Domestic Violence Assault
If you, your children, or someone you love is in imminent danger, call the police immediately. Once the immediate threat has been removed, the article below offers an overview of Domestic Violence Assault laws in Washington and explains what you can do to protect yourself or the ones you love moving forward.
Domestic Violence Assault Charges are relatively common in Washington State. When the police are called to resolve a dispute where there have been allegations of domestic violence, the standard they are required to use is that of "probable cause." In essence, this means that if there are credible allegations of domestic violence by one family member, spouse, or roommate against another, the police are required to make an arrest.
There are two sides to every story. Although the vast majority of domestic assault allegations are completely legitimate, using "probable cause" as the standard of review allows bad actors to make false allegations that can be difficult to defend against. If you find yourself in this situation, retaining an experienced attorney is crucial. Our Bellevue criminal defense attorneys have substantial experience representing clients who have been accused of domestic assault. As such, we understand what steps must be taken to ensure you experience as little disruption to your daily life as possible.
In Washington State, the law defines "domestic violence" as a criminal act perpetrated by one "family or household member" against another. Although there are many specific acts that qualify as domestic violence, they can be organized into five general categories: (1) physical violence, (2) emotional abuse, (3) sexual assault, (4) economic control, and (5) neglect. The most important takeaway from these categories is physical violence need not take place for an arrest to be made and charges to be brought.
After the police arrive at a domestic dispute call where allegations of domestic violence have been made, they will generally arrest the alleged abuser and a no contact order will be issued by the court. A No Contact Order oftentimes will prohibit any form of contact, going near the victim's home, and requiring the surrender of firearms. These orders are usually in place until the conclusion of the domestic violence case; if you are found to have violated the No Contact Order, you can be charged with a gross misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine.Types of Domestic Violence Assault Charges
There are four categories for assault in Washington State as noted above, with first Degree Assault being charged if there were allegations of "great bodily harm." This charge is considered a class A felony and is punishable by up to life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. Assault in the second degree is filed if there are allegations of "substantial bodily harm," which entails almost all injuries which require medical treatment. Second Degree Assault is a Class B felony that can result in up to a 10 year prison sentence; in our experience though, if this is a first-time conviction and there were no weapons involved, jail time can range between 4 to 12 months.
Assault in the Third Degree is a Class C felony that can result in jail time up to 5 years, and is generally charged for assault committed against a public servant while they are working. If you allegedly assault the police officer who responds to a call of domestic violence, you can be charged with Third Degree Assault, assuming there are no enhancing factors that would raise the charge to First or Second Degree Assault. Finally, the Fourth Degree Assault charge can be brought even if no injury occurred. Simply contacting someone can lead to a charge of assault in the fourth degree, if the contact would be considered offensive to the "reasonable person." As with violating a No Contact Order, Fourth Degree Assault is a gross misdemeanor and carries with it the penalties noted above.
As you can see, these types of cases often come down to "he said, she said" scenarios where the court must exercise an extreme amount of discretion in deciding who to believe. Further, prosecutors have a great deal of discretion when deciding what charges to bring against you. For this reason, hiring one of our experienced Bellevue Criminal Defense Attorneys to represent you could be the difference between continuing your life as usual or being sent to jail.
If you ever have allegations of domestic violence leveled against you and the police are called, you should not speak with the police or make any statements to them until you have an attorney representing you. Criminal defense attorneys working out of our Bellevue offices are not only experienced in the law, but are ready to mobilize that experience into an aggressive, winning defense strategy.