What is Domestic Violence?
According to Washington State's RCW §26.50.010, domestic violence is defined as:
- Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members;
- Sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or
- Stalking of one family or household member by another family or household member.
Stages of a Domestic Violence Case:
The stages of a domestic violence case are as follows:
Reporting the Violence: Typically, the process of charging a person with domestic violence will begin when the alleged victim or a witness makes a 9-1-1 call to report the crime. When law enforcement arrive at the scene, they will question the parties separately and decide whether there is probable cause for an arrest.
Arrest: If law enforcement determines that there is probable cause, they will arrest the alleged offender and place him in jail, without bail, for 24-48 hours until he is able to appear before a judge.
Release: If the prosecutor does not file charges, the alleged offender may be released under certain conditions. The first condition is that charges may be filed in the future. Other conditions may include those imposed by a no contact order.
Arraignment: If the prosecutor files charges, then the alleged offender will have the opportunity to enter a plea at an arraignment.
Pre-Trial Conference: A pre-trial conference will take place after the arraignment to allow the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney to confer and evaluate the progress of the case.
Motions Hearing: After the pre-trial conference, a motions hearing will take place to determine whether the facts and evidence gathered thus far are admissible at trial.
Readiness Hearing: A readiness hearing will take place before trial to determine whether the parties are ready to move forward with a trial. The discovery and witnesses will be introduced for review.
Trial: Assuming the case has not yet been resolved, it will move forward to trial and the verdict will be rendered.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Washington:
The repercussions of a domestic violence conviction can extend far beyond the potential for incarceration, fines, and treatment programs. An offender could face legal problems with regard to being able to see his children, entering his own home, or being in the vicinity of the alleged victim.
A domestic violence charge can be filed in any alleged crime against a family member or other person who shares the home with you. In most cases the charges will involve a case of assault, criminal trespass, unlawful imprisonment, harassment and cases in which one party is accused of having violated a protection order or a restraining order. There are specific penalties imposed when a violent crime is classified as domestic violence, and the court has broad discretion with regard to imposing no-contact orders while the criminal case is pending.
When law enforcement is called in on a domestic call, they must make an arrest. They will do so based upon what they observe and what they are told at the time. The charges cannot be dropped, even if the alleged victim later admits that they had exaggerated the situation - only the prosecuting attorney can make that decision. This is an extremely dangerous situation which must be addressed by a high quality defense attorney with extensive experience in court.