Domestic Violence

domestic dispute

A lawyer can tell your side of the story

Domestic violence is a designation that can be added to any crime in Washington State that involves a:

  • Family member
  • Current or past romantic partner
  • Roommate
  • Person you have a child with


When the police are called, they normally make an arrest decision based solely on the statements of the accuser. When law enforcement is questioning the accuser, emotions are running high and it is extremely common for false, exaggerated, or misleading statements to made.

Sometimes there is additional evidence, such as an eye witness, damaged property, or injuries. When there are injuries, law enforcement often times does not photograph the injuries of the accused. It can be very helpful to photograph your injuries, as they can be an important part of your defense.

No Contact Orders

In Seattle and other cities in King County, a No Contact Order is normally issued in all domestic violence cases. The judge will issue these orders even if there are no accusations of physical violence. Orders that prevent contact can become very problematic if you share housing, work together, or have children in common.

We understand that you may still have a relationship with the alleged victim. However, each communication with the alleged victim is an additional crime, so it is very important that you avoid all direct and third party contact while the order is still in place.

In some cases, your attorney can make arrangements with the court so that you can drop off your children or communicate through a designated person. Although the accuser has no say in the issuing of the order, the order can sometimes be lifted if they support the lifting of the order and the judge agrees that it is no longer necessary.

Types of Charges & Penalties

Domestic violence penalties depend on:

  • The underlying charge
  • Your criminal history (or lack thereof)
  • Whether or not a weapon was involved

Domestic Violence Assault 4th Degree

This is by far the most common charge. No visible injury needs to have occurred. An allegation of unwanted and offensive physical contact is enough for an arrest to be made.

4th Degree DV Assault is a gross misdemeanor punishable by:

  • 0-364 days in jail
  • Up to $5000 fine
  • Loss of gun rights
  • Probation

Domestic Violence Assault 2nd Degree

This charge is commonly filed when there is a serious (but non-permanent) injury that requires medical attention. However, if there are allegations of hands to the throat (choking) or the involvement of a weapon, no injury needs to have occurred.

2nd Degree DV Assault is a Class B felony and is punishable by:

  • 90 days – 10 years in jail
  • Up to $20,000 fine
  • Loss of gun rights & voting rights
  • Probation

Domestic Violence Malicious Mischief (Destruction of Property)

If the police arrive after a domestic dispute and there is broken property, they will make an arrest for Destruction of Property or Malicious Mischief. If the amount of broken property is $750 or less, it is a gross misdemeanor. If the amount of broken property is above $750, the charge will be a felony.

Defenses include:

  • You are the owner of the damaged property
  • You didn’t intend on breaking the property (accident)
  • The accuser or someone else broke the property

Preventing a Conviction

Of all the cases we defend, domestic violence has the highest rate of acquittals due to a lack of hard evidence and discrepancies in the alleged victim’s account of events. We often times find inconsistencies between the 911 tape and the accuser’s statements to police.

It is often times beneficial to your case if your attorney can carefully explain your side of the story. Unfortunately, most prosecutors only see defendants as a file or a charge. However, a good domestic violence attorney should highlight the positive things that are going on in your life, so that you are given the best opportunity for an acquittal or an outcome that is significantly less serious than the original charge.

Should I Take a Polygraph?

In situations where the accuser has not given an accurate account of what happened, we often times encourage our clients to take a polygraph. If you can pass a polygraph, the charges will normally be dropped. If the results of the polygraph are unfavorable or inconclusive, it will not hurt your case, since we are not obligated to provide the results to the court.

Preventing Charges from Being Filed

It is a good idea to contact an experienced domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. The time frame between the arrest date and the prosecutor filing charges can give your attorney an opportunity to do a pre-charge investigation. These independent investigations often times uncover issues that can clear your name. This can create a best case scenario where no charges are ever filed.

Resolving your Case

At Beckwith Criminal Law, we have successfully resolved over a 1000 domestic violence cases. We are former prosecutors who understand the high burden of proof that the state must establish. An important part of our job is knowing how to chip away at the state’s evidence and presenting evidence that is in your favor.

We defend clients in King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County, including the city courts of Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett. Please call us today for a free consultation.