In many instances in which a person is accused of engaging in acts of domestic violence, a court will issue a protective order barring the person from contacting the alleged victim. While a violation of a protective order may constitute a crime, if the terms of the order are unclear, it may not be understandable. In a recent Washington case, an appellate court discussed what terms in a protective order are sufficient to apprise a defendant of his or her limitations and what constitutes adequate evidence of a violation. If you are a Washington resident faced with charges of violating a protective order, you should confer with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your possible defenses.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant drove his girlfriend to the home of her granddaughter. The granddaughter had a valid protective order in place against the defendant, however, that required the defendant to “stay away” from the granddaughter and her home. After the defendant dropped off his girlfriend, he was arrested for violating the protective order and charged with multiple felony domestic offenses due to his prior criminal history.
Allegedly, the defendant pleaded guilty to certain charges but proceeded to trial on the charge regarding the violation of the anti-harassment provision of the protective order, arguing that the language of the order requiring him to “stay away” was vague. The trial court disagreed, finding that the language was understandable, and convicted the defendant. The defendant then appealed, arguing the State’s evidence was insufficient to obtain a conviction.
Sufficiency of Evidence to Demonstrate a Violation of a Protective Order
Under Washington law, it is a crime to violate a protective order that bars a person from entering the home of the person protected under the order, including protective orders that are anti-harassment orders. A protective order does not need to include the protected person’s address to be sufficiently specific. Rather, a home or residence is defined as the place where a person normally lives. Thus, to find that a person violated a protective order dictating that the person must stay away from the protected party’s home, the judge or jury only needs to find that the defendant knew that the protected party lived at a certain location and traveled to that location regardless. It is not necessary for the State to establish the defendant had actual contact with the protected party to obtain a conviction.
In the subject case, the court found that the evidence produced at trial was sufficient to show that the defendant knew the granddaughter lived at the residence he drove his girlfriend to prior to traveling there. Further, the court was not persuaded by the defendant’s assertion that the provision requiring him to “stay away” was vague, finding that it was an obvious phrase that anyone could understand and abide by. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.
Meet with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney
A conviction for violating a protective order can greatly impair a person’s rights, and if you are accused of committing such an offense, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The skilled Washington domestic violence defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White are proficient at aiding criminal defendants in the pursuit of favorable outcomes and we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. We can be reached via our form online or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.