Domestic violence. It’s a term that typically brings a lot of different images to mind—some truthful, but many of them shrouded in misconceptions. While we hope that you never have to deal with a charge like domestic violence, if you’re reading this then it’s likely that you’re either being charged, or you might be facing charges in the future. As such, you probably want to know more about exactly what DV is, and how charges like these could affect your future. Read on to find out more about domestic violence and the options you may have.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony?
Without a doubt, one of the main questions people have when they are first charged with DV is whether or not domestic violence is a felony. Since this can seriously affect what sort of punishment you might be facing later, it is definitely important to understand the difference.
Typically, a domestic violence case can be charged as one of two things—a felony, or a misdemeanor. There’s no easy, clear-cut way to know which is which. It all depends on two main factors: the specific circumstances of the incident, and the criminal history of the suspect.
Misdemeanor Domestic Violence
A domestic violence charge might be considered a misdemeanor if the incident and overall damage are considered negligible. Misdemeanor domestic violence incidents can involve things like verbal abuse, simple assault (where a victim is pushed or struck but suffers no damage) or a restraining order violation—if it’s the first offense.
Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, and the resulting punishment is also less. What’s more, misdemeanor charges are split into two groups—misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. Usually, a misdemeanor carries with it a maximum jail sentence of fewer than 90 days and a possible fine of up to $1,000. Gross misdemeanors are a little more serious and can get you a year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. While misdemeanors still stay on your permanent record, they are much less serious than felonies and do not automatically strip you of legal privileges like a felony conviction can.
Felony Domestic Violence
On the other hand, a more serious domestic violence incident can, depending on circumstances, be charged as a felony. There are many situations where this can happen, including (but not limited to) serious bodily harm or death, violence inflicted on a child, the use of a deadly weapon, acts of a sexual nature or repeated violations of a restraining order.
Just as the charges for a felony involve crimes of a more serious nature, the punishments that go with a felony are more serious, as well. In Washington, felonies can be further broken down into three classes, class A, class B, and class C. Class C felonies are the least serious of the felony classes and bring with them possible penalties of $10,000 and up to five years in prison. Class B felonies are a step up, and can get you a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. Class A felonies, then, are the most serious class of felonies. If you are charged and found guilty of a class A felony, this can get you life in prison, and a possible $50,000 fine, as well.
Previous Criminal History
Just like the weight of your current offense can help determine whether or not you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, your previous history will affect this as well. If, for example, you are charged with violating a restraining order, this is considered a misdemeanor offense—if it’s the first time. If, however, you have a history of violating these legal barriers, the prosecutor can choose instead to lobby a felony charge instead.
More serious charges can also be filed if you have a history of violence, or if you are a repeat offender who frequently finds yourself in front of the bench.
If you are facing felony charges, but it’s your first time being charged with a serious crime, the state of Washington has been known to allow a court to consider alternative sentencing. One sentencing alternative is the First Time Offender Waiver or FTOW. The FTOW allows first-time felony offenders who qualify to serve only 90 days in prison, and the other six or twelve months in community custody (aka “probation”). The actual conditions vary on a case-by-case basis and are determined by the judge.
How We Can Help You
If you find yourself facing domestic violence accusations—misdemeanor or felony—than you need experienced legal help in your corner. The attorneys at Leyba Defense know the domestic violence laws in Washington, and are ready to work for you to overcome these charges, get them reduced, or see if you can qualify for an alternative sentencing program. Need help? Contact us at Leyba Defense today!