Judge's Gavel at the ready in a domestic violence case
Judge’s gavel signals judgment in a domestic violence case

Domestic Violence Charges

To qualify as domestic violence, the offense has to be committed against a family or household member. RCW 10.99.020. There is a lengthy definition of who qualifies as a family or household member. Even roommates can potentially fit within the definition.

Many different offenses can be charged as domestic violence. Most commonly, I see Assault, Malicious Mischief and Violating a No-Contact Order.

If charged as gross misdemeanors, the maximum penalties for these offenses are 364 days in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. If charged as felonies, the potential penalties are greater but depend upon prior criminal history.


Assault has a lengthy definition of possible means: intentionally causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to another person; or engaging in a physical act done with intent to create in another a reasonable apprehension of fear of imminent bodily injury, and which does create such fear; or intentionally and without permission touch another in an offensive manner, regardless of whether any physical harm is done to the person. RCW 9A.36.041. Many people don’t understand that actual physical harm is not necessary.

Malicious Mischief

Malicious Mischief requires that the accused knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to property of another. The degree of the offense depends upon the value of the property. RCW 9A.48.090. If the property is jointly owned or community property a husband can be charged for damaging even property he regards as his own for the undivided interest of his wife.

Violation of a No-Contact Order

Violation of a No-Contact Order requires that the accused willfully disobey a valid no contact order having actual knowledge of the terms and existence of the Order. RCW 26.50.110.

Effects of a Domestic Violence Charge

A domestic violence charge can have far-reaching and longstanding effects to your life. It can:

  • Exclude you from obtaining or maintaining some employment, especially military, law enforcement and medical careers
  • Restrict your travel. RCW 9.94A.745 The Intestate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS)
  • Restrict you from state and federal housing
  • Prevent participation in your child’s school activities
  • Bar firearms possession

It is important to consult with a lawyer in order to be aware of the potential collateral consequences to your life. Sometimes the effects of such a charge can be ameliorated by a knowledgeable attorney. This requires that you adequately inform your lawyer about yourself.

Frequently, a court issues a No-Contact Order as a condition of release in domestic violence case. It is important to obey this order, even if your wife, husband, child or partner invites you to violate the order.

Warning: Violation of the provisions of this order with actual notice of its terms is a criminal offense under chapter 26.50 RCW and will subject a violator to arrest; any assault, drive-by shooting, or reckless endangerment that is a violation of this order is a felony. You can be arrested even if the person protected by this order invites or allows you to violate the order’s prohibitions. You have the sole responsibility to avoid or refrain from violating the order’s provisions. Only the court can change the order upon written application. (Source: Washington State Courts – Court Forms – No-Contact Orders)

Good defenses are often made worse by violations of pretrial conditions. Don’t let one mistake define the rest of your life. Call James B. Feldman today at (253) 759-4555.