Washington state law defines domestic violence as almost any criminal act committed by a "family or household member" against another. Domestic violence includes five primary categories of abusive behaviors: physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, economic control and neglect. Examples of crimes associated with domestic violence include:
**Note: If you are in an emergency situation call 911. **
The law requires a police officer responding to an incident of domestic violence to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence assault or other serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours.
If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor. State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.
I Changed My Mind. Can I Drop the Charges?
No, you cannot. If charges are filed, only the prosecutor has the authority to drop them. A judge must approve the prosecutor's request to dismiss a case. The victim is a witness for the state and has no authority to drop charges. In many cases, the State will prosecute a case even if the victim refuses to testify.
That said, a prosecutor may choose not to file charges in the first place. In that event, the victim will be notified of that decision.
What Protections Are Available in Addition to Criminal Prosecution?
There are several remedies and legal protections available for victims of domestic violence in Washington. These may include:
|Code Sections||RCW 10.99.020 et seq. RCW 26.50.010|
|What Protections are Available?||
Civil and criminal
|Definition of Domestic Violence||
Domestic violence means a) physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking of one family or household member by another family or household member
|Family/Household Member Definition||
Domestic violence offenses are either misdemeanors, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, or gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony domestic violence offenses are punishable by more than one year in jail.
A person who has been convicted of a domestic violence assault cannot possess a firearm or get a concealed weapons permit in the State of Washington. Violation of this provision is a felony.
Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.
Contact a qualified attorney.