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What are the domestic violence laws and policies in Washington?

If you have been accused of domestic violence in Washington State, you need to know exactly what you are accused of. There are also important legal policies you should be aware of.

How does Washington define domestic violence?

Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 10.99.020, domestic violence is defined as (but not limited to) any of 23 specific criminal offenses against a family or household member. The specific offenses include:

  • Assault in the first, second, third or fourth degree
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Coercion
  • Burglary in the first or second degree, residential burglary
  • Criminal trespass in the first or second degree
  • Malicious mischief in the first, second or third degree
  • Kidnapping in the first or second degree
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Violating a restraining, no-contact or protection order
  • Rape in the first or second degree
  • Stalking
  • Interference with the reporting of domestic violence

A family or household member is defined in the law as any of the following:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • People with a child in common, regardless of whether they have ever been married or lived together
  • Adults related by blood or marriage
  • Adults currently living together or who have done so in the past
  • Those 16 years old or older in a dating relationship who live together or have done so in the past
  • Those 16 years old or older who have or who have had a dating relationship with another person 16 years old or older
  • People with either biological or legal parent-child relationships, including stepparents, stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren

Mandatory arrest and no taking back the charges

Washington law requires police to make an arrest whenever they have probable cause to believe that a serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours or that a no-contact or civil protection order has been violated. When two or more people have assaulted one another, officers are directed to arrest the primary aggressor.

Generally, such an arrest will result in charges, and getting them dropped can be difficult. Only the prosecutor has the authority to drop domestic violence charges and, even then, a judge must approve it. If no charges are filed, the alleged victim will be notified.

Often enough, alleged victims decide after the arrest that they don't want to press charges. However, the victim does not get to choose whether charges are filed. The alleged victim is considered a witness; the complainant is the state of Washington). Even if the alleged victim refuses to testify, the prosecutor can still move forward.

Being accused of domestic violence can be devastating to your reputation and affect your future. If you have been arrested, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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