You’ve decided to end the abuse you have suffered for too many years. You have a safe place to go and you’re talking to domestic violence activists and friends who are helping you make a new start. However, you can’t begin to start over until you know that your abuser won’t come after you in the future—and that they won’t attempt to do the same thing to someone else.
Is What Happened to Me Classified as Domestic Violence?
Before you can file charges against an abuser, you should know how Washington State law defines domestic violence. A criminal act can be easier to prove, as they usually begin with an arrest after a violent act on one household member by another. However, misdemeanor domestic violence offenses can take many forms, such as assault, harassment, reckless endangerment, intimidation with a weapon, or property destruction.
What Happens When I Press Charges After a Domestic Abuse Attack?
The process may vary slightly depending on the facts of your case, but here is a short overview of the arrest, charging, and court appearance requirements of the abuser:
- Arrest – A police officer who responds to a domestic violence call is required to make an arrest if he has probable cause to believe that assault or another violent act offense has been committed within the previous four hours. If no arrest is made, the police officer must still complete a police report, which will be reviewed by the City Attorney's Office in order to determine whether charges can be filed.
- Holding – If the abuser is arrested, he or she will usually be held in jail until the next day or until he or she can appear before a judge. If the person is charged with domestic violence, the court may require the abuser to sign a No Contact Order (NCO) before they can be released from jail.
- Waiting for trial – Under the provisions of a NCO, abusers are prohibited from making any contact with the victim, either by phone, in person, in writing, or through a third party. The abuser is also prevented from visiting the victim's residence, school, or workplace until the trial is complete. Violation of a NCO will be treated as a separate misdemeanor offense, while violation with assault carries additional criminal charges.
- Charges – Misdemeanor domestic violence offenses in Seattle are punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony charges of domestic violence include jail time of over one year and additional fines. In addition to the violent act, the defendant may also be charged with the offense of interfering with a report of domestic violence. If the judge rules that the abuser attempted to prevent the victim—or any witness—from calling 911, making contact with a law enforcement agency, or seeking medical attention after an attack, he may face an additional 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The easiest way to know how to proceed is to get the advice of a domestic abuse attorney who has helped victims like you escape from abusive partners. Click the link at the top of this page to let us know how we may contact you privately, or click the related link on this page to find out how to get to a safe location in your area.