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RCW 26.50.010(3) - Domestic Violence

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

RCW 26.50.010(3) defines domestic violence as one of the following crimes: assault, bodily injury, physical harm (or inflicting a fear of imminent assault, bodily injury, or physical harm), sexual assault, or stalking of an intimate partner by another intimate partner. It can also include these actions when one family or household member perpetrates them against another family or household member.

In Washington, an intimate partner is a spouse, domestic partner, ex-spouse, former domestic partner, someone with whom there is a child in common, people previously or currently living together while dating, or people at least 16 years old with whom the victim had a dating relationship while 16 or older. Family or household members include adults living together currently or in the past, people with a legal or biological parent-child relationship, blood relatives, or relatives by marriage.

2. Examples

Many forms of intimate or familial violence are penalized. For instance, you could be guilty of stalking if you intentionally and repeatedly harassed or followed another person without lawful authority and under circumstances that did not constitute a felony attempt of another crime, and the intimate partner or family or household member being harassed or followed feared that you were intending to injure them or other property. Generally, the feeling of fear needs to be of a sort that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all circumstances, and the prosecutor must also show that you intended to harass, intimidate, or frighten the other person.

Alternatively, the prosecutor could show that you should reasonably have known that the victim was harassed, intimidated, or afraid, even if you did not mean to cause fear. For example, if you followed your stepmother while brandishing a knife, you could be charged with domestic violence. Similarly, if you lived with your elderly grandfather and hit him in frustration, you could be charged with domestic violence assault.

3. Related Offenses

You may face various charges related to domestic violence. For instance, if you assaulted not only your estranged spouse but also her new boyfriend, you might face additional assault charges. Sometimes firearms charges are brought. For instance, if you used a gun to assault your ex-spouse, even though you were under a restraining order that forbade you from going near your ex or possessing guns, you could face charges for firearms possession and violation of a restraining order.

4. Defenses

The circumstances will dictate what would constitute a strong defense. In some cases, it is possible to raise a reasonable doubt about an element of the crime. In other cases, it might be appropriate to argue defense of another person or self-defense. For instance, if you pushed your husband to defend your daughter against his repeatedly striking her, you may be able to assert defense of another person.

5. Penalties

Often, domestic violence is charged as a gross misdemeanor. For instance, if you are charged with stalking a family member, you might face gross misdemeanor charges. However, if you were previously convicted of a crime of harassment of the same victim or members of that person’s family or someone specifically named in a protective order, you could be found guilty of a class B felony. The sentence for a class B felony could involve a prison term of up to 10 years, along with a fine of a maximum of $20,000.

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 26.50.010(3) and answer our phones 24/7. We can advise you on your options so that you can consider your path forward. Legal representation with financing is available so that cost does not need to be a concern. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form to discuss your case with our attorneys and start taking the first steps toward protecting your rights and liberties.

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