Skagit County Domestic Violence Lawyer
A charge of Domestic Violence in Skagit County can drastically affect your life. Domestic Violence is not a crime by itself. Domestic Violence, or DV, is a category of crimes. In Washington, any charge can carry a Domestic Violence label. This means that a person is charged with a crime involving a victim they are in a defined relationship, such as a spouse.
The most common Domestic Violence charge in Skagit County is Assault in the Fourth Degree. A person is charged in Skagit County District Court with Assault in the Fourth Degree – Domestic Violence when someone alleges that you touched another without permission and that they were in a defined relationship. Some of these defined relationships are as follows:
- Those in a dating relationship;
- Children (including step-children);
- Anyone who you dated in the past; or with whom you lived in the past.
Domestic Violence charges can be in cases beyond Assault.
Another common charge that can have a Domestic Violence label in Skagit County includes Malicious Mischief. This crime can be either a felony or a misdemeanor; it happens when property is broken in an argument. A spouse can even be charged with Malicious Mischief for breaking property they own, because the courts label it as “community property.” This has been seen in Skagit County Domestic Violence cases when a husband slams a door and breaks the frame or when a spouse throws a phone that is on a family plan. Depending on the cost of the property, for example- a new iPhone, the Domestic Violence charge would be a felony, or Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree.
Other common Skagit County Domestic Violence charges are Harassment and Interfering with Reporting DV. Harassment is threatening to harm someone now or in the future. The threat can be either possible physical injury or damage to another’s property. If the threat includes a threat to kill, then Skagit County would charge Felony Harassment. Interfering with Reporting is charged when a person stops another from calling 911 or otherwise trying to get help. This Domestic Violence charge is usually seen when one person hangs up the phone during an argument when the other party is trying to call law enforcement.
A label of Domestic Violence makes any criminal charge much more severe. The police are required to arrest a person if they determine that a crime of domestic violence occurred within 4 hours of their arrival. This would not happen if the crime was merely Assault in the Fourth Degree, but the addition of the DV label makes an arrest mandatory. The result is that any police department, such as Mount Vernon, Burlington Anacortes, or Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, will take you to jail. Bail cannot be posted nor can you be released on your own recognizance until you see a judge. It is extremely important to get an experienced domestic violence criminal defense attorney on your team as soon as possible to protect your rights.
The next morning (or, if the arrest was Friday afternoon or on the weekend, the next Monday), a judge will determine if the person can be released. The Court will also decide if any conditions of release will be set. In a Skagit County Domestic Violence case, the judge will generally order the following: (1) a No Contact Order between the arrested person and any victim, (2) that any firearms must be surrendered to law enforcement until the case is resolved, and (3) to not be charged with any new criminal law violations. If the person violates any of these conditions, the Court will likely order them back into custody until the case is resolved.
A pending Domestic Violence charge can be harmful, even without a conviction. Problems associated with being charged with a domestic violence crime can include loss of employment, potential divorce and loss of firearm rights. Many employers in Skagit County or Mount Vernon will not allow a person charged with a crime of Domestic Violence to work in certain areas. We have seen Boeing and NAS Whidbey prevent employees from working, simply because they are facing a charge. Many times a DV charge will occur in the middle of a divorce or child custody battle. The other party will ask a court to change custody arrangements solely on a mere allegation. This not only limits a person’s ability to see his or her child, but may result in loss of custody. Finally, if you are a hunter, an allegation of Domestic Violence will result in the Court taking away your guns until the case closed. The Court will forbid you from possessing firearms until the case is over, which includes borrowing someone else’s firearm. Obtaining an experienced Domestic Violence criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the pre-conviction issues that come with a domestic violence charge.
If you are convicted of a crime of Domestic Violence in Skagit County, your life could significantly change. The Court will order fines in amounts that could be in the thousands. The Court can also order jail time; if the crime is a misdemeanor, such as Assault in the Fourth Degree, then you could face 364 days in custody. If you are convicted of a felony, such as Assault in the Second Degree, the sentence could be up to 10 years in prison.
Other sanctions will include a requirement that you obtain an Anger or Domestic Violence Assessment. This usually requires a person to undergo treatment for up to a year or two. If treatment is not completed, the Court can order additional jail time. In most cases, the Court issues a No Contact Order that forbids you from contacting the other party. This is done even against the wishes of the alleged victim, and the order can be for up to five years.
The Court will also find that you are forbidden from possessing firearms. The length of time will decide how long it will take before you petition the Court to reinstate your gun rights. A misdemeanor can be three years, and a felony charge can be up to ten years. It is a crime to possess a firearm due to a DV conviction until you have your right to bear arms reinstated. The process to reinstate your firearm right is done through the Superior Court and requires a separate action to be filed.
There are other ramifications to you beyond the court process. Some employers may fire you if you have a Domestic Violence conviction. Your ex-spouse can change the terms of your custody agreement to limit any contact you have with your child. A DV conviction will be seen by prospective landlords if you try to rent a new apartment or house; this can limit your housing choices. A crime of Domestic Violence in Skagit County will affect your life. Deciding to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you limit the amount of damage. Call Powers Law Group to get the process of protecting your rights underway immediately.