ASSAULT – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE cHARGES IN THURSTON COUNTY
ASSAULT CHARGES SUCCESS RATE*
*dismissed or reduced
this is not a guarantee of result – every case is unique
IF YOU ARE FACING AN ASSAULT CHARGE WITH OR WITHOUT THE SPECIAL ALLEGATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, YOU NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION IMMEDIATELY
Who Will Charge My Case?
If you are facing a misdemeanor Assault charge, Thurston County has two different teams that handle the prosecution. If your charge includes the special allegation of Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Team, which includes four attorneys and three victim advocates, will be reviewing and handling your criminal case.
If your misdemeanor Assault charge does not involve a special relationship with the victim, the Misdemeanor Team, which includes five deputy prosecuting attorneys and one victim advocate, will be responsible for prosecution.
Review And Prosecution Of Cases
Generally speaking, Assault cases involving domestic violence will be reviewed and charged quickly. The prosecutor is trying to avoid any further harm or risk to the victim. This is the reason the No Contact Order remains in place for the duration of the case.
If a defendant attempts to intimidate, harm, or contact the alleged victim, the prosecutor will file additional criminal charges. Additionally, the judge is likely to revoke bail and change conditions of release. The most damaging thing a defendant can do in an Assault case is to violate the No Contact Order. The case will become significantly more difficult to resolve favorably.
Will The Prosecutor “Drop The Case” If The Alleged Victim Makes The Request?
No. Prosecutors experienced with domestic violence cases understand that many true victims will recant or change the story for fear that the abuse will get worse if their abuser is punished. For this reason, prosecutors are trained to pursue charges regardless of the victim’s stance. This doesn’t mean the prosecution won’t consider the victim’s position but they will not drop criminal charges even if the victim says the event did not occur.
Won’t The Case Be Hard To Prove Without Support From The Alleged Victim?
Domestic violence cases are victim-focused but not victim-dependent prosecutions. Since prosecutors are aware that victims of domestic violence frequently recant or request to have charges dropped against their abusers, the deputy prosecutor will attempt at the outset to build every case with direct evidence from the investigation rather than victim testimony.
The prosector must assume that the victim will recant or make herself unavailable for trial. The prosecutor is also aware that, in true domestic violence situations, it is not safe for the victim to “support” the state’s position. In the event the defendant is found not guilty or charges must be dropped for another reason, the victim could face increased violence if seen as helping the prosecution.
So, where the alleged victim feels that the event did not occur as law enforcement recorded it, there can be resistance from the prosecutor as well as the victim advocate to hear this. The state’s position can feel very condescending to someone who does not feel like a victim.
The nature of domestic violence prosecutions can be a tough pill to swallow for someone wrapped up in a conflict that was not violent and misunderstood by responding officers. Unfortunately, once the ball gets rolling and the Domestic Violence Team begins prosecution, the best option is a to hire the best defense.
Are There Alternative Case Resolution Options?
Thurston County and some surrounding municipalities have therapeutic courts designed to offer services that attempt to address the underlying cause of the criminal charge. Most of these courts require that the defendant complete a detailed application and be accepted by those who run the court.
Mental Health Court and Veterans Court
In Thurston, there is Mental Health Court and Veterans Court. These courts assist those who are suffering from mental illness and need services. To qualify, there must be a nexus between the criminal conduct and the criminal charge as well as a qualifying mental health diagnosis. You must also be deemed low to medium risk to reoffend. Defendants with certain criminal charges are not able to apply for these therapeutic court options.
A defendant will be deemed ineligible based on RCW 2.30.030(3):
(3) Except under special findings by the court, the following individuals are not eligible for participation in therapeutic courts:
(a) Individuals who are currently charged or who have been previously convicted of a serious violent offense or sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030;
(b) Individuals who are currently charged with an offense alleging intentional discharge, threat to discharge, or attempt to discharge a firearm in furtherance of the offense;
(c) Individuals who are currently charged with or who have been previously convicted of vehicular homicide or an equivalent out-of- state offense; or
(d) Individuals who are currently charged with or who have been previously convicted of: An offense alleging substantial bodily harm or great bodily harm as defined in RCW 9A.04.110, or death of another person.
While Kitsap County has Pretrial Diversion Agreements, Thurston County does not offer an identical program. However, Thurston does have Friendship Diversion, which is very similar in outcome. The primary difference is that Thurston does not maintain “probation” in-house and, therefore, Friendship Diversion Services (FDS) takes that place.
A defendant, through their attorney, can request that the prosecutor allow the defendant to enter into the Friendship Diversion Program. The defendant must qualify and there are several conditions that must be met, including the possibility of a domestic violence perpetuator evaluation, a chemical dependency evaluation, and a mental health evaluation. If any of the evaluations indicate a problem, follow up treatment is also required.
The consequences of failing to meet the requirements are severe, including conviction of the original charge, and, therefore, no one should enter this contract without consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney. In some cases, Friendship Diversion can be a great option but, for others, this is not an appropriate resolution.
Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution
This option is fairly new and is not county-specific. Like Friendship Diversion, this option can require tremendous work, time, and money from the defendant. It is not the first line of defense or resolution for Domestic Violence Assault cases due to the intense requirements.
Word Of Caution
As always, the accused should never enter into an agreement that he or she does not fully understand. Most diversion agreements can seem really great in the beginning because the defendant may avoid jail time and/or a conviction. However, like a Deferred Prosecution for a DUI, many people fail to successfully complete the program due to intense treatment requirements over a long period of time. To be fully informed of your risks, these programs should be discussed in great detail once your attorney is aware of all strengths and weaknesses in your case as well as your likelihood to meet all of the conditions.