by: Brett Nagle
Washington law defines assault as an intentional touching or striking of another person, with unlawful force, that is harmful or offensive regardless of whether any physical injury is done to the person.
There are four degrees of assault. The first three degrees are felonies, punishable by a prison term if you are convicted. Please Click Here for more information on felonies and violent crimes.
The fourth, and most common degree, is Assault in the Fourth Degree. Fourth Degree Assault is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $5000 fine, and loss of firearms rights. Courts may also order domestic violence batterers treatment, or anger management classes. Assault in the Fourth Degree can be proven whether any injury occured, and even if no contact occurred between the accused and the alleged victim.
Domestic Violence (DV)
When an assault is believed to have been committed against a “family or household member,” Washington law categorizes the offense as a domestic violence (DV) case.
A “family or household member” includes:
•Spouses and former spouses
•Girlfriends, boyfriends, and those involved in dating relationships
•Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and those formerly involved in dating relationships
•Family members: parents, children, step-parents, step-children, brothers, sisters
•Grandparents and grandchildren
•People who reside together
•People who have resided together in the past
Prosecutors and Judges are directed to take cases involving “family or household members” more seriously. Judges may issue a no-contact order, prohibiting any contact between the accused and the alleged victim. These orders are often entered at the first court appearance, and remain at least until the case is resolved. Violating a no-contact order is a separate crime.
When a police officer has probable cause to belive that a person has assaulted a family or household member (as defined above), Washington law requires the officer to arrest the “primary phiscal aggressor.” Probable cause is a much less demanding standard than the proof beyond a reasonable doubt required to convict someone at trial.
Self-Defense and Washington law
While Washington is not known as a “stand your ground” state, self-defense is still alive and well in our state. A person can use force in self-defense if they reasonably believe that they or someone else is about to be injured. The use of force must not be more than is necessary. For example, if someone threatens to punch you pulling out a gun and shooting them would most likely be considered excessive.
People are entitled to act on appearances in defending themselves. This means if it later becomes evident the threat was not real, you may still be able to claim self-defense. The question is whether it is reasonable to believe you or someone else was in danger based on all of the circumstances known to you at the time.
Attorney’s fees and Self-Defense
If a jury or judge finds that you acted in self-defense, you may be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs (lost work, travel to court) from the state. This remedy only applies to cases filed by the State of Washington, not city cases in municipal courts.
A conviction for a domestic violence crime will result in the loss of the right to own, possess, or have control over firearms. Any concealed weapons license must be forfeited at conviction. However, the prohibition applies not only to handguns, but to rifles and shotguns as well. There are no exceptions for hunting or target shooting. The loss of this right lasts for life, unless the right is restored by a court of record (Superior Court) after an applicable waiting period. If you own, possess, or have control over a firearm after having lost your gun rights, you are committing a separate felony.
Disclaimer: this information is not intended as legal advice and is provided for illustrative purposes only. Please contact an experienced assault/domestic violence attorney before making assumptions about your case. Call 425-280-8906 or fill out my online form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.
Mr. Nagle accepts cases throughout Washington State, focusing on greater Snohomish and King Counties, including the following areas: Lynnwood, Everett, Mill Creek, Bothell, Edmonds, Arlington, Kenmore, Kirkland, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Redmond, Seattle, Stanwood, Seattle, and Shoreline. Brett specializes in Snohomish County, serving the following zip codes: 98223, 98012, 98021, 98241, 98020, 98026, 98201, 98203, 98204, 98205, 98206, 98207, 98208, 98213, 98251, 98252, 98256, 98258, 98037, 98046, 98087, 98270, 98271, 98272, 98043, 98275, 98259, 98287, 98290, 98291, 98296, 98292, 98293, 98294.