Prosecutors and courts treat domestic violence crimes seriously in Washington State. The term “domestic violence” is generally used to refer to violent acts committed by one family or household member against another or one intimate partner against another. If a domestic violence crime is charged, then the court has the authority to issue a “no contact order” (“NCO”). This order prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact with “the victim.” If you have been named in an NCO, or accused of a domestic violence crime, it is critical for you to contact an experienced Washington defense attorney now.
What is a No Contact Order?
An NCO is a court order, issued in the early stages of a domestic violence case, where the court prohibits an offender from contacting “the victim.” RCW 10.99.040 is the Washington statute that authorizes the court to issue such an order. This statute says:
“Because of the likelihood of repeated violence directed at those who have been victims of domestic violence in the past, when any person charged with or arrested for a crime involving domestic violence is released from custody before arraignment or trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court authorizing the release may prohibit that person from having any contact with the victim.”
If a court issues an order, then the court may also require the alleged offender to:
- surrender any rights to possess or own a firearm, and
- submit to electronic monitoring.
A no contact order remains in effect until the judge revokes it. In addition, an order will be terminated if:
- the defendant is acquitted of the underlying domestic violence charge, or
- the charge gets dismissed.
If a defendant is convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence crime the court can, and almost always will, impose an NCO as a condition of sentence. For misdemeanors post-sentencing NCOs can last for up to 5 years. For felonies they can last even longer, up to the length of the maximum sentence.
What are the Penalties for violating a No Contact Order?
A defendant that violates a no contact order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. A “gross misdemeanor” is punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
Depending on the facts of the case, if a person violates an NCO via an act of assault, or if the person has two or more prior convictions for protection order violations, then the violation could be charged as a class C felony. A “class C felony” is punishable by:
- imprisonment in jail for up to five years, and
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
Note that a violation of a no contact order is a separate offense from the domestic violence charge that gave rise to the order.
What Happens if “the Victim” is Against the NCO?
There are times when an alleged domestic violence victim will oppose a no contact order. Perhaps, for example:
- the victim was opposed to the arrest of the defendant in the first place,
- the victim does not want the defendant to be prosecuted,
- the victim does not fear any further harm from the accused,
- there is no prior history of violence between the parties, and
- the parties are married and raising children.
Despite any such opposition, a court still has the authority to issue an NCO. It is rare but possible for courts to decline to enter an NCO or to terminate one during a case based on the alleged victim’s request.
What Happens if “the Victim” Initiates the Contact?
An NCO does not prohibit an alleged domestic violence victim from contacting an offender. It only prohibits the offender from contacting the alleged victim. This means there are cases when “the victim” tries to contact the defendant. In these situations, if the defendant responds to the contact, then he/she will be guilty of violating the order.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
Domestic violence charges and NCOs should never be taken lightly. If you or a loved one has been charged with such an offense, or been named in an order, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for help. The attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 25 years of combined experience in representing clients in these areas. They are tireless in their efforts and passionate in their defense. Contact them now to get the legal help that makes all the difference.