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Washington Court Discusses Violations a No-Contact Order

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Domestic Violence

It is not uncommon for the Washington courts to issue no-contact orders, preventing people from interacting with their victims. If a person subject to a no-contact order subsequently violates its terms, they may be charged with a crime.  They can also have their bail increased on any pending matters or be given jail time on any probationary cases.  As discussed in a recent Washington opinion, though, the State must prove the defendant had knowledge of a no-contact order and intended to violate the order in order to obtain a conviction. If you are accused of violating the terms of a no-contact order or any other domestic violence offense, it is wise to speak to a Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Factual Background and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that the victim procured a no-contact order prohibiting the defendant from contacting her. Subsequently, the defendant faced charges for violating this order. The victim testified that she heard knocking on her bedroom window and saw the defendant outside, after which she called the police. Additionally, she received text messages from someone identified as “Efrain Sanchez,” expressing hostility towards her.

Reportedly, during the trial, the State emphasized the knowledge requirement for violating a no-contact order, stating that the defendant needed to know he was violating the order but not necessarily know its specific provisions. The jury convicted the defendant as charged, and he was sentenced to 60 months of incarceration, along with an extended no-contact provision. The defendant appealed his conviction.

The Knowledge Requirement for Violating a No-Contact Order

The court reviewed whether the defendant’s conviction was valid, focusing on two key aspects: the knowledge requirement for violating a no-contact order and allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Regarding the knowledge requirement, the court clarified that a defendant must know of the non-contact order’s existence and intend to violate it rather than necessarily know its specific provisions. The court cited previous prior cases and statutes in support of this interpretation, emphasizing that the defendant’s awareness of the order’s existence and intent to violate it constitute the knowledge necessary to commit the subject crime.

Regarding the prosecutorial misconduct allegations, however, the court found that the State improperly stated the law, misleading the jury about the burden of proof. Specifically, the prosecutor’s remarks suggested that proving the defendant’s knowledge of the order was sufficient, neglecting to explain the requirement to prove his intent to violate it. The court determined that this misstatement could have influenced the jury’s verdict, violating the defendant’s rights. Consequently, the court reversed the conviction based on prosecutorial misconduct.

Speak to a Trusted Tacoma Attorney

A conviction for a violation of a no-contact order can result in significant penalties, including jail time. If you are charged with such an offense or any other domestic violence crime, it is imperative to speak to an attorney about your options. The trusted Tacoma domestic violence crime defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can assess the facts of your case and aid you in seeking the best legal result possible. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 253-203-1645 to set up a meeting.