In Washington State, being wrongfully accused of Domestic Violence (DV) is common. Most cases are prosecuted with little or no physical evidence of a DV crime.
Often, an arrest is based solely upon statements made by the alleged victim. The police officer decides (often unfairly) who to believe and then books the other person into jail. This happens in larger cities (Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue) and smaller ones (Kent, Puyallup, Olympia).
Unfortunately, many alleged victims make false or exaggerated statements to the police during the heat of the moment. These accusations cannot be easily taken back and result in criminal charges that can be devastating to the life of the accused.Can the Victim Recant Their Statement?
Prosecutors are skeptical when an alleged victim wants to recant or take back statements that were made during the 911 call or to law enforcement. The prosecutor has the freedom to charge the alleged victim with making a false or misleading police report, which is a gross misdemeanor crime. Recanting is a delicate matter that should be first discussed with a domestic violence attorney.What if the Victim Does Not Want to Press Charges for Domestic Violence?
The State of Washington is the plaintiff in criminal cases and will often file charges against the wishes of the alleged victim, using statements made to law enforcement and the 911 operator as evidence. An important part of a domestic violence attorney’s job is to build a strong case for their client, convincing the prosecutor that Washington State would be defeated if the case were to go to a jury trial.What if there is Strong Evidence of a Domestic Violence Crime?
We understand that there may be strong evidence against you, such as an admission of guilt, multiple witnesses, or strong video evidence. However, hope is not lost and you should not give up your rights by pleading guilty or accepting an unfavorable plea bargain.
In most cases, we can still negotiate the charges down to something less serious or even a slow dismissal. There are many ways that we can be proactive and demonstrate to the court that this was a single lapse in judgment that will not be repeated. Having a limited criminal history will improve your options.What Can I Expect After a DV Arrest?
In Pierce, King, Snohomish, Kitsap, and Thurston County, bail is frequently set while the case is pending, even for a defendant who has no criminal history. At the first court hearing (arraignment), a judge will often require the defendant to surrender any firearms as a condition for release.
A domestic violence lawyer should be contacted as soon as possible, as the deck will be stacked against the accused person while they remain unrepresented. Unrepresented defendants often make statements that are taken out of context and later used against them, in addition to subjecting themselves to unpleasant surprises.
Another common condition of release is the No Contact Order. A No Contact Order can prevent a person from seeing their partner, their kids, and even prevent someone from entering their own home.
It is a good idea to speak with a domestic violence attorney before communicating with the alleged victim. Any type of communication with a protected person can result in an additional criminal charge if a No Contact Order has been issued by the court.
If you are facing accusations of any crime, it is a good idea to contact us for a free consultation and guidance before the situation gets worse.What are Domestic Violence Penalties in WA State?
Most domestic abuse charges in the Tacoma, Seattle, Kent, Olympia, Puyallup, Bellevue, and Lakewood, WA areas are gross misdemeanors that are punishable by:
- Up to 364 days of jail time
- $5,000 fine
- Up to 5 years of active probation.
For an Assault 4 domestic violence (4th Degree Assault) offense, there is usually a one-year mandatory batterer's treatment requirement.
A conviction for DV assault will in most cases make you ineligible to possess a firearm. If you are a military soldier or law enforcement officer convicted of domestic assault, this will likely result in the termination of your employment. There are several other professions that will terminate your employment upon notice of a domestic assault conviction.Civil Consequences can include:
- Mandatory loss of gun rights (State & Federal)
- Mandatory DNA sample for Federal Database
- Loss or denial of employment
- Revocation of job-related licenses & certifications
- Denial of housing or eviction
- Travel restrictions that include denial of entry
- Decline of college application
- Associated no contact orders
If there are allegations of choking, a case that would normally be charged as 4th Degree Assault Domestic Violence (Assault 4 DV) will likely be charged as 2nd Degree Assault Domestic Violence (Assault 2 DV). Assault 2 is a Class B felony that is punishable by up to 10 years of jail time, loss of gun rights, and a $20,000 fine.
Felony Harassment with a domestic violence enhancement is commonly charged when there is a threat to kill someone that you have a domestic relationship with. Felony DV Harassment is a Class B felony that is punishable by up to 10 years of jail time, loss of gun rights, and a $20,000 fine.
A conviction for a Domestic Assault 2 or felony Harassment charge requires that you spend time in jail. Having a powerful DV attorney in your corner could mean the difference between being found not guilty and spending months to years in jail.Common Types of Domestic Violence Charges
- No Contact Order Violation
- Malicious Mischief or Destruction of Property
- Harassment & Stalking
- Disorderly Conduct
- Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence
- Exposing Minor Child to Domestic Violence
- Domestic Violence Protection Order Violation
Yes, a criminal incident with a current or past romantic partner creates a domestic relationship in WA State. Other domestic relationships include family (by blood or marriage), a person you have a child in common with, and even current roommates.How do I get my DV Charges Dropped or Reduced?
Preserve your rights and defense options by remaining silent and contact an attorney for guidance as soon as possible.
A good domestic violence lawyer will protect your rights and mitigate or eliminate the domestic violence penalties. When selecting a domestic violence attorney, it is a good idea to choose one who not only has DV defense experience, but who also has the knowledge to protect you from civil consequences that can be life changing.
Beckwith Law has successfully defended thousands of clients accused of DV related crimes in Pierce County, King County, Kitsap County, Snohomish County, and Thurston County, WA. A proven track record has earned Beckwith Law a strong reputation for winning difficult cases in Puget Sound courts that include Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia, Kent, Puyallup, Bellevue, and Lakewood, WA.
At Beckwith Law, we don't just fight for you in the courtroom, we also provide responsive communication and understanding. We have office locations in Seattle and Tacoma and can be called any day of the week (including after-hours) for a free consultation.