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"Stay Home, Stay Healthy" Unless You Are Accused of Domestic Violence

Posted by James H. Curtis | Apr 14, 2020

As many states throughout our country extend "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" Orders, families are forced to spend unprecedented amounts of time together. While family time is valued, it has been traditionally balanced with a full day of school or work. However, with schools closed, job layoffs, and work at home orders, many families are forced to deal with extreme adversity without the usual support systems.

No longer are couples able to go to work and blow off steam. No longer are parents able to send their children to school to strategize about appropriate forms of discipline. Families are now required to resolve issues without the benefits of counselors, churches, or advice from family and friends.

Everyone will agree that there are many alternatives to physical violence and the destruction of property. Yet in the real world, there will be individuals who overreact, and those individuals need to understand the consequences of their actions - Mandatory Arrest.

In Washington, criminal charges that include a domestic violence element are treated differently than an identical offense 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, can have devastating consequences.

The criminal defense lawyers at The Curtis Firm will provide a brief explanation.

Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence Calls in Washington

Allegations 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 long enough for passions to cool and violence circumvented.

This interest in preventing future harm has led to Washington's law mandating police to 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.” This requirement stands even if officers do not respond to the scene until up to four hours have passed.

Probable Cause: A Low Barrier for Police to Overcome

Probable cause, that's all that police need to justify an arrest when they respond to a domestic violence call - even the flimsiest and unreliable evidence of a crime may be 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 is 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 front of your children. However, it can also impact your freedom over the short term, like preventing you from supporting your family. Today, even a short jail stint can increase the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 or prevent you from gaining employment in a depressed economy.

Arguably worse, the arrest will produce an arrest report. This report produces paperwork that seeks to justify the arrest and is often used as evidence of criminal charges for domestic violence court filings. 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 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 Washington.

Call The Curtis Firm for a 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 Seattle, Renton, Burien, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood. Contact us online or call our law office for the legal representation you need at this difficult time in your life.

About the Author

James H. Curtis

As principle attorney and founder of The Curtis Firm, LLC., James Curtis provides expert representation in a variety of matters, including cash seizure and forfeiture, DUI, 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.

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.

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