Under Washington law, if a person violates the terms of a no-contact order by assaulting the protected person, he or she can be convicted of a felony. Further, a person subject to a no-contact order cannot violate the terms of the order, regardless of the reason for doing so. In State of Washington v. Steven Brian Yelovich, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington reiterated this standard, in holding that a person subject to a no-contact order could not use the affirmative defense of defense of property when charged with a felony violation of the order due to assault. If you are charged with a violation of a no-contact order, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss defenses available to the charges you face.
Facts of the Case
The suspect dated his alleged victim for five years. At some point thereafter, victim obtained a court order prohibiting the suspect from contacting her or causing her any physical harm. The suspect was at his son’s house moving boxes from the garage. The suspect’s car was parked in the driveway approximately four feet from the garage. The suspect thought he saw someone near his car. When the suspect checked his car, the passenger window was broken and items including his cell phone had been removed from the car. He then saw the victim walking down the street. The suspect believed the victim broke into his car and allegedly began following her with his car, regardless of the fact he was prohibited from contacting her. Shortly thereafter he exited his vehicle and reportedly assaulted the victim. The suspect was charged with felony violation of a no-contact order due to his alleged assault.
Purportedly, at trial, the suspect requested that the jury receive an instruction on defense of property due to the fact he was protecting his stolen property. The judge declined the suspect ’s request on the ground the suspect was acting offensively, and not defensively, in pursuit of his property. The jury was instructed that to find the suspect guilty of felony violation of a no-contact order they must find, in part, the suspect’s conduct constituted an assault. The jury found the suspect guilty, and he appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling, and the suspect appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington.
Ruling of the Supreme Court of The State of Washington
The suspect appealed on the issue of whether he was entitled to a jury instruction on defense of property as a defense to assault. The court declined to rule on the issue and affirmed the trial court ruling on other grounds. The court noted that violation of a no-contact order is generally a misdemeanor unless the party prohibited from contact assaults the person protected under the order. As such, assault is an essential element of a felony violation of a no-contact order. In the subject case, the suspect argued that because the prosecution must prove assault as an element of the charges against him, he was entitled to jury instructions on the affirmative defense of defense of property. The court held that this argument ignored the terms of the underlying no-contact order, which expressly prohibited the suspect from assaulting the victim and provided that a request to change the terms of the order must be made in writing. The court held, therefore, that to allow a jury instruction on the defense of property defense to assault would be akin to modifying the no-contact order. Moreover, the court noted it was the suspect’s sole responsibility to ensure he did not violate the terms of the order and did not have the authority to engage in self-help in violation of the order. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Retain a Seasoned Washington Criminal Defense Attorney
If you were charged with violation of a no-contact order, you should confer with a seasoned domestic violence defense attorney to determine what defenses are available to the charges you face and to ensure you do not waive any rights. The seasoned domestic violence defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith and White have the skills and experience needed to assist you in obtaining a favorable result. Contact our offices at 253-363-8662 or via the online form to set up a consultation.