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Domestic Violence FAQ

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P.O. Box 1220
Port Townsend, 
WA 98368

Dist Court: 360.385.9135
Probation: 360.385.9123
Fax: 360.385.9367

Monday - Friday
8:30 to 4:30



What is Domestic Violence

Social Definition:
It is a pattern of behavior used to establish and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence consists of physical, sexual, psychological, and/or emotional abuse. Without intervention domestic violence can become more destructive over time and can become lethal.

Legal Definition (RCW 10.99.020:

Domestic violence includes but is not limited to any one of the following crimes when committed by one "family or household member" against another.

  • Assault

  • Reckless endangerment

  • Burglary

  • Criminal trespass

  • Malicious mischief

  • Kidnapping

  • Unlawful imprisonment

  • Violation of a Restraining Order, No Contact Order, Protection Order

  • Stalking

A family or household member is defined as:

  • Spouse, former spouse, persons who have a child in common

  • Adult persons related by blood or marriage

  • Adult persons who presently (or in the past) reside(d) together

  • Persons 16 years and older who have or had a dating relationship

  • Persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship

What is the difference between a:

No Contact Order:
This is a criminal order available to victims of domestic violence after criminal charges are filed.  The victim may ask the Court or prosecutor to request a no contact order.  This order can protect the victim during the court criminal process.  A no contact order can also be issued at sentencing.

This order, which is issued by a judge, prohibits the person charged with a crime from contacting the victim of crime by phone, letter, or through third party, including messages through friends and relatives.  Any violation is a gross misdemeanor and often arrest is mandatory.

Order For Protection:
This is a civil order that is available to victims of domestic violence who have been assaulted, stalked, threatened and/or who are fearful of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault by a family or household member. This order is obtained by the victim by filing a petition at Jefferson County Superior Court. There is no cost in obtaining this order.

The order for protection generally is granted for one year. However, it can be issued for longer than one year under certain circumstances. A victim may request that an order be renewed before it expires. At any time prior to the expiration date, the petitioner may make a request to the court to modify or terminate the order.

The order prohibits contact by the respondent, restrains the respondent from committing further acts of violence, excludes the respondent from the petitioner's residence, school, or workplace, awards temporary custody of minor children, orders respondent to participate in treatment or counseling, etc. The respondent may be arrested or issued a citation for violation of this order.

Restraining Order:
This is a civil order that restricts or prohibits an individual from access or proximity to another specified person and can exclude an individual from a residence and restrain a party from having contact or committing acts of violence or harassment against another person.

This order is issued in conjunction with another civil action such as divorce, legal separation, paternity, or child custody action. This order usually requires legal counsel. This order can only be obtained in Superior Court.  The respondent may be arrested for violation of this order or face contempt or criminal charges.

Anti-Harassment Order:
This is a civil court order obtained by filing a petition in District Court.  The petitioner does not need an attorney for the anti-harassment process but may choose to obtain legal counsel.  This order is available to a person who has been seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed by a willful course of conduct which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. It is not necessary that the parties be family or household members.  This order can prohibit contact, directly or indirectly, by phone, mail or in person, and exclude the responding party from a residence, workplace, or school of petitioner.  If the order is violated, the respondent may be arrested and/or charged with a gross misdemeanor. There can also be contempt charges.  See District Court homepage for more information on the anti-harassment process.

Can the charges be dropped?
A police officer responding to a domestic violence incident must complete a police report whether or not an arrest occurs. The Prosecuting Attorney's Office will review the police report to determine whether or not to file charges. If charges are filed, only the prosecutor has the authority to drop them. A judge must approve the prosecutor's request to dismiss a case. The victim is a witness for the State and has no authority to drop charges. In many cases, the State will prosecute a case even if the victim refuses to testify.

Why did the police make an arrest?
The law requires a police officer responding to an incident of domestic violence to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence assault or other serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours.  If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor. State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.  A person arrested for a domestic violence offense will usually be held in jail until he/she appears before a judge, usually the following day. The Court may require a defendant charged with domestic violence to sign a No Contact Order as a condition for release from jail prior to trial.

Is it a crime to interfere with a 911 call?
A person who commits a domestic violence offense may be charged with a separate crime of interfering with the reporting of domestic violence if that person prevents or attempts to prevent a victim or witness from calling 911, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official. Interfering with reporting is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.



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