In our office, we field this question on a weekly basis. “If there was no violence, why am I charged with domestic violence.” For a hypothetical, assume these facts:
A guy is living as a temporary roommate with some guy friends. One day, their Nintendo goes missing. The other roommates do some investigation and believe the bad actor is the new guy. After they assemble their evidence, they call the police. After the police are involved, the prosecutor’s office charges the roommate with “Theft 3 – Domestic Violence.”
As you are reading this, most people will have the same question, “we understand the Theft Charge, but why D.V.?”
First of all, Domestic Violence is not a charge. It is what is called a “Special Allegation” that is attached to an underlying charge. Anything can have a DV Special Allegation. If a person siphons gas out of an ex-girlfriend’s car, it would be Theft – DV. If a daughter spray paints her parent’s fence, it would be Malicious Mischief – DV. The DV Tag can be attached to nearly any underlying charge.
Why Can Every Charge Be D.V.?
The reason nearly every charge can have a DV tag is based upon a statute. Revised Code Of Washington (or RCW) 10.99.020 contains the definition of Domestic Violence. This is an excerpt from a charging document from Kitsap County.
As you see, the definition captures nearly all relationship where people know each other. Here are some examples of how distant a relationship can be, yet they State can still add the special allegation.
“Adult persons … previously residing together.” Think of all the people who were your roommates in college.
“Persons sixteen years of age or older … with whom [they] had a dating relationship” Should it be DV if you dated someone when you were 17 and you are now in your 40’s?
The ramifications of this Special Allegation are enormous.
• The No Contact Orders are more restrictive and have more teeth if you were to violate an Order.
• Domestic Violence treatment could be suggested by the Prosecuting Attorney.
• Courts will typically require a firearms prohibition.
• The Special Allegation also drastically cuts into the options that are available to resolve your case.
Can You Challenge The D.V. Tag?
Yes, in certain circumstance you can challenge the Prosecutor’s addition of the Special Allegation. As listed above, there are many beneficial reasons to do so. While the definition above is broad, Prosecutors misapply the definition from time to time and the Courts will strike down the Special Allegation.
If you are facing this situation, you need a skilled assault defense attorney on your side right away. Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm based in Bremerton, Kitsap County, State of Washington. call or text our office right away!