No Contact Orders
In Washington State, a No Contact Order is frequently issued by the court after an arrest for domestic violence. However, a No Contact Order can be issued in any case that has a victim.
If you are accused of a violation, it is very important that you invoke your right to remain silent and contact a lawyer who is experienced with No Contact Order violations and Domestic Violence.How Long is the No Contact Order in Place?
The order prohibiting contact is normally in place until the domestic violence case is resolved and is often times continued after there is a resolution in the case. However, your criminal defense attorney may be able to make special arrangements with the Court to allow full, supervised, or third party contact with the alleged victim.
Even though the alleged victim has no say in the issuance of the order, their opinion and request can sometimes have weight when the Court is considering a lifting or removing the order. Other factors, such as a lack of criminal history or a favorable evaluation by a WA State certified treatment agency can influence the court’s decision to modify or remove the order that prohibits contact.
A knowledgeable attorney can also guide an accused person to attend a specific class or take part in an evaluation. This is an example of the type of information that the Court would like to see when considering the removal of the order.
However, you should consult with an attorney before taking any evaluations or classes. If you are in King County or Pierce County, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney who has knowledge of those specific jurisdictions.Causes of Violations
These orders are frequently violated through electronic communication, such as a phone call, text, email, or social media message. Each communication can be treated as a separate violation and separate criminal charge.
An alleged "breaking" of the order can also occur if you are accused of coming within too many feet of a specified location or initiating physical contact. This can become very problematic if you live at the same location, have children together, or work together. Even your children can be listed as protected under the terms of the No Contact Order.
Sometimes, contact with the complaining witness is the result of an accident or honest mistake. In these situations, the police will often error on the side of caution and make an arrest when they shouldn’t. If the police question you for any reason, always exercise your right to remain silent and contact a criminal lawyer.What if the Alleged Victim Contacts Me?
Unfortunately, it does not matter who initiated or invited the contact. The alleged victim is not restricted from initiating contact with the defendant. If you reply to electronic communication or do not immediately leave their physical proximity, this is considered a “willful” violation of the order.
It is understandably difficult to comprehend how someone can be arrested when the alleged victim started the contact. An “invited contact” defense is regrettably not recognized in Washington State. However, a skilled attorney can still utilize this fact pattern to aggressively negotiate a positive outcome or even an outright dismissal.Criminal Penalties
A person charged with a No Contact Order violation in Washington State is exposed to a gross misdemeanor. A conviction can carry a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine.
In certain circumstances, breaking a No Contact Order or Civil Protection Order may be charged as a felony. A felony No Contact Order violation carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.Defending Violations of No Contact Orders
In many cases where an order was allegedly broken, it becomes the word of the accused against the police. The reality is that these charges do not require that a victim testify or even cooperate with law enforcement. The State's case often times revolves around an officer testifying that an order existed and that in their opinion, it was violated.
A strong attorney will stand up to the police and poke holes in their testimony. Even if there are no major issues in the Prosecutor’s case, a good attorney can use negotiations to highlight substantial mitigating circumstances, such as invited contact or a lack of prior criminal history.
Cristine Beckwith is a Tacoma, WA based attorney who aggressively fights for clients accused of violating No Contact Orders and Domestic Violence. Her independent investigations can often uncover issues that lead to a case dismissal or significantly reduced charges.
Cristine has a proven track record for defending clients in King, Pierce, and Thurston County courts that include Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Federal Way, Olympia, and Lakewood, Washington.