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Domestic Violence

The definition of domestic violence

Domestic Violence is a label that is used on cases where a stereotypical DV dynamic or history may or may not exist. Instead, what must be proven in a case where domestic violence is asserted is that the charge was committed against a family or household member. This is broad category includes spouses, ex-spouses, people who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have ever lived together, adults related by blood or marriage, adults either currently or previously living together, individuals 16 and up who are currently living together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, and people with a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.

This is a non-exhaustive list of offenses in which a domestic violence tag may be added to your case:

  • Assault in 1st-4th degree
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Coercion
  • Residential Burglary or Burglary in the 1st or 2nd degree
  • Criminal trespass in 1st or 2nd degree
  • Malicious mischief in the 1st-3rd degree
  • Kidnapping in the 1st or 2nd degree
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Violation of a restraining order, no-contact order, or protection order (RCW
  • Rape in the 1st or 2nd degree
  • Stalking
  • Interference with the reporting of domestic violence

Consequences of Domestic Violence Conviction

Immigration Consequences

If you are a legal permanent resident or an undocumented person, certain Domestic Violence convictions could create grounds for deportation or ineligibility to be admitted or to naturalize to the United States. We will assess and advise you of the immigration consequences of your case and work to reduce, if not eliminate, the exposure to the risks posed by these charges.

No Contact Orders

It is very common that a court will order no contact with the complaining party in your case. Violations of a no contact order are likely to result in additional criminal charges. We have successfully fought in front of the Court to decline to issue no contact orders, to modify no contact orders, as well as to withdraw a no contact order that the court previously ordered. We will work with you to put you in the best possible position to get the Court to agree with us that a no contact order is excessive, overly intrusive, and unnecessary.

Firearm Rights

There are two times where firearm rights are implicated in a domestic violence case: at the start of a case, at arraignment, and upon receiving a conviction, or guilty judgment entered by the Court. At the start of the case, a Court regularly issues a DV no-contact order between the parties. This no contact order will implicate a temporary surrender of firearms. At the end of a case, a conviction of Domestic Violence can also result in an automatic loss of right to possess a firearm. If preserving your right to possess a firearm is important to you, we will fight for an outcome for you that will protect you from losing your gun rights.

Crimes of Domestic Violence

Assault

At its most basic form, an assault is an unwanted or offensive touching. However, depending on the severity of the touching and the person who was contacted, such an offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or as serious as a Class A felony.

Frequently, domestic violence cases are highly emotionally charged, and feature ulterior motives to make domestic violence claims. We will investigate sources of marital discord, family tensions, dynamics between the two parties, any history of aggressive behavior from the complaining party, and his or her history and familiarity with using the system to his or her advantage.

No Contact or Protection Order Violation

To convict the defendant of a violation, the prosecutor would have to prove there was a valid order in place prohibiting contact between the accused and a protected party, that you knew of the existence of this order, and that you knowingly violated that order.

If this violation included the allegation that you also engaged in an assault against this protected party or that you already had two previous convictions for violating orders at the time of this offense, you may be looking at felony charges for this offense.

Malicious Mischief

Malicious Mischief is knowingly and maliciously caused physical damage to the property of another person. Depending on the amount of damage, you could be looking at misdemeanor or felony charges.

Harassment

There are two forms of Harassment – Misdemeanor and Felony. While there are alternative charging “prongs,” the most common misdemeanor Harassment charge is that someone is threatening to harm another person.

Felony Harassment can be a threat to kill another person or threat in which the accused has a prior conviction for harassment.

Exposing Children to Domestic Violence

Exposing Children to Domestic Violence is a common local ordinance that criminalizes Domestic Violence conduct in the presence of minors, typically under the age of 16. It is not necessary that that child actually sees the incident; it may be enough that he or she is alleged to have heard it, or even was in the vicinity (child could have been sleeping in the adjoining room for instance).

Interfering with Report of Domestic Violence

“Interfering with Report” means the defendant both committed a DV crime, and “prevents or attempts to prevent the victim of or a witness to that domestic violence crime from calling a 911 emergency communication system, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.” For instance, she grabbed the phone from the victim’s hands and threw it or kept it from him to prevent him from calling the police.

Stalking

A stalking charge requires proof that a person “intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another” person and that the person being harassed or followed “is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or another person,” and that the stalker “either intended to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person, or knew or reasonably should have known that the person was afraid, intimidated, or harassed, even if the stalker did not intend to create those feelings in the other person.” Depending on the circumstances, stalking might be charged with a gross misdemeanor or a felony.

One might think it would require prolonged, countless encounters in order to prove stalking exists. This is not the case–Washington only requires two or more separate occasions of “stalking.”

The “fear” that the alleged stalking victim feels needs to be reasonable, however, which means a reasonable person in the same circumstances would be fearful of the conduct. It may not be reasonable, for instance, for a person who is being followed by a 4’9″ ex-girlfriend to feel in fear of his safety. However, if that ex-girlfriend is also making threats, or making intimidating statements, or has a weapon, the person’s fear could seem more reasonable.

Relevant Domestic Violence Aggravators

Aggravators are circumstances surrounding a domestic violence incident that might increase the penalties for that offense at sentencing.

In misdemeanor DV cases, for instance, where children might have witnessed the offense, or there are allegations that the suspect tried to interfere with the alleged victim’s efforts to seek help (ie 911 call), the prosecutor might seek additional jail time or treatment based on these “aggravating” factors. In some jurisdictions, either of these might constitute an offense of its own. A prior history of convictions or incidents – even unreported incidents – could also serve as a basis for the prosecutor to seek additional sentencing penalties or conditions.

In felony DV cases, a prosecutor could officially charge “Aggravators,” which are essentially statutory findings that give the Court a reason to go above and beyond your sentencing range. These include, but are not limited to:

  • An ongoing pattern of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse of a victim or multiple victims manifested by multiple incidents over a prolonged period of time;
  • The offense occurred within sight or sound of the victim’s or the offender’s minor children under the age of eighteen years;
  • The offender’s conduct during the commission of the current offense manifested deliberate cruelty or intimidation of the victim.
  • The offense resulted in the pregnancy of a child victim of rape.
  • The accused knew that the complaining party was a minor who was not residing with a legal custodian and the accused established or promoted the relationship for the primary purpose of victimization.

The prosecutor would charge these aggravators as part of their case, and would require a jury to make a special finding that the State proved the aggravator existed. Just like with the underlying criminal charges, the State has the responsibility of proving every element of these aggravators beyond a reasonable doubt.

In our most recent case where our client was charged with multiple aggravators, we were able to convince a jury that the prosecutor failed to prove there was a prolonged abuse of a victim, resulting in Not Guilty verdicts on those charges.

Felony charges reduced to misdemeanors, then dismissed

Fed up with his oldest daughter’s lack of respect towards her parents, Jack was feeling exasperated with how to get through to his daughter. In an attempt to instill discipline in his daughter, and convey the seriousness of breaking house rules, Jack grabbed a serrated knife and made jabbing gestures towards his daughter. The State also accused Jack of grabbing his wife by the throat and pushing her.

After being questioned by police and Jack admitting he threatened his daughter, he was charged with felony domestic violence charge of threatening to kill, and two assault charges of his wife and daughter.

Our team questioned the family members and found inconsistencies in reporting, fleshed out the dynamics that led up to these events, as well as the cultural aspects of this case. Jack faced Domestic Violence charges that could have led to a felony conviction on his record and jail. Instead, were able to successfully advocate for no jail, no felony on his record, and after having no issues in the community after 12 months’ time, Jack received a dismissal on all charges.

 

If you have a pending charge, call our Tacoma lawyers now.