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Washington Court Weighs Evidence of Crimes of Domestic Violence

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2023 | Domestic Violence

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The Washington courts staunchly prosecute crimes involving domestic violence, including violations of domestic violence no contact orders. Thus, if a person found guilty of violating such an order has prior domestic violence convictions, it may result in an increased offender score, which in turn can lead to greater penalties. The state must offer sufficient evidence to prove a prior conviction was for a crime of domestic violence in order to justify an increased offender score, though, as discussed in a recent Washington opinion. If you are accused of committing a crime of domestic violence, it is wise to contact a Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and found guilty of violating a domestic violence no-contact order, which was graded as a felony. The trial court sentenced him to 33 months of confinement based on an offender score of five, which included a 2012 conviction for misdemeanor assault, domestic violence. The defendant appealed his judgment and sentence, arguing that the 2012 conviction should not have been included in his offender score as the state had failed to show that domestic violence had been pleaded and proved.

Allegedly, the trial court agreed with the defendant’s argument and remanded the case for resentencing. At the resentencing hearing, the state produced evidence showing that the 2012 conviction qualified for inclusion in the defendant’s offender score based on domestic violence being both pleaded and proved. As such, the trial court reinstated the defendant’s 33-month sentence, and he appealed again.

Evidence of Crimes of Domestic Violence

On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence produced at the resentencing hearing was insufficient to establish that the 2012 conviction qualified for inclusion in his offender score on the basis of domestic violence being pleaded and proved. The court reviewed this issue de novo and determined that domestic violence was adequately pleaded in the 2012 citation, which referenced a general assault provision but specified the defendant’s offense as “DV,” meaning domestic violence. The certificate of probable cause also detailed the defendant’s offense of hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face, causing bruising, which was sufficient to allege an assault against an intimate partner.

RCW 10.99.020 Defines domestic violence.  (4) “Domestic violence” includes but is not limited to any of the following crimes when committed either by (a) one family or household member against another family or household member, or (b) one intimate partner against another intimate partner.  Those are further defined as: (7) “Family or household members” means: (a) Adult persons related by blood or marriage; (b) adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past; and (c) persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.  (8) “Intimate partners” means: (a) Spouses or domestic partners; (b) former spouses or former domestic partners; (c) persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time; (d) adult persons presently or previously residing together who have or have had a dating relationship; (e) persons 16 years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship; or (f) persons 16 years of age or older with whom a person 16 years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship.  https://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=10.99.020

Therefore, the court held that the state had produced sufficient evidence to show that the 2012 citation pleaded a domestic violence offense and that domestic violence was proved. As a result, the sentencing court properly included the 2012 conviction in the defendant’s offender score and affirmed the judgment and sentence.

Talk to a Trusted Tacoma Attorney

People convicted of domestic violence offenses may face significant penalties, including lengthy prison terms. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, you should talk to an attorney about your potential defenses as soon as possible. The trusted Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can inform you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best outcome available under the circumstances. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.

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