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Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

Criminal Lawyers Based in the Tacoma Area

In Washington, domestic violence can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Felonies are usually filed in superior court, and misdemeanors are usually filed in district or municipal court. While misdemeanor domestic violence is less serious than felony domestic violence in Washington, it can still have significant consequences, and it is important to secure a knowledgeable attorney for this charge. At Smith & White, our Tacoma domestic violence attorneys may be able to represent you if you are charged with misdemeanor domestic violence.

Types of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

Domestic violence occurs when a crime is perpetrated by someone against his or her family or household member. Family or household members include spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, former domestic partners, people with a child in common even if they are not currently married or have not been married or never lived together at any point, people who are at least 16 who are presently living together or who have lived together in the past, or people who are at least 16 and have had a dating relationship.

Misdemeanor domestic violence can include simple assault domestic violence, assault in the fourth degree domestic violence, interfering with reporting a crime of domestic violence, violations of a no contact order, third-degree domestic violence malicious mischief, and harassment. If you are convicted of these misdemeanors, you can be penalized with up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

You can be found guilty of assault in the fourth degree when, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the third, second, or first degree or custodial assault, you assault another person. This is charged as a gross misdemeanor. However, assault in the fourth degree can instead be charged as a class C felony if you have two or more prior adult convictions within the last 10 years for certain offenses if it is domestic violence as defined under RCW 9.94A.030, if the domestic violence is repetitive, and under other circumstances.

Steps After an Arrest for Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

After you have been arrested for domestic violence, the court can schedule an arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be required to plead guilty or not guilty. It is best to have legal representation from an experienced attorney for the arraignment. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea agreement for you. The judge will determine any conditions of release at the arraignment. The court may also issue a no-contact order to protect the alleged victim, and it is critical that you abide by that order, even if you are charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. The victim cannot voluntarily reverse the no-contact order, and if you violate a protection order, even on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you can be charged with another domestic violence offense.


When drugs or alcohol is involved in a misdemeanor domestic violence episode, you may be required to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation. It can be wise to obtain one of these on your own, but it is important to consult an attorney about whether this is the appropriate step in your circumstances. Sometimes courts are willing to convert jail time and fines to community service at a nonprofit organization within the state. The court will require proof that the community service hours were completed. In addition to jail time and fines, you may need to go to a domestic violence batterer’s treatment program, which is a 12-month program governed by state guidelines.

Get Assistance from a Knowledgeable Tacoma Lawyer

If you are charged with misdemeanor domestic violence in Washington, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to help explore your options and protect your rights. While you may not feel that a misdemeanor is a substantial charge, it can have significant consequences. The Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, represents people in Tacoma and elsewhere in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties. Call us at 253-363-8662 or complete our online form.