A brief guide to understanding the domestic violence law in Washington.
Domestic Violence, Generally
In Washington State, virtually any crime can carry a domestic violence ("DV") tag. In some cases, the tag itself does nothing. In others, it adds additional consequences if you are found guilty. However, there is no crime itself called "domestic violence."
For a crime to carry the DV tag, there does not actually have to be any "violence" involved. The DV tag can be added if the relationship committed by "one family or household member against another." So, if you stole your brother's phone, that could be a domestic violence offense.
Family or Household Member
What is a "family or household member?" Under RCW 10.99.020(2), family or household member is defined as: "spouses, former spouses, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time, adult persons related by blood or marriage, adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship, and persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren."
As you can see, this is a very broad definition, and even includes roommates.
Impacts of the DV Tag
So why does the DV tag matter? Well, in a lot of cases it makes no practical difference. If you are committed of Theft 3 or Theft 3-DV, there is no mandatory difference in the punishment the court gives you. It may get treated differently by the court and by future employers or landlords, however.
But, for some cases, it does make a difference at sentencing. For the crimes of Assault 4, Coercion, Stalking, Reckless Endangerment, Trespass 1, some protection order violations, and No-Contact Order violations, you will lose your right to possess or own a firearm upon conviction. Additionally, you will receive a slight enhancement to your fines and may be made to provide a DNA sample (through a cheek swab) for the DNA registry. Further, some DV crimes will count as "points" for a felony offender score.
So, if you are charged with a DV offense, be sure to consult an attorney, as convictions can have long lasting effects that you may not be aware of.
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