“Domestic violence,” as a category of Washington criminal law, covers a range of alleged offenses committed against family members, household members, and others with a family-based relationship with the defendant. Washington’s legal system takes a greater interest in family relationships than in other types of relationships, and views alleged offenses by one family member against another as especially serious. If you have been accused of violence against your spouse, you need the assistance of an experienced domestic violence lawyer, who can help you understand the charges against you, your rights, and the procedures you must face during your defense.
Domestic Violence Law in Washington
The criminal code in Washington defines “domestic violence” as any of a series of offenses, all involving violence or the threat of imminent violence, committed against a family or household member. It defines family or household member broadly, and includes spouses, adult relatives, adult members of the same household, persons with whom the defendant has or has had a dating relationship, and the other parent of the defendant’s child. Washington is one of a handful of U.S. states that recognizes both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage, and prosecutors may bring charges of spousal abuse against any suspect regardless of gender.
Spousal Abuse Charges in Washington
The state does not necessarily treat alleged spousal abuse as a more serious offense than alleged domestic violence against another family or household members, but violence against a spouse occupies an especially negative place in the public’s perception. This perception can influence how prosecutors handle a prosecution for alleged domestic violence against a spouse.
The offenses listed in Washington’s definitions of domestic violence include assault, criminal trespass, kidnapping, burglary, rape, and stalking. The elements that prosecutors must prove depend on the crime or crimes they are alleging. Crimes that constitute domestic violence range from first-degree offenses, which require proof that a defendant acted with intent to cause harm, to fourth-degree or misdemeanor offenses, which may only require proof of a defendant’s negligence.
Penalties for Spousal Abuse in Washington
The penalties that courts may impose for domestic violence depend on the charged offense, and can range from fines to multi-year prison sentences. Courts have authority under Washington’s domestic relations laws to grant protective orders to alleged victims in spousal abuse and other domestic violence cases. This means that a court could order a defendant to remain a certain distance from the alleged victim, to stay away from certain locations, or to refrain from certain activities. This could also mean excluding the defendant from the defendant’s home, and preventing the defendant from seeing children or other family members.
Defending against a charge of spousal abuse involves countering the prosecution’s accusations, much of which will depend on challenging the prosecution's evidence. Our defense includes careful review of all evidence, including medical records, police reports, and witness statements, as well as interviews with witnesses and inspection of any physical evidence.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Pierce County, Tacoma, or elsewhere in Washington, you need the guidance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. With over 15 years of experience serving Washington defendants in criminal court, the Law Office of Timothy L. Healy will fight to protect your rights and restore your reputation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093.