Being charged with a crime like assault is bad enough. Being charged with domestic violence assault or any crime designated as domestic violence in Washington is horrible. You’ve got the usual penalties that are attached to any crime looming over you like jail time and fines. Plus there are other penalties that come with a domestic violence charge that may be concerning you like the extra fine, no contact order, and loss of firearm. Plus it will be on your permanent record and is very difficult to seal or expunge which may cause you problems with employment or housing. Also, there is the stigma that society places on this charge so it may feel like the whole world, including family and friends, is looking down on you.
There is another possible, if not probable, penalty of which you should be aware. If convicted, you may and probably will be court ordered to attend a domestic violence perpetrator program.
This is group therapy and counseling treatment designed with the intent to stop the cycle of domestic violence by assisting those who have been convicted of domestic violence. It’s not a light commitment; some might even describe it as arduous or strenuous. The law requires that it start with at least 26 consecutive weekly sessions and then 6 months of monthly sessions. Each session lasts 90 minutes. Notice that the regulation on weekly sessions says “at least 26” – so depending on the program that you have choose there may be more. So choose with the benefit of your defense counsel’s advice. Even if the treatment only goes with the minimum 26 weekly sessions, the whole program will last at least a year. Some programs go even further. This will be done at your expense and can cost several thousands of dollars.
There are other regulations about the domestic violence perpetrator program that you should know so as to avoid surprises. The program is required to be based on a clinical evaluation of you. So you will need to go to a domestic violence evaluation – this will also be at your expense. In addition to the domestic violence evaluation your criminal and domestic violence history will be considered. Plus you may need a substance abuse evaluation and a risk assessment. As you have probably figured, all of this will be done at your expense.
You will be required to sign release forms so that the program can inform the victim and court personnel plus get any past treatment information you may have. Their focus will be on ending the violence. To that end, they will be working on getting you to “hold yourself accountable”. If you believe you’re innocent, which may be the case even if you’re convicted, that will be a hurdle you may not want to take. The program will decide when you have finished; it won’t merely be based on attending a certain number of sessions. If they suspect any reoccurrence of violence on your part you can expect them to have policies in place to deal with that.
The best way to avoid this is to get the charges dismissed or a not guilty verdict. Other than that your defense attorney will work to get the charge amended to not include the domestic violence perpetrator’s program.
But what if you’re one who actually thinks, “Actually I think I may have a problem – these counseling sessions may be just what I need.” That’s very honorable and it would be wise to pay attention to the sessions if required to go. But two things should be considered. First notice that the regulations do not require the leader to be a psychologist and they usually are not. Plus, in every study that was concluded during this writing not one study confirmed that the methods used by the Washington domestic violence perpetrator program work. You may simply want to go to standard counseling on your own if you’re believing that you really do need help. But if required to go then you will want to discuss with your defense attorney which program would work best for you.
You need the compassionate counsel and passionate defense of a Pierce County / Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney. You get that when you hire from the law office of Smith & White, PLLC for your Seattle Tacoma domestic violence defense attorney. Call Smith & White, PLLC today – the first consult is free.