A conviction for a domestic violence (DV) offense can have a tremendous effect on a persons’ ability to find and keep employment, and carries other negative stigmas. A conviction for the majority of domestic violence crimes will take away a person’s firearms rights. The conviction can also include a no contact order preventing the person from having contact with the alleged victim for up to five years or more. In addition to jail and court fines, there can also be lengthy treatment programs imposed. A domestic violence conviction will also prevent travel to Canada.
Under Washington law, domestic violence is defined broadly, and can include “spouses, former spouses, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time, adult persons related by blood or marriage, adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship, and persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.” See RCW 10.99.020.
Washington State has a mandatory arrest law, which requires a police officer responding to a domestic violence call to make an arrest when he or she believes there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. See RCW 10.99.030. Keep in mind that the police, or the alleged victim, do not determine whether to press charges. The prosecuting attorney is the sole party who gets to decide whether to pursue a case or not. The good news for those falsely accused of a domestic violence offense is that Washington has strong self defense statutes. Under Washington law, the use of force against another is lawful when a person reasonably believes that he or she is about to be injured. The force used must be reasonable given the specific circumstances. If the jury finds the person acted in self-defense, the person has the right to be reimbursed for their loss of time and legal fees. See WPIC 17.02 and WPIC 17.06.
It is important for those facing a domestic violence offense to have an aggressive, competent, attorney who knows how to navigate the court process. Each jurisdiction is unique on how it handles domestic violence offenses. Please contact me at (206) 218-4502 or email to find out how to prepare the best possible defense to your case.