Domestic Violence in Seattle and King County
In King County and Seattle, domestic violence crimes are treated very seriously. Special units with extra resources are dedicated to prosecuting these crimes. Both the King County Prosecutor and the Seattle City Attorney's Office have these specially dedicated units. The prosecutors in these units receive special training, work very hard to get convictions on their cases, and are often very zealous in the prosecution of their cases. This chart explains the general process for domestic violence cases in courts of limited jurisdiction.
In Seattle Municipal Court there are special procedures victims need to follow to get no contact orders dropped. Also, domestic violence cases are heard before either Judge C. Kimi Kondo or Judge Karen Donahue, who have prosecutors specifically assigned before their courts. In the King County District Court, domestic violence cases are not assigned to specific judges and may be heard by any of the courts. The King County Superior Court judges hear felony domestic violence cases and may be handled by any of the judges assigned criminal cases in either the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle or the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. If you have a charge in one of these courts, you must know that you may be at a disadvantage unless you have an attorney as trained and more dedicated to your case than the prosecutors are to theirs.
Domestic Violence in Tacoma and Pierce County
In Pierce County and Tacoma, domestic violence crimes are treated very seriously. Both the Pierce County Prosecutor and the Tacoma City Attorney's Office have prosecutors specially assigned to their domestic violence units. This chart explains the process for domestic violence cases in courts of limited juridiction. The prosecutors in these units receive special training, work very hard to get convictions on their cases, and are often very zealous in the prosecution of their cases. If your case is in one of the other cities in Pierce County, like Lakewood Municipal Court or Puyallup Municipal Court, the City Attorney for that city will handle the prosecution and may or may not have dedicated domestic violence resources.
In Tacoma Municipal Court, Judge Ladenburg presides over the domestic violence cases. In Pierce County District Felony level domestic violence cases do not have a dedicated judge, and may be heard by any of the Pierce County Superor Court judges assigned to hear criminal cases.
If you have a charge in one of these courts, you must know that you may be at a disadvantage unless you have an attorney that has more experience and dedication to handle domestic violence cases than the prosecutor does.
Domestic Violence Laws in General
Domestic Violence is not itself a specific separate crime, it is instead a designation that can be assigned to a number of misdemeanors, most commonly Assault 4, and felonies pursuant to RCW 10.99.020. Commonly, domestic violence cases are reviewed and prosecuted by specially trained and zealous prosecutors who decide whether the domestic violence designation is warranted. The impact such a designation can have on a criminal case is great.
Domestic violence crimes require a mandatory court appearance before a judge so that prosecutors can ask for what are often life changing conditions of release. It is common for prosecutors to ask for high bail on cases, even for individuals who have no prior history of criminal offense out of "fear for the victim". But most importantly, the prosecutor almost always asks for and almost always gets a No Contact Order, even over the victim's request not to do so. These orders prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim in any way, and can force a wife to move away from her family and can jail a defendant for giving the mother of his children money for their support. A conviction for violation of a no contact order can result in a maximum of up to five years in prison depending on the nature of the charge. In Domestic Violence cases, it is the prosecutor that "presses charges" not the victim. You can read about this in a guide by Derek Smith here.
Whenever the police have a reasonable belief a crime of domestic violence has occurred an arrest is mandatory in Washington. If convicted, a defendant loses the right to possess firearms for life or until reinstated by a court of record. Also if convicted in most cases the defendant is required to attend domestic violence batterer's treatment, a year long and very expensive program.
If you have charged with a crime of domestic violence, you need an attorney with the compassion to hear your side of the case and the passion to defend you in court greater than the prosecutors on the other side.
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Tacoma, WA 98402
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