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RCW 10.99

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

RCW 10.99 criminalizes domestic violence. Domestic violence includes any of certain specified crimes when they are perpetrated by one family or household member against another family or household member. Domestic violence can also be perpetrated by one intimate partner against another intimate partner. Family or household members may include spouses, ex-spouses, parents of a child in common, blood relatives, relatives by marriage, and people in past or present dating relationships.

Crimes that may be classified as domestic violence based on the household, familial, or dating relationship between the perpetrator and the victim include rape in the first or second degree; assault in the first, second, third, or fourth degree; reckless endangerment; drive by shootings; coercion; malicious mischief in the first, second, or third degree; stalking; kidnapping in the first or second degree; unlawful imprisonment; criminal trespass in the first or second degree; residential burglary; burglary in the first or second degree; violation of a protection, no contact, or restraining order; and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

When a peace officer responds to a domestic violence situation, they have a duty to enforce the law and provide protection for the complaining party. If an officer responds to a domestic violence call and has probable cause to believe that a crime has been perpetrated, they should make an arrest. They should also let the victim know that they are entitled to initiate a criminal proceeding in any case in which the officer has not used arrest powers or decided to cite the perpetrator.

2. Examples

Many different situations can give rise to domestic violence charges. For instance, if you kick your ex-wife, you may face domestic violence charges. Similarly, if you stalk your ex-boyfriend, you could be charged with domestic violence. The prosecutor will need to show that there is the requisite relationship between the defendant and the victim and will also need to prove the elements of the underlying offense.

3. Related Offenses

In some cases, the requisite relationship cannot be established, but the underlying offense can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, it may be possible to argue that there was no intimate relationship, even though there was assault. In that case, you might face assault charges, but not domestic violence assault charges. Another related offense would be a violation of a restraining order; this could be charged if, in committing domestic violence, you violated a restraining order based on a prior conviction. If you used a gun in carrying out domestic violence, there may be gun crimes that the prosecution could charge on top of the domestic violence charges.

4. Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

Defenses may include a failure to establish the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, issues of credibility, and justifiable force. For instance, questioning credibility may be appropriate when the accuser has a history of making false statements. It could also be appropriate if there is no evidence related to a physical injury that would support a domestic violence charge. Sometimes the use of force is justified under Washington law because it is used in self-defense or defense of another person. The use of force needs to be reasonable and must be necessary to prevent or try to prevent a threatened offense.

In other cases, it may be possible to argue that the domestic violence was accidental. We may be able to point to evidence of a good relationship and the victim’s refusal to testify against you as part of your defense.

5. Penalties

In Washington, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony in connection with domestic violence charges. Prosecutors pursue some domestic violence charges, such as harassment or malicious mischief in the third degree, as gross misdemeanors. If convicted, you could face a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Domestic violence may be charged as a felony when the underlying crime is malicious mischief in the first or second degree, or assault in the first, second, or third degree, among other serious underlying offenses. The Washington State Sentencing Guidelines will govern the penalties for felony charges.

6. Criminal Defense for Domestic Violence Cases

At Smith & White, PLLC, our Tacoma domestic violence lawyers provide a strong defense to charges brought under RCW 10.99. We answer our phones 24/7 and provide free legal advice so that you can consider your path forward. Flexible payment options are available. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form.

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