Domestic Violence Treatment and Criminal Law

Domestic Violence Treatment: A Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective.

As criminal defense lawyers, we are very familiar with the intimate details of Domestic Violence Treatment.  Domestic Violence Programs are state sanctioned programs under the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 388-60).  These programs are extensive and should not be entered without being prepared for what is involved.  Below are some highlights of what is involved and it is not a substitute for a lengthy discussion with a criminal defense lawyer.  Once you start your program, it is very hard to change providers no matter how unreasonable or strong your personality conflict is with the treatment provider (We have heard of treatment providers flunking students who attended class but did not pass the “provider’s” assessment). It is imperative that you speak with a lawyer who is familiar with the different treatment agencies and there various predispositions because whomever is in charge of you, your assessment and follow-up treatment has a lot of control and will write a report on you that goes to your probation officer and the court.


What information must the domestic violence treatment program collect and discuss with the client during the intake process or assessment interview?  Treatment programs must conduct an individual, complete clinical intake and assessment interview with each perpetrator who has been accepted into the treatment program. The program staff must meet face-to-face with the program participant to conduct this intake and interview.  During the intake interview, program staff must obtain the following information, at a minimum:

(a) Current and past violence history;

(b) A complete diagnostic evaluation;

(c) A substance abuse screening;

(d) History of treatment from past domestic violence perpetrator treatment programs;

(e) History of threats of homicide or suicide;

(f) History of ideation of homicide or suicide;

(g) History of stalking;

(h) Data to develop a lethality risk assessment;

(i) Possession of, access to, plans to obtain, or a history of use of weapons;

(j) Degree of obsessiveness and dependency on the perpetrator’s victim;

(k) History of episodes of rage;

(l) History of depression and other mental health problems;

(m) History of having sexually abused the battered victim or others;

(n) History of the perpetrator’s domestic violence victimization and/or sexual abuse victimization;

(o) Access to the battered victim;

(p) Criminal history and law enforcement incident reports;

(q) Reports of abuse of children, elderly persons, or animals;

(r) Assessment of cultural issues;

(s) Assessment of learning disabilities, literacy, and special language needs; and

(t) Review of other diagnostic evaluations of the participant.


The contract between each participant and the domestic violence treatment program must include the following elements:

A statement regarding the treatment program’s philosophy that:

(a) The victim may not be blamed for the participant’s abuse;

(b) The perpetrator must stop all forms of abuse;

(c) An abuser is to be held accountable for the abusers actions; and

(d) The program’s primary concern is for the safety of victims.

A statement requiring the participant to:

(a) Cooperate with all program rules;

(b) Stop violent and threatening behaviors;

(c) Be nonabusive and noncontrolling in relationships;

(d) Develop and adhere to a responsibility plan;

(e) Comply with all court orders;

(f) Cooperate with the rules for group participation; and

(g) Sign all required releases of information.

A policy on attendance and consequences for inadequate attendance;

A requirement that the perpetrator must actively participate in treatment, including sharing personal experiences, values, and attitudes, as well as completing all group activities and assignments;


All participants in domestic violence treatment must attend consecutive, weekly group treatment sessions.  The program must assign each participant to a home group and the participant must be required to attend the same scheduled group each week. The program’s director must authorize any exceptions to this requirement and document the reason for the exception.  The group size is limited to a maximum of twelve participants, and a minimum of two participants.  Group sessions must be at least ninety minutes in length.  Group sessions must be closed to all persons other than participants, group facilitators, and others specifically invited by the group leaders; your criminal defense lawyer cannot be involved in this process.

What is the minimum treatment period for program participants?

The minimum treatment period is the time required for the participant to fulfill all conditions of treatment set by the treatment program. Satisfactory completion of treatment is not based solely on a perpetrator participating in the treatment program for a certain period of time or attending a certain number of sessions.

The program must require participants to attend treatment and satisfy all treatment program requirements for at least twelve consecutive months.

The program must require the participant to attend:

(a) A minimum of twenty-six consecutive weekly same gender group sessions, followed by:

(b) Monthly sessions with the treatment provider until the twelve-month period is complete. These sessions must be conducted face-to-face with the participant by program staff who meet the minimum qualifications set forth in this chapter.

What criteria must be satisfied for completion of treatment?

A treatment program must have written criteria for satisfactory completion of treatment.  A program must require a participant to meet all of the following conditions in order for the program to state that the participant has completed treatment:

(a) Attend treatment sessions for the minimum treatment period;

(b) Attend all other sessions required by the program;

(c) Cooperate with all group rules and program requirements throughout the duration of treatment services;

(d) Stop the use of all violent acts or threats of violence;

(e) Stop using abusive and controlling behavior;

(f) Adhere to the participant’s responsibility plan;

(g) Comply with court orders; and

(h) Comply with other conditions of the contract for treatment services, such as chemical dependency treatment.

Most courts will not allow contact between the victim and the perpetrator until the initial first stage of the program is done: about 3 months. 

The criminal defense lawyers in our office have handled an enormous number of complicated relationship problems in the civil and criminal forum over the course of their lengthy careers in criminal law. We possess a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge and temperament. Our lawyers know criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports and our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who will make sure their rights are protected. Whether our role is legal counsel, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience fighting and resolving these kinds of cases with the client’s best interest in mind.

Robert Rhodes

With a successful background in law, courtrooms, wrestling, rugby and jujitsu, Robert Rhodes’s nature is well-suited for argument and litigation. Mr. Rhodes knows how to talk clearly and directly to his clients, adversaries and to the Court. His common sense, straight talk and experience put his clients immediately at ease. Mr. Rhodes does not do anything half way and you will sense this when you meet him. Read more >>