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*dismissed or reduced
this is not a guarantee of result – every case is unique


Who Will Charge My Case?

Depending on where the event occurred, your case will be reviewed by a special prosecutor. For example, if the alleged Assault occurred in Poulsbo, there is only one Poulsbo Municipal prosecutor (contracted with the County). However, if your case is charged in Kitsap District Court, there are specific prosecutors who review cases involving Domestic Violence allegations. These prosecutors are not in a special unit like Thurston but they are more experienced prosecutors and are diligent in reviewing the risks that Assault cases may have to the alleged victim and community.

If Two People Were Both Engaging In Assaultive Behavior, Who Goes To Jail?

In many situations where drugs or alcohol is involved, a couple will both engage in physical violence against one another. Technically, both persons have committed Assault and could be charged. 

Unfortunately, where there is mutual assaults, the policy in Washington, according to the Prosecutor’s Handbook reference to police investigations, is to avoid making dual arrests. This means that the officer must make a determination of who is the primary aggressor.

Both Parties Assaulted Each Other But Only One Goes To Jail?

Yes. That is the general protocol. If this doesn’t seem fair, we think you are correct. This protocol allows one or two officers to decide the legal winner or loser of a situation that might, in a snapshot in time, unfairly portray a victim of  ongoing abuse as the primary aggressor when law enforcement arrives. 

How Do They Decide The Primary Aggressor?

According to the Prosecutor’s Handbook, “In making the determination of who is the primary aggressor, consideration must be give to: which person is in the greatest need of protection.” There are six additional factors considered, including whether the conduct was part of an ongoing pattern of abuse. Mind you, the responding officers are trying to make these determinations in a short period of time, where parties are not behaving well, and mind-altering substances are usually involved. For these reasons, officers often get it wrong.

How Often Does This Happen In Kitsap?

It is impossible to know how often the investigation officers get it wrong because, once a person is arrested, the deck is stacked against him or her. So, they might enter into a plea with the state just to avoid risking a guilty jury verdict. There are high risks for a trial so many who might not have been the primary aggressor (or have been the victim over time) end up skewing data such that it appears the responding officers and prosecutor got the situation correct from the outset. Unfortunately, unlike DUI cases with breathalyzers and camera footage, domestic violence assault cases rarely have solid objective evidence. Typically, it is circumstantial evidence often relayed by impaired and upset individuals. 

Are Some Officers Better At Determining The Primary Aggressor Than Others?

Again, it hard to say for sure but, generally, those officers who are exposed to more of these cases tend to have a better understanding of how the tables can be turned. For example, Bremerton has less than a quarter of the population of Kitsap County but it sees a higher percentage of cases per capita. 

The Bremerton Police Officers respond to some highly charged and challenging situations that, arguably, occur more often than Poulsbo or Silverdale. However, while Bremerton officers might have more experience responding to these types of situations, they have also had some turnover. They have many new or less-experienced officers on the force currently.

Does The Prosecutor Do A Separate Investigation?

The “gatekeeper” of unjust prosecutions should always be the prosecutor, whose experience and knowledge of the law would limit prosecutions where the investigation was not thorough or there are doubts about retaliation between the parties (often occurring in divorces or custody battles). Unfortunately, that would assume a prosecutor has the time to question the quality and breadth of the investigation. This just doesn’t happen. If you watch Law & Order, you believe there are many discussions between law enforcement and the prosecutor before a charging decision will be made. In busy state courts, that does not happen. 

How Will My Defense Attorney Help?

As noted above, deputy prosecutors are extremely busy and overworked. They are also taught to believe that victims who do not want to “press charges” or recant their statements are actually just doing so because they are afraid of their alleged abuser. In true domestic violence relationships, this can definitely happen. However, where there is a misunderstanding or an aggressor is masquerading as the victim, a defendant will have a serious uphill battle convincing the prosecutor to rethink the situation.

Does It Matter If My Defense Attorney Has Experience As A Prosecutor?

Absolutely. The only real shot you have at presenting a fair defense is through a very experienced defense attorney. You need a criminal defense attorney who is well-respected by the local prosecutors because there is ego involved once a criminal charge is filed. A defense attorney who has experience as a former prosecutor charging domestic violence assault cases will be able to address and speak about the precise concerns of a deputy prosecutor. Additionally, a defense attorney with this kind fo experience can spot any and all weaknesses in evidence, witnesses, and the investigation. Ryan Witt was a former deputy prosecutor in two Washington counties, including Kitsap County. When he left in 2004, he was a felony level prosecutor with a tremendous trial record. 

Do I Have Any Options Other Than Going To Trial?

Yes! Obviously, the first line of defense is to try to get the charge dismissed. This is not always possible but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. Most cases have some evidentiary weaknesses and are ripe for negotiation to a lesser charge or delayed dismissal. In certain cases, Kitsap County also permits a Pretrial Diversion Agreement. There is also the legislation option of a Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution 

Not everyone qualifies for these alternative resolution options nor are they the best options in all circumstances. All options for resolution should be discussed thoroughly with an experienced defense attorney after your criminal discovery has been provided. It is impossible to know the best resolution for a defendant without thoroughly reviewing discovery. 

If you are facing an Assault charge with a special allegation of domestic violence, reach out to discuss your options. We are here 7 days a week. (360) 792-1000