In the State of Washington, if a police officer responds to an allegation of domestic violence, that officer is required to determine who the primary aggressor is and to arrest that person. The law even permits the arresting officer to be wrong in his or her assessment of who the primary aggressor is. The officer has been granted civil immunity by statute. Consequently, that means that the officer typically arrests the man. Once arrested the individual is held in custody until he or she can appear in front of a judge. In most circumstances the prosecutor is immediatly prepared to file charges and to make requests of the court for pretrial conditions of release. This means a request for things like bail and a No Contact Order. It is critical that an attorney be contacted quickly. An attorney can appear with you at the first appearance in order to mitigate the drastic requests of the prosecuting attorney. A No Contact Order can devastate a family. Contact legal counsel.
Advice while your case is pending
DV cases are the most fluid cases. They typically involve a quick, and premature, decision to arrest by police officers. Oftentimes, the truth of the allegation comes out after the police have completed their work. Conditions of release are put in place by the court in fear of reoccurance. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are typically confused about the meaning of a No Contact Order. If a No Contact Order is issued against you, you must obey it. Don't tamper with witnesses. Tampering can lead to new, more serious charges. DV cases can be won fighting the fair fight. The most common defense is self-defense. The fact of the matter is, most DV cases involve self-defense. An attorney experienced and knowledgable about DV cases will develop a successful defense to your case. It begins with evaluation of police reports and in most cases includes interview of the complaining witness.
Assault - Who has to prove it?
The prosecution has the burden of proving a crime. In most jurisdictions, Assault is defined as an intentional touching or striking of another person that is harmful or offensive. In involves intentional contact. Accidental or reckless contact is not enough to prove the charge. In order for the crime of assault to be classified as Domestic Violence, the government must allege that the assault allegation occurred between persons who are or were in a dating relationship or who are related by blood or marriage.
Significant Consequences of Conviction
Assault is a gross misdemeanor. This means that it carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Although it is extrememly unlikely that a conviction will produce such a consequence, the minimum consequences include loss of right to possess a firearm. (no hunting or possession for other self defense purposes) Typically conviction includes probation and ordered attendance for one year in a state certified DV counseling program. The court retains the authority to impose no contact orders, fines and occasionally additional jail.
Defenses - How do you defend an Assault DV charge?
Although most defenses include an element of general denial of the allegations, the most common defense is self defense. By statute, when self defense is raised as a defense, the burden is shifted to the prosecuting attorney to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a lack of self defense. This is a very high burden and is always bothersome to prosecutors. Another common defense incorporates inadvertant or accidental contact. The government most prove intentional assault. If the offending contact was the result of an accident, or careless/reckless behavior on the part of the accused, proof of the same is a defense to allegations of intentional contact. To prove assault the government must prove an intentional act. Anything short of intent requires aquital.
Additional resources provided by the author
RCW 10.99 sets forth Washington law relating to Domestic Violence. It is worth reading.
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