have serious legal consequences. If someone is found guilty of violating a no-contact order, they could be charged with a gross misdemeanor. This charge carries severe penalties, including up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and loss of gun rights. 

In cases where the perpetrator has two prior convictions for violating a no-contact order or civil protection order, they may face a class C felony charge. If convicted, they may face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

What Can You Do When Facing a No-Contact Criminal Order?

If you are facing a DVNCO, it is important to remain calm and adhere to the terms as closely as possible. In situations where an order is allegedly breached, it often becomes a matter of the accused’s word against the testimony of law enforcement. If you violate the terms of the order, you could face serious penalties on top of the potential consequences for the domestic violence charge. 

In these cases, it is important to contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can help you understand the terms of the DVNCO and help you comply with them. If you are accused of violating the order, your lawyer can critically assess the evidence and challenge any inconsistencies in law enforcement’s testimony. 

Facing a DVNCO can be scary, but you are not alone. Contact a Washington domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and plan your next steps.

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