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Court Discusses Limitations of Washington Domestic Violence No Contact Orders

In Washington, in any case in which a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence crime, in addition to imposing a sentence and fines on the defendant, the court may issue a domestic violence no-contact order (DVNCO). While Washington courts are permitted to enter a DVNCO, their authority in defining the duration and terms of the DVNCO are limited by statute and case law, as recently explained by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident and are currently facing charges of a crime of domestic violence it is essential to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your rights and protections afforded by the law.

Procedural and Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with domestic violence assault and malicious mischief of the alleged victim. Following a  jury trial, the defendant was convicted as charged. The trial court then entered a felony judgment and sentence of twenty-nine months imprisonment for the assault conviction. The court also sentenced the defendant to 364 days confinement for the malicious mischief conviction, which was a gross misdemeanor, to run consecutively with the felony sentence, but suspended 244 days of the sentence.

It is alleged that the court then issued a DVNCO stating that the defendant was prohibited from contacting the victim for ten years. The defendant appealed the DVNCO with regards to the malicious mischief conviction, arguing that the DVNCO must be limited to the length of the suspended sentence. The appellate court agreed and remanded the case for a separate DVNCO for the malicious mischief conviction.

Limits of Domestic Violence No Contact Orders

Under Washington law, if a person is convicted of a gross misdemeanor the maximum imprisonment, he or she may face is 364 days. The court can suspend the sentence for the duration it sees fit, but not for longer than the maximum term of the sentence or two years. When a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence crime, RCW 10.99.050 permits the court to issue a no-contact order that restricts the defendant’s ability to contact the victim. The Washington Supreme Court has held, however, that a DVNCO issued pursuant to RCW 10.99.050 must be limited in duration to the length of the underlying suspended sentence.

In the subject case, the court imposed a sentence of 364 days for the malicious mischief conviction, and suspended 244 days of the sentence, but did not state how long the judgment and sentence were to remain in effect. Thus, the 10-year period for which the DVNCO was imposed exceeded the duration of the suspended sentence. Therefore, the court remanded so that the trial court could correct the DVNCO or issue a separate order for the malicious mischief charge.

Speak with a Seasoned Attorney About Your Case

Simply because you are charged with or convicted of a crime of domestic violence it does not mean you no longer have any rights under the law. If you are a resident of Washington and are charged with assault or any other domestic violence crime it is prudent to speak with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your rights and your options for trying to avoid a conviction.  The experienced attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you seek the best result available under the circumstances. You can contact us via the online form or at 253-203-1645 to set up a confidential and free consultation regarding your case.



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