Domestic violence is a real and substantial problem in the United States, but the way that the criminal justice system handles domestic violence cases sometimes causes problems rather than resolving them.
Some of the problems linked to domestic violence permeate divorce, separation, and custody proceedings as one spouse may use an allegation of domestic violence to gain a legal advantage. This is where a Seattle domestic violence attorney can help.
HOW DOES THIS STATE DEFINE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
What is the definition of domestic violence under state law in Washington? Virtually any crime committed by one “family or household member” against someone in the same family or household may constitute domestic violence.
These crimes include but are not limited to: assault, false imprisonment, homicide, kidnapping, property damage, rape or sexual assault, reckless endangerment, stalking, and the violation of protection orders.
The criminal courts in this state punish these crimes harshly, but when one of these crimes is also attached to a domestic violence accusation, the penalty will be substantially more serious than the penalty for a criminal conviction that does not involve household or family members.
The jail or prison term is longer, the fine is costlier, and the conditions and terms of probation are more restrictive.
WHO MAY BE A VICTIM – OR A PERPETRATOR – OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Under state law in Washington, who is considered a family or household member?
1. adults related by marriage or blood
3. a child’s parents
4. persons 16 years of age or older who reside together or who previously resided together
5. persons 16 years of age or older who have or have had a dating relationship
6. persons with a biological or legal parent-child relationship (grandparents and stepparents)
In our state, police officers who respond to domestic violence calls are required by law to arrest a suspect if that officer believes with probable cause that a domestic violence crime has been committed.
Washington state law also requires an arrest for the violation of a civil protection order or a “no contact” order.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN OUR STATE?
Domestic violence crimes in the state of Washington fall into one of these three categories:
1. misdemeanors punishable upon conviction with 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
2. gross misdemeanors punishable upon conviction with 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine
3. felony domestic violence crimes punishable upon conviction with more than a year in jail
Additionally, anyone who is convicted of assault as a crime of domestic violence may not own a firearm or obtain a concealed weapons permit in this state. Violating this provision constitutes a felony.
WHO CAN “DROP” A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGE?
If a domestic violence crime is charged against someone in the state of Washington, the only person who can “drop” the charge is the prosecutor. The purported victim will not be allowed to drop the charge, and the case will proceed even if a victim declines to testify or cooperate.
Your personal character and your integrity will be questioned if you are accused of criminal domestic violence. Along with the potential criminal penalties, you may lose the respect and trust of your friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
WHO MAKES FALSE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACCUSATIONS – AND WHY?
Fabricated domestic abuse accusations are made for a number of reasons.
For instance, your ex may be trying to gain an advantage in a property or child custody dispute. Sometimes a resentful teenager will fabricate a lie against a step-parent. Sometimes, a phony domestic abuse claim is made irrationally, with no apparent motive.
Domestic violence complaints are taken seriously by the state of Washington’s criminal justice system, because the failure to take such complaints seriously can lead to a tragedy. This state’s criminal courts do not tolerate domestic violence of any kind.
And that’s why a conviction for domestic abuse must be avoided – and why, if you are accused of a crime of domestic violence in the state of Washington, you must be advised and represented by a qualified criminal defense attorney.
If you are falsely accused of committing a crime of domestic violence, and if the case goes before a jury, you should know that that prejudices and emotions almost always influence the jurors and witnesses in domestic abuse trials.
HOW DO YOU FIGHT A CHARGE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
So how does someone challenge a bogus domestic violence charge? Remember that prosecutors must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that defendants are guilty, and in domestic violence cases, that isn’t necessarily easy.
If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence in this state, a reputable defense attorney will, in most cases, discredit a phony accusation. In some circumstances, however, your lawyer may suggest claiming self-defense – or claiming that you were defending your personal property – as your defense strategy.
HOW WILL A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?
After reviewing the details of the charge against you, your lawyer will work on crafting a defense that is both appropriate and effective.
If you are accused of domestic violence, and you are innocent, fight the charge. But without regard to your innocence or guilt, it is imperative for you to be represented by a criminal defense attorney who will advocate aggressively for justice on your behalf.
If you are innocent of a domestic violence crime, your attorney will ask the court to drop the charge. If the charge cannot be dismissed, your lawyer will argue vigorously at trial for your acquittal.
WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?
Listed here are some important recommendations if you’re charged with a domestic violence crime here in the state of Washington:
1. Don’t confront your accuser. Between your arrest and the final resolution of the case, everything that you do is going to be scrutinized. Have a reliable and reputable witness join you if you have to communicate with your accuser.
2. Avoid Facebook, Twitter, and the other social media platforms. Anything that you post could be distorted and used against you.
3. Have witnesses who will vouch for your character and testify on your behalf about specific accusations.
4. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime here in Washington, get legal help at once by contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer in the Seattle area. That is your right. If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence, exercise that right immediately.