A Criminal Defense Attorney | Lawyer’s View on the Law’s Definition of Domestic Violence vs. Explanation.
The law and lawyers are good at creating definitions but these definitions often fall short of an explanation. Good criminal defense attorneys | lawyers know that taking the time to help their clients understand what the law means assures better results, a better experience of justice with less stress. A crucial step in defending someone charged with a domestic violence case is helping them understand what this “label” means vs. implies. First: “Domestic Violence” is just a label that can be added to almost any crime by the prosecuting attorney or arresting police officer.
A roommate dispute problem is different than an argument between parents over a 16-year-old child‘s behavioral issues. Behavioral problems with an autistic child are different than a parent with a substance abuse issue. False accusation dynamics are different than a single incident of violence driven by stress. Sister and brother or familial disputes are different than mental health problems. Same sex partner issues are different than baby momma drama. Though we instinctually know this, the prosecuting attorney will add the label “domestic violence” to all these cases as they fit within the definition of domestic violence because of the nature of the relationship between the parties. It is essential that your criminal defense lawyer be able to credibly distinguish the characteristics of your charge and relationship problems to the court, prosecutors, and judges to assure your case is handled correctly.
In a Washington State Court, whether in City, County or State Court, the legal definition of domestic violence (often shorted to “DV”) is used to determine whether a crime should carry a domestic violence label. Traditionally, domestic violence is thought of as spousal violence perpetrated by a male on a female for the purposes of establishing power and control over that woman; however, legally, the definition of “domestic violence” has grown to include a variety of relationships that do not fit this common perception. Good criminal defense lawyers | attorneys know this. The headache for many clients is that a DV case or charge can be filed by the prosecuting attorney if the alleged misconduct includes ANYONE with whom you have had a prior relationship. Living with the individual is not a prerequisite to this charge. The definition of domestic violence can be as broad as frat brothers living in the same house together.
Today, from a criminal defense lawyer’s perspective, the domestic violence “label” should really be, “This case involved allegations of problems at the, in the, or around the home” but the court, lawyers and legal system continue to use “domestic violence” as a shorthand label. Unfortunately, with this label comes automatic charging (Link to NO Contact Order Section) and sentencing (Link to DV Criminal Convictions Page) consequences that do not necessarily apply to every situation. The dynamics and underlying problems of “Problems at the Home” are wide and varied, while the dynamics and underlying problem associated with traditional “domestic violence” cases are clear. Criminal labels and convictions stay around a long time, so make sure you understand what is going on and use an attorney who takes the time to explain things to you and fights for the best result.
So what kinds of relationships are included in Washington’s definition of domestic violence?
Answer: almost any criminal charge involving conflict between:
- Former spouses
- People who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time.
- Adults related by blood or marriage (spouses, siblings or children).
- Adults who presently reside together (roommates, partners, dorm mates).
- Adults who have resided together in the past (ex-roommates or ex-partners, ex dorm mate).
- People who are sixteen or older and who presently reside together and have had a dating relationship or are presently in one.
- People who are sixteen or older and who have resided together and have had a dating relationship.
- Biological child, stepparent, stepchild, grandparents, grandchildren (Parents and/or children).
Our firm has a unique blend of courtroom experience, skills, knowledge and temperament. Our team has handled an enormous number of simple and complex personal problems in the criminal and civil system. We know how to frame the issues and speak knowledgeably and effectively to clients, judges, prosecutors and juries. Our lawyers know that criminal cases are rarely as simple as police reports and our clients retain us early on in the process to make sure their rights are protected.
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