A bill that would strengthen provisions against domestic violence made it through the Washington House of Representatives. Currently cushioned by firm bipartisan support, the bill is poised to pass in the Senate without issue. It was first read in the House on January 12 and passed in early March. This bill, HB1163, is sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), Chair of the House Public Safety Committee, as well as Representatives Hayes, Orwall, Appleton, Klippert, Pellicciotti, Pettigrew, Chapman, Kilduff, Bergquist, Stanford, and Kloba.
The bill, if enacted, would make assault in the fourth degree (where domestic violence was pleaded and proven) a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. However, the conviction would only be a class C felony if the individual has two or more adult convictions in the last ten years for the following: repetitive domestic violence; harassment; 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree assault; or a comparable out-of-state offense. The bill also allows for prosecutors to decline to prosecute domestic violence despite technically sufficient evidence. They may decline on the following grounds: antiquated statutes, De Minimis Violation (a negligibly minor violation of a law, but a violation nevertheless), confinement on other charges, high disproportionate cost of prosecution, improper motives of complainant, immunity, victim request not to prosecute, no injury made to victim, and where lack of prosecution would not be detrimental to public safety.
Another measure proposed in the bill: the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission of the Supreme Court shall convene a work group to "address the issue of domestic violence perpetrator treatment and the role of certified perpetrator treatment programs in holding domestic violence perpetrators accountable." The purpose of the work group is to review laws and court practices relating to domestic violence perpetrator treatment; to consider the development of a universal diagnostic tool for use by treatment providers and the department of corrections; and to make recommendations to existing laws and legal practices that would improve victim safety, reduce recidivism, and advance treatment outcome. The bill notes that the state has an extremely high rate of domestic violence recidivism and lethality. Legislators hope to gain valuable insight into the issue by establishing the aforementioned work group. There is an emphasis on risk assessment in the research which the group would be required to perform. It would operate with existing funds.
Measures to improve treatment and reduce recidivism are beneficial for the community, victim, and perpetrator alike. Additionally, a fair assessment of the claim and the acknowledgment that some claims may be improper helps protect individuals from unjust or false claims. It is essential that the law evenhandedly consider and ensure fairness for all parties. This bill is a forward thinking and positive step for Washington domestic violence law.
If you have been charged with domestic violence in the Seattle area, you have the right to skilled and aggressive legal representation. Fight for your rights and contact defense attorney Steve Karimi today a free consultation of your case.