What a Domestic Violence Designation Means in Pierce County / Tacoma

Have you been charged with assault or a related crime? Is there a domestic violence designation attached? You’re living in a nightmare. You’re worried about the potential jail time, and the fine, and any other consequences. Plus you may already be feeling the stigma that is placed by many, sometimes even friends and relatives, upon those accused of a domestic violence crime. Plus it probably all started with an already emotionally charged situation and this has only made it worse – far worse.

As you may not have known previously domestic violence is not a crime in and of itself. It is a designation placed on top of a criminal charge such as assault. The prosecutor can try to add this designation to any misdemeanor or felony.  There are some arguments that can be made against this as the law addresses which cases can be designated domestic violence.  As you probably will consider obvious a domestic violence designation will generally only be added to a violent crime charge such as assault although it can be added to such simple charges as theft.

The designation of domestic violence simply depends on your relationship to the alleged victim – it means that you are accused of committing the crime against a family or household member. This covers many possible people: spouses, children or stepchildren, former spouses, someone you share a child with, someone you have or have had a domestic relationship with, grandparents, parents or stepparents, any relative actually, persons you have had a dating relationship with and even roommates or former roommates. Basically, if it is believed that you committed a crime with anyone you have or had a relational, intimate or living situation with it will likely be designated as domestic violence. The fact that it’s not a separate charge can actually work in your favor. If the criminal charge can be dismissed, reduced or get a not guilty verdict then the domestic violence designation goes away also.

As mentioned, any crime can be designated as domestic violence. In Washington there are three categories of crimes. Misdemeanors have a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. Gross misdemeanors can carry up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine. Felonies are grouped into classes based upon the severity of the crime and penalties range from 5 years to life in prison and fines of $10,000 and up. As domestic violence will be attached to violent crimes like assault it is likely that you are facing a gross misdemeanor or felony charge.

Besides these penalties you could also be facing mandatory domestic violence evaluations and domestic violence classes. You will probably be facing a no contact order even from the very beginning of the case. If convicted there will be an extra $100 fee added to the already existing fine. Plus a domestic violence conviction can make it very difficult to keep or find a job.

Three of the most common criminal charges that domestic violence gets added onto are assault, harassment, and malicious mischief.  Assault is charged when it is believed you intentionally caused bodily harm to another. This can be anything pushing/shoving (4th degree) to causing a permanent injury (1st degree). The prosecution has to prove that you intended the harm – if you didn’t and it was an accident then it’s a tragedy but not a crime. That’s just one possible defense.

Harassment is when you threaten or intimidate. There is again the burden of proof of intent and also that the other person reasonably felt threatened. Was the other person continuing the communication with no sign that they felt this way? That’s one possible defense.

Malicious mischief is when you intentionally destroy the property of another. Notice again that the prosecution will have to prove intent; the defense will show how they didn’t. Or was it perhaps something you owned that got destroyed and the other person is just saying it is theirs? Those are two possible defense options.

So, as you can see, there are many crimes that can additionally be designated as domestic violence but there are defense options. You need the compassionate counsel and passionate defense of a  Pierce County/Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney. You will get both of these when you hire from the law office of Smith and White, PLLC for your domestic violence defense attorney.

Please call Smith & White – the first consult is free.

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