A crime of domestic violence is really just any other crime, but committed against a specific set of people. In the state of Washington, that specific set of people that turns a crime into a crime of domestic violence is a “family or household member.” Unlike some other states, in Washington, it does not really matter what crime is committed for it to be a domestic violence crime, so long as it was done to someone in the family or household.
Because other states have different rules for this, it makes for some interesting discrepancies. What is domestic violence in Washington might not be domestic violence in another state, like Georgia. As a result, someone in Georgia can face lesser penalties than someone who does the exact same thing in Washington.
A recent example out of Gainesville, Georgia, showcases just how this can work.
Father Facing Felony for Letting Toddler Get Drunk
On the night of May 7, police were called to the home of twenty year old Marcus Daniel Allen. There, they found Mr. Allen passed out, and his three year old son smelling of alcohol and acting strangely. According to police reports, Mr. Allen had been drinking a fruity mixed cocktail from a bottle with a straw. When he became intoxicated, he passed out, leaving the drink unattended. Seeing the bottle and the straw, and liking the taste of the fruity drink, Mr. Allen's son started drinking, as well.
When the two were taken to the hospital, the child was found to have a blood alcohol content of nearly twice the legal driving limit for adults. Thankfully, the toddler has recovered, and has been placed in his mother's care by the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services.
Father Faces Felony Charges in Georgia
For his conduct, Mr. Allen is facing some serious criminal charges. Law enforcement have pressed felony charges for cruelty to children, as well as several counts of reckless conduct and obstruction. He is also being charged for underage alcohol consumption, as he was only twenty.
Similar Conduct Would More Likely Be a Domestic Violence Crime in Washington
While Mr. Allen is being charged with some serious crimes in Georgia, if he had been in Washington, his outlook would be significantly bleaker.
In Georgia, a crime of “family violence” requires there to be either a felony charge, or one for a small set of specified crimes, like battery or assault. In contrast, Washington does not specify which crimes have to be committed, meaning any criminal charge can be one for domestic violence.
This makes a world of difference for Mr. Allen. If his defense attorney is able to beat the felony charge or plea it down to a misdemeanor, Mr. Allen will no longer be facing a charge of family violence. In Washington, this would not be a possibility.