When COVID-19 began spreading across the state of Washington, many people began working from home, limiting their exposure to others, and making changes to their everyday lives. Other people chose to take the “work from home” suggestion as an excuse to go on day trips around the state, causing overcrowded ferries to the San Juans. Governor Inslee then signed an executive order mandating a stay-at-home order that went into effect on March 24, 2020. The stay-at-home order means you may only leave your house for essential business, like going to the grocery store, caring for someone else, or picking up medicine.
But the stay-at-home order, though ordered with good intentions, fosters one very unfortunate situation: domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence has risen sharply in Washington State, paralleling with the stay-at-home order. But what isn't mentioned is this: there may be false accusations made alongside serious ones.
The important thing to remember is this: domestic violence has two sides, and if you are accused, you have rights. Here's an overview of the increase in domestic violence claims and what you should do if accused.
Experts Predicted Rise in Domestic Violence Cases
As more and more states moved to shelter in place, experts predicted that domestic violence cases would surge. In Bellevue, law enforcement say they have seen a 14 percent increase. In Seattle, police say there has been a 21 percent increase. Some domestic violence support agencies have not seen an increase, but they are worried about what is to come the longer the stay-at-home mandate is in place.
Tensions Are High
Life in the U.S. is certainly unrecognizable to what it was just a little over a month ago. Streets are emptier, grocery stores look like they have been pillaged, and millions of people have suddenly lost their jobs due to restaurants, bars, salons, and fitness centers shuttering their doors. In Washington, unemployment claims surged by 843 percent at the end of March.
Not only are people worried about catching COVID-19 and not being able to get adequate health care to recover, but they are worried about how they are going to pay their rent, buy food, and pay for utilities now that they are unemployed.
In some families where tensions were already high under normal circumstances, things may be worse now that they are all stuck at home together and/or without a steady income. Arguments may escalate and situations may spin out of control very easily. In other households, some partners may use the stay-at-home order to falsely accuse another member of the home of domestic abuse to try and have them removed by law enforcement.
What To Do if Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence during the COVID-19 Crisis in Washington State?
There are things you can do to safeguard your rights after you've been accused of domestic violence. Here are the three top things:
- Tell your side of the story. The alleged victim is no doubt telling his or her side to the police. The police, for their part, are zealously recording it in their reports. You need to tell your side of the story, too, and make sure the police record it as well.
- Collect evidence. The alleged victim is showing the police a broken glass or a bruised arm, and the police are collecting that as evidence against you. You need to make sure any evidence that supports your claim is collected, too. That could be a torn shirt, your own bruise, or anything else, including testimony of friends or family. Also, if the police violated your constitutional rights in any way, even if you aren't sure they did, make note of it.
- Contact a domestic violence defense attorney in Washington State. The best way to put forth your defense is to contact a criminal defense attorney. You want someone who knows domestic violence cases inside and out in order to get the best outcome possible for you.
Jail in the Time of COVID-19 in Washington State
In an attempt to reduce county jail populations, many Washington counties are no longer booking people charged with misdemeanors into jail, with the exception of domestic violence and DUIs. You don't want to be in jail with the coronavirus pandemic.
If you believe you have been falsely accused of domestic violence under these unprecedented circumstances, you should immediately contact an attorney who will fight for your rights and work to keep you out of jail as much as possible. The Law Offices of Steve Karimi are here to help. Call 206-621-8777 today or fill out an online contact form for a free case evaluation.