In Washington, an aggressive criminal act committed by one person in a family or household against someone else in that same family or household is considered a domestic violence offense. In these types of cases, when there is an allegation of domestic violence, the judge in the case may issue what is known as a no-contact order (NCO). This order bars the person accused of the act from contacting the alleged victim for a specific period of time. In general, these orders stay in effect while the case is tied up in court and going through the system.
NCOs cover every form of contact you can think of, such as in-person, writing, through a third party, phone, text and other messaging systems. The accused usually must also stay a certain distance away from the alleged victim’s work, school and home.
Domestic violence is a very serious charge in this state. If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Kent who is able to handle the complex issues involved in these types of cases. If you are currently facing or under an NCO, learn more about them so you don’t make a costly mistake.
NCO types in Washington
In this state, there are two types of NCOs: the pretrial NCO and post-conviction NCO. Both work the same way, but the pretrial order is issued before your case is heard and the post-conviction order is issued afterward. Keep in mind that NCOs only restrict your behavior as far as making contact and do not pertain to the behavior of the alleged victim. If you do respond to the victim’s attempt to contact you, it’s important to note that you can still be charged for violating the order.
NCOs can bar contact with the children of the alleged victim as well, even if they are your children, too. You are barred from visiting the victim’s home, even if you once lived there or your children still live there.
Violating an NCO
If you violate an NCO, it will be considered a completely separate offense from the domestic violence it arose from, with its own penalties. For people who have two or fewer prior convictions for violating an NCO, the charge for a violation without any assault in the original domestic violence incident involved is a gross misdemeanor, which can net a punishment of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.
For those with a history of violating these orders or whose domestic violence charge included assault, the offense for an NCO violation is a Class C felony. This felony carries a maximum jail sentence of five years and a $10,000 fine. In addition, since the very violation of an NCO is considered a domestic violence crime, a person may also lose his or her right to possess or own a firearm post-conviction.
Because of the severe consequences of NCO violations, you must obey such orders to the letter. If you enter any public place, such as a grocery store, and see the alleged victim, you have to leave immediately. Any contact you have with the alleged victim, no matter where it is, can be seen as a violation of the order.
Removing an NCO
Having a no-contact order removed can be tough, even if the alleged victim asks the court to remove it. Judges often still leave it in place for a period of time. One potential way to have the order removed is by undergoing an evaluation with a domestic violence treatment provider. If you successfully go through an evaluation, the counselor involved might be wiling to testify in court that you don’t pose any danger to the alleged victim and that the order can be rescinded safely.
If you are facing domestic violence charges or already have a no-contact order in place, contact an experienced domestic violence criminal defense lawyer in Kent about your case. These charges can have serious consequences on your entire life now and going forward. With experienced legal help on your side, you’ll be more aware of what is going on in your case and all its possible outcomes.