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The Steep Consequences of Washington's Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence

Posted by James Curtis | Jun 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

In Washington, criminal charges that include a domestic violence element to them are treated differently than an identical offense that was alleged to have been done to someone outside of the family or household. One of those differences is that by law, police are required to make an arrest at the scene.

The consequences of that arrest, and the incredibly low standard that it takes for police to make it, are disconcerting.

The criminal defense lawyers at The Curtis Firm explain.

Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence Calls in Washington

Crimes of domestic violence are treated differently because, in theory, the accused and the accuser are so intimately connected to one another that they are unable to completely separate and avoid interacting with each other. Therefore, the law takes it upon itself to make sure this separation occurs, at least for long enough for passions to cool and violence circumvented.

This interest in preventing future harm has led to Washington's law that mandates police make an arrest whenever they are called to a scene of alleged domestic violence. Wash. Rev. Code § 10.99.030(6)(a) states that an officer responding to a domestic violence call “shall exercise arrest powers” if they have “probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.” Even if they do not respond to the scene until up to four hours have passed, this requirement still stands.

Probable Cause: A Low Barrier for Police to Overcome

Because all that police need in order to justify an arrest when they respond to a domestic violence call is probable cause, even the flimsiest and unreliable evidence of a crime is enough. In fact, most mandatory domestic violence arrests come as soon as police hear the purported victim claim that they were hit – corroborating evidence like a laceration or bruise are not needed.

Consequences Go Beyond Embarrassment of an Arrest

The consequences of the mandatory arrest law in Washington are not trivial. Being arrested is scary and embarrassing, especially if it happened in a public place where there are lots of onlookers. However, it can also impact your freedom over the short term, like preventing you from getting to work or school.

Worse, the arrest will produce an arrest report. This report produces paperwork that seeks to justify the arrest and is often used as evidence if criminal charges for domestic violence are filed. Because police use their report to explain why the arrest was made, it is almost guaranteed to be filled with details that suggest your guilt and that ignore any doubt that you deserved to be arrested. Overcoming what is said in this report is usually one of the first obstacles of defending against a charge of domestic violence in Tacoma.

Call The Curtis Firm for Vigorous Defense

The criminal defense and domestic violence defense lawyers at The Curtis Firm vigorously defend those who have been accused of domestic violence in Tacoma, Washington, and the surrounding areas. Contact them online or call their law office for the legal representation you need at this difficult time in your life.

About the Author

James Curtis

As principle attorney and founder of The Curtis Firm, LLC., James Curtis provides expert representation in a variety of matters, including DUI cases, criminal defense and personal injury. For more than 14 years, he has been aggressively advocating and winning cases for clients in and around Western Washington.


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Service Areas

The Curtis Firm, LLC is located in Tukwila, the midpoint between Seattle and Tacoma. We also serve clients throughout Western Washington to include Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Auburn, Seatac, Burien, Federal Way, Fife, Puyallup, Tacoma, and Lakewood.