For those facing charges for domestic violence in Washington, it is helpful to understand how such allegations are carried out in the legal system.

In Washington, domestic violence is fervently prosecuted. Moreover, multiple charges can evolve from just one incident, creating serious and lengthy consequences. As a result, it is important that the accused be supported with effective and timely legal assistance, which can help create a more favorable resolution for pending circumstances.

Under the state’s law, domestic violence is any offense carried out against a family member; a person living in the same residence as the accused; or against a person with whom one has been romantically involved. Generally, most domestic violence matters concern those involved in intimate relationships; however, the charges do apply to varied situations. The Revised Code of Washington, RCW 26.50 and RCW 10.99, specifically details what constitutes domestic relations and lays out what types of relationships are relevant under domestic violence laws. The code also examines domestic behavior that is considered criminal. For example, domestic abuse may include the following:

  • Intimidation
  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • Bodily harm
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking


Felony or misdemeanor charges may result from these actions, depending on the particular alleged crime.

After The Arrest

Once authorities arrest a person for domestic assault, the court will schedule an initial appearance wherein the prosecution will file formal charges. At this arraignment, the suspect is required to enter a not-guilty or guilty plea. In doing so, the judge will establish the conditions of release for the particular defendant. The conditions might include a protective order, mandated participation in a rehabilitative program or more. During this stage, a pretrial hearing is scheduled and the suspect may be released pursuant to the to the court’s conditions. However, if the suspect admits to the crime, the defendant may be sent into custody before sentencing.

Protective orders prohibiting contact are frequently handed out by the court in an effort to protect an alleged victim in a pending domestic violence matter. A suspect must abide by the parameters of the order – even if the criminal allegation is false or the victim desires contact. Furthermore, the victim does not have the power to remove a protective order. Adherence is essential. In fact, if either party violates the order, subsequent charges may be initiated.

At the pretrial stage, the defendant and attorneys will examine the current charges and any developments in the matter. The parties have the chance to amend charges, change the plea and potentially resolve the matter. However, if the case is not settled, it will proceed to the litigation stage. During trial, both parties may submit evidence before a jury or the judge.

The enacted laws in Washington favor victims of domestic violence. As a result, prosecutors tend to take advantage of the code, and often secure convictions to the maximum extent. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it helps to have legal support. A criminal defense attorney can deal with the procedural matters of your case and prepare a solid response or defense to any criminal allegations filed against you.

Keywords: domestic violence, assault, stalking, Washington, RCW 26.50, RCW 10.99

Green Ritchie & Bogar, PLLC