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Programs and Services

Domestic Violence

If Someone Is Hurting You At Home, There are Laws to Protect You

Domestic Violence Resources
What is Domestic Violence?
Interfering with Reporting Domestic Violence
Mandatory Arrest
Domestic Violence Links and Resources

No Contact Orders
Pressing or Dropping Charges
Domestic Violence Victim Advocates
Civil Protection Orders
Probation Supervision and Counseling

What is Domestic Violence?

Washington State law defines domestic violence offenses as virtually any criminal act committed by one "family or household member" against another. Seattle Municipal Court hears misdemeanor domestic violence offenses including: assault, property destruction, harassment and telephone harassment, intimidation with a weapon, reckless endangerment and violation of no contact or domestic violence protection orders. Felony domestic violence offenses, such as a No Contact Order violation involving an assault, a third violation of a No Contact Order, assault with a deadly weapon, or even murder, are heard in Superior Court. A "family or household member" includes persons who are now or have been married or resided together, who have been or are presently in a dating relationship so long as both parties are at least sixteen years of age, and persons who have a child in common. In addition, parent-child and step-parent, step-child relationships, grandparent-grandchild (including step-grandparents) and siblings come within the definition of a "family or household" relationship.

Domestic violence offenses in Seattle Municipal Court are either misdemeanors, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, or gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony domestic violence offenses are punishable by more than one year in jail.

A person who has been convicted of a domestic violence assault cannot possess a firearm or get a concealed weapons permit in the State of Washington. Violation of this provision is a felony.

Interfering with Reporting Domestic Violence

A person who commits a domestic violence offense may be charged with a separate crime of interfering with the reporting of domestic violence if that person prevents or attempts to prevent a victim or witness from calling 911, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.

Interfering with reporting is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Mandatory Arrest

The law requires a police officer responding to an incident of domestic violence to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence assault or other serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours.

If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor. State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.

A person arrested for a domestic violence offense will usually be held in jail until he/she appears before a judge, usually the following day. The Court may require a defendant charged with domestic violence to sign a No Contact Order as a condition for release from jail prior to trial.

Prior to arraigning domestic violence defendants, Court probation counselors attempt to contact victims to determine whether they wish a No Contact Order to be issued. Probation staff in the jail can also determine whether or not a defendant has been released from jail. Victims may contact the probation counselors by telephone at (206) 386-1543.

No Contact Orders

A No Contact Order (NCO) prohibits the defendant from contacting the victim in person, by phone, through writing or through a third party at the victim's residence, work place or school. The NCO remains in effect while the case is pending. A No Contact Order with a duration of up to two years may be issued as a condition of sentence following conviction or as a condition of an agreed disposition. A No Contact Order issued by a judge is valid and enforceable even if it is not signed by the defendant.

After a No Contact Order has been issued, only the Court has the authority to lift the order. To petition the Court to consider canceling an NCO, the victim must contact the Seattle City Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit.

Violation of a No Contact Order which does not involve an assault is a separate gross misdemeanor offense. A No Contact Order violation which does involve an assault or reckless endangerment may be filed as a felony offense. A third conviction for violation of a No Contact Order may also be filed as a felony offense.

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Pressing or Dropping Charges

A police officer responding to a domestic violence incident must complete a police report whether or not an arrest occurs. The City Attorney's Office will review the police report to determine whether or not to file charges. If charges are filed, only the prosecutor has the authority to drop them. A judge must approve the prosecutor's request to dismiss a case. The victim is a witness for the City and has no authority to drop charges. In many cases, the City will prosecute a case even if the victim refuses to testify.

The City Attorney's Office may choose not to file charges. In that event, the victim will be notified of that decision.

Domestic Violence Victim Advocates

The Seattle City Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit provides Domestic Violence Victim Advocates to assist domestic violence victims during the process of a domestic violence case through Seattle Municipal Court. Victim Advocates may contact victims by letter or telephone to gather additional information about the incident or to explain the victim's options. Victim Advocates will explain the court process, often appearing with the victim at court proceedings.

Victim Advocates may be reached at (206) 684-7770.

Civil Protection Orders

Domestic violence victims may file a court petition for a Civil Protection Order. A protection order does not involve the police or criminal charges. If granted, a Civil Protection Order can:

  • Prohibit contact of any kind
  • Remove the abuser from a shared residence
  • Grant temporary custody of children and set visitation schedules
  • Order the abuser into treatment/counseling
  • The order can be tailored to meet individual needs.

The Seattle Municipal Court does not accept petitions for Civil Protection Orders. Petitions can be filed at King County Superior Court, or other Superior or District courts in Washington State. The Court's location is:

King County Superior Court
516 Third Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

Forms for protection orders can be obtained at:
Superior Court Clerk's Office
Room 378-W (3rd Floor)
(206) 296-7870

Protection Order Advocacy Program
Room E-223
(206) 296-9547
(Advocates will explain the process, provide assistance with completing forms, and accompany the applicant to the court process.)

Probation Supervision and Counseling

Defendants who are convicted of domestic violence offenses are usually placed on supervised probation for two years. The Seattle Municipal Court Probation Department has a specialized Domestic Violence Unit. Probation counselors monitor the completion of court ordered treatment programs or counseling. Defendants must report monthly, in person, to Probation until compliance with treatment is well established.

Most defendants are court ordered to complete a one year specialized, State certified domestic violence treatment program. Treatment programs are offered by several different agencies but all have similar elements. The programs all begin with a thorough intake evaluation of the defendant, including contact between the treatment agency and the victim. The intake is followed by 26 weeks of weekly group meetings. The second six months of treatment consists of monthly group or individual meetings. Defendants must meet specified exit criteria before being discharged from treatment. Defendants must pay for treatment.

In addition to or instead of domestic violence treatment, the judge may order alcohol/drug counseling, parenting classes or sexual deviancy treatment.

The Probation Domestic Violence Unit is located at:
Seattle Justice Center
8th Floor
600 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 684-7840

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