Washington Domestic Violence Laws
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:
- Manslaughter or murder
- Reckless endangerment
- Criminal trespass
- Property damage
- Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence
- Violation of protection order
- Stalking or cyber stalking
- False imprisonment
**Note: If you or someone you know are in an emergency situation call 911 immediately.**
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:
- Address Confidentiality Program (ACP): Victims can get a legal substitute address (usually a post office box) to use in place of their physical address; this address can be used whenever an address is required by public agencies. First class mail sent to the substitute address is forwarded to the victim's actual address.
- Protective Orders: Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse such as domestic violence protection orders, no-contact orders, and civil anti-harassment protection orders.
- Civil Lawsuit: The victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages
- Custody/Child or Spousal Support Orders: These may be modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other persons
Revised Code of Washington:
|What Protections are Available?||
There are civil and criminal protections available to victims.
|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.
- Local Washington Law Enforcement
- Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-562-6025
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Discuss Domestic Violence Charges with a Washington Attorney
If you're accused of violating a protective order, stalking, or otherwise breaking Washington's domestic violence laws, then you need to understand the charges against you. Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may be a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.