Washington State takes domestic violence very seriously.

So seriously that they have expanded the definition to include anyone over the age of 16 who are one of the following:

  • current or former roommates
  • brothers and sisters (even step/half siblings)
  • anyone in a dating, or former dating, relationship (often interpreted to include short-term sexual relations)
  • any persons with a child in common
  • other adults related by blood or by marriage

So yes, your old college roommate, someone you dated years ago, your 2nd Uncle that you see every other Thanksgiving, all of these can be potential DV cases. The police tend to charge it liberally, because they know that if they charge it under the DV statute they get special treatment. DV charges are subject to MANDATORY ARREST. They WILL take someone to jail if the police believe there is “probable cause” that a crime occurred. You can’t bail out until you see a judge. 99% of the time the judge will issue a “No Contact Order” prohibiting you from having any contact whatsoever with the other party until further order of the court, even if the other party doesn’t want it. They also tend to get higher bail and pre-trial supervision conditions such as checking in with the probation office, electronic monitoring, and random alcohol/drug screening, all of which you have to pay for.

These cases tend to drag out due to overstaffed prosecutors, despite the fact that the City of Vancouver and Clark County have a specially funded task force whose entire job it is to oversee the domestic violence docket and nothing else. That means the whole time you are subject to the no contact order you are paying for a separate residence and sometimes the residence of of the other party as well. You are subject to being violated on the no contact order and sent back to jail for even the most innocent of communications, or even for no reason at all if the other party is feeling vindictive and chooses to file a false complaint. No contact order violations start as a misdemeanor, but can escalate quickly to a felony if either you have prior convictions for NCO violation, or if there is an allegation that force was used during the violation. The prosecuting attorney even has specially assigned investigators, and will often send out an officer to do a “welfare check” to all the parties homes before trial to make sure that nobody is violating the order.

On top of all that, if you are convicted, the penalties for a DV charge are more severe than many other similar charges. Expensive “domestic violence offender” classes are usually mandated by the court – these can cost you $30-$50 a session, once a week for six months and then once a month for the next six months, assuming your treatment provider decides you are “making progress”. After a conviction, you have to pay $100 a month in probation monitoring fees, even if you aren’t actively reporting to a PO. The No Contact Order will usually stay in place until you’ve completed about 3 months of classes, and then you have to go back before the Judge and argue to have it lifted, usually over the objections of the prosecutors. Other things you have to worry about? A conviction for a DV offense usually means that your rights to own or possess a firearm is terminated under State law, and permanently terminated under Federal law. You may be restricted from travelling to another state by your probation officer, or even denied entry into Canada or other foreign countries. You can be turned down for rental housing if the landlord doesn’t like you background check. Then there’s the social stigma of being convicted of a Domestic Violence charge – even if there was no actual violence! Property damage, off handed comments that could be mistaken for a threat – these can be enough to get you charged and even convicted.

What does all this mean? It means you have to stop now and think hard about all of these consequences.  Make sure you have the best representation possible. Call around, ask for referrals, and don’t be afraid to meet a few different attorneys. The important thing is that you have experienced reliable counsel that you can trust to work their hardest to make sure that you get the best possible outcome. That’s why I offer free consultations – you can meet with me and decide if we’re right for each other without spending a single dime. I will even refer you to other good attorneys in the area so you know that you are making the right decision.

DV charges are subject to MANDATORY ARREST.

They WILL take someone to jail if the police believe there is “probable cause” that a crime occurred.