In the last two decades Washington State’s domestic violence laws have undergone bold changes. Washington now holds some of the toughest domestic violence arrest, release, and sentencing policies in the nation, meant to help protect victims. Know that if you are dealing with a domestic violence situation as part of a separation or divorce, our family law attorney is here to represent you.
Domestic Violence Legal Definitions
In Washington, domestic violence crimes may occur between spouses, former spouses, adult persons related by blood or marriage, parents of a child in common, unmarried persons of same or different genders currently or previously living together, intimate partners of the same gender, dating relationships, and a biological or legal parent-child relationship.
Washington law also defines domestic violence as behaviors that include physical or bodily harm, assault, infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, sexual assault, and stalking.
Washington State Domestic Violence Laws
Under RCW 10.99, police officers no longer have the discretion whether or not to arrest the domestic violence suspect. Once they find probable cause, Police must arrest a suspect regardless of the severity of the crime, request of the victim, or lack of any other criminal history or prior domestic disputes.
MANDATORY ARRAIGNMENT AND BAIL
In Washington, domestic violence charges require mandatory bail determinations and arraignment. In other words, defendants charged with domestic violence may not waive arraignment. Defendants must stay in custody and appear before the judge before the court makes a determination on a no-contact order, bail and other conditions of release. Most local jurisdictions in Washington now impose standard bail amounts regardless of the facts of the case, wishes of the victim or criminal history of the suspect.
MANDATORY FIREARM RESTRICTIONS
Individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes may permanently lose their right to bear firearms. A violation of this condition can be a felony offense. Although re-obtaining this right is possible through petitioning the superior court, accomplishing this task presents significant political and legal challenges.
NO CONTACT ORDER
Under RCW 10.99, courts may enter no-contact orders between parties while the case is pending as a condition of the defendant’s release from jail. The court’s authority is located in RCW 10.99.040(2),(3). These orders are also issued as a condition of sentence under RCW 10.99.050(2). Pursuant to CrRLJ 3.2(c), the court may also issue an order prohibiting contact with children witnesses and others. Although the entry of these no-contact orders is discretionary, it is now routinely requested by the prosecutor and near automatically granted from the court.
Law enforcement officers—Training, powers, duties—Domestic violence reports.
(1) All training relating to the handling of domestic violence complaints by law enforcement officers shall stress enforcement of criminal laws in domestic situations, availability of community resources, and protection of the victim. Law enforcement agencies and community organizations with expertise in the issue of domestic violence shall cooperate in all aspects of such training.
(2) The criminal justice training commission shall implement by January 1, 1997, a course of instruction for the training of law enforcement officers in Washington in the handling of domestic violence complaints. The basic law enforcement curriculum of the criminal justice training commission shall include at least twenty hours of basic training instruction on the law enforcement response to domestic violence. The course of instruction, the learning and performance objectives, and the standards for the training shall be developed by the commission and focus on enforcing the criminal laws, safety of the victim, and holding the perpetrator accountable for the violence. The curriculum shall include training on the extent and prevalence of domestic violence, the importance of criminal justice intervention, techniques for responding to incidents that minimize the likelihood of officer injury and that promote victim safety, investigation and interviewing skills, evidence gathering and report writing, assistance to and services for victims and children, verification and enforcement of court orders, liability, and any additional provisions that are necessary to carry out the intention of this subsection.
(3) The criminal justice training commission shall develop and update annually an in-service training program to familiarize law enforcement officers with the domestic violence laws. The program shall include techniques for handling incidents of domestic violence that minimize the likelihood of injury to the officer and that promote the safety of all parties. The commission shall make the training program available to all law enforcement agencies in the state.
(4) Development of the training in subsections (2) and (3) of this section shall be conducted in conjunction with agencies having a primary responsibility for serving victims of domestic violence with emergency shelter and other services, and representatives to the statewide organization providing training and education to these organizations and to the general public.
(5) The primary duty of peace officers, when responding to a domestic violence situation, is to enforce the laws allegedly violated and to protect the complaining party.
(6)(a) When a peace officer responds to a domestic violence call and has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, the peace officer shall exercise arrest powers with reference to the criteria in RCW 10.31.100. The officer shall notify the victim of the victim’s right to initiate a criminal proceeding in all cases where the officer has not exercised arrest powers or decided to initiate criminal proceedings by citation or otherwise. The parties in such cases shall also be advised of the importance of preserving evidence.
(b) A peace officer responding to a domestic violence call shall take a complete offense report including the officer’s disposition of the case.
(7) When a peace officer responds to a domestic violence call, the officer shall advise victims of all reasonable means to prevent further abuse, including advising each person of the availability of a shelter or other services in the community, and giving each person immediate notice of the legal rights and remedies available. The notice shall include handing each person a copy of the following statement:
“IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, you can ask the city or county prosecuting attorney to file a criminal complaint. You also have the right to file a petition in superior, district, or municipal court requesting an order for protection from domestic abuse which could include any of the following: (a) An order restraining your abuser from further acts of abuse; (b) an order directing your abuser to leave your household; (c) an order preventing your abuser from entering your residence, school, business, or place of employment; (d) an order awarding you or the other parent custody of or visitation with your minor child or children; and (e) an order restraining your abuser from molesting or interfering with minor children in your custody. The forms you need to obtain a protection order are available in any municipal, district, or superior court.
Information about shelters and alternatives to domestic violence is available from a statewide twenty-four-hour toll-free hotline at 800-799-7233. DVSAS is available to help battered women in Whatcom County. Please call 360-715-1563 to connect with a trained advocate who can help you develop a personal safety and healing plan.
(8) The peace officer may offer, arrange, or facilitate transportation for the victim to a hospital for treatment of injuries or to a place of safety or shelter.
(9) The law enforcement agency shall forward the offense report to the appropriate prosecutor within ten days of making such report if there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed, unless the case is under active investigation. Upon receiving the offense report, the prosecuting agency may, in its discretion, choose not to file the information as a domestic violence offense, if the offense was committed against a sibling, parent, stepparent, or grandparent.
(10) Each law enforcement agency shall make as soon as practicable a written record and shall maintain records of all incidents of domestic violence reported to it.
(11) Records kept pursuant to subsections (6) and (10) of this section shall be made identifiable by means of a departmental code for domestic violence.
(12) Commencing January 1, 1994, records of incidents of domestic violence shall be submitted, in accordance with procedures described in this subsection, to the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs by all law enforcement agencies. The Washington criminal justice training commission shall amend its contract for collection of statewide crime data with the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs:
(a) To include a table, in the annual report of crime in Washington produced by the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs pursuant to the contract, showing the total number of actual offenses and the number and percent of the offenses that are domestic violence incidents for the following crimes: (i) Criminal homicide, with subtotals for murder and nonnegligent homicide and manslaughter by negligence; (ii) forcible rape, with subtotals for rape by force and attempted forcible rape; (iii) robbery, with subtotals for firearm, knife or cutting instrument, or other dangerous weapon, and strongarm robbery; (iv) assault, with subtotals for firearm, knife or cutting instrument, other dangerous weapon, hands, feet, aggravated, and other nonaggravated assaults; (v) burglary, with subtotals for forcible entry, nonforcible unlawful entry, and attempted forcible entry; (vi) larceny theft, except motor vehicle theft; (vii) motor vehicle theft, with subtotals for autos, trucks and buses, and other vehicles; (viii) arson; and (ix) violations of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order restraining the person from going onto the grounds of or entering a residence, workplace, school, or day care, provided that specific appropriations are subsequently made for the collection and compilation of data regarding violations of protection orders or no-contact orders;
(b) To require that the table shall continue to be prepared and contained in the annual report of crime in Washington until that time as comparable or more detailed information about domestic violence incidents is available through the Washington state incident based reporting system and the information is prepared and contained in the annual report of crime in Washington; and
(c) To require that, in consultation with interested persons, the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs prepare and disseminate procedures to all law enforcement agencies in the state as to how the agencies shall code and report domestic violence incidents to the Washington association of sheriffs and police chiefs.
Duties of court—No-contact order.
(1) Because of the serious nature of domestic violence, the court in domestic violence actions:
(a) Shall not dismiss any charge or delay disposition because of concurrent dissolution or other civil proceedings;
(b) Shall not require proof that either party is seeking a dissolution of marriage prior to instigation of criminal proceedings;
(c) Shall waive any requirement that the victim’s location be disclosed to any person, other than the attorney of a criminal defendant, upon a showing that there is a possibility of further violence: PROVIDED, That the court may order a criminal defense attorney not to disclose to his or her client the victim’s location; and
(d) Shall identify by any reasonable means on docket sheets those criminal actions arising from acts of domestic violence.
(2)(a) Because of the likelihood of repeated violence directed at those who have been victims of domestic violence in the past, when any person charged with or arrested for a crime involving domestic violence is released from custody before arraignment or trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court authorizing the release may prohibit that person from having any contact with the victim. The jurisdiction authorizing the release shall determine whether that person should be prohibited from having any contact with the victim. If there is no outstanding restraining or protective order prohibiting that person from having contact with the victim, the court authorizing release may issue, by telephone, a no-contact order prohibiting the person charged or arrested from having contact with the victim or from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance of a location.
(b) In issuing the order, the court shall consider the provisions of RCW 9.41.800.
(c) The no-contact order shall also be issued in writing as soon as possible, and shall state that it may be extended as provided in subsection (3) of this section. By January 1, 2011, the administrative office of the courts shall develop a pattern form for all no-contact orders issued under this chapter. A no-contact order issued under this chapter must substantially comply with the pattern form developed by the administrative office of the courts.
(3) At the time of arraignment the court shall determine whether a no-contact order shall be issued or extended. So long as the court finds probable cause, the court may issue or extend a no-contact order even if the defendant fails to appear at arraignment. The no-contact order shall terminate if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dismissed. If a no-contact order is issued or extended, the court may also include in the conditions of release a requirement that the defendant submit to electronic monitoring as defined in RCW 9.94A.030. If electronic monitoring is ordered, the court shall specify who shall provide the monitoring services, and the terms under which the monitoring shall be performed. Upon conviction, the court may require as a condition of the sentence that the defendant reimburse the providing agency for the costs of the electronic monitoring.
The information provided on this page should not be considered legal advice. Contact our experienced family law attorney today to discuss your legal rights.