A Spokane woman was arrested last Saturday for allegedly shooting her boyfriend in the leg.
According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, when police arrived on the scene, the victim initially said that he had been shot by a man who was attempting to steal from him. Subsequent police investigation indicated that the man had been shot by his girlfriend, Karla Licea.
Licea was arrested for first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and first-degree domestic violence assault.
While the stereotypical domestic violence situation involves a male perpetrator and a female victim, the National Center to End Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, and 1 in 7 have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner.
What is Domestic Violence in Washington?
Washington state law defines domestic violence as:
- Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; or
- Sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or
- Stalking of one family or household member by another family or household member.
"Family or household member" is a broad category, including:
- Spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, or former domestic partners;
- People who have a child in common (regardless of whether they were ever married or lived together);
- Adults related by blood or marriage;
- Adults who live together or who have lived together in the past;
- Persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past;
- People who have a "biological or legal parent-child relationship," including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren; and
- Persons over sixteen years of age who are or were previously in a dating relationship.
If any family or household member harms another family or household member, it could potentially be considered domestic violence under Washington law, regardless of the gender of the victim or the perpetrator.
Penalties for Domestic Violence
Accusations of domestic violence will often result in an arrest. Under Washington law, a police officer responding to a domestic violence incident is required to arrest a person if the officer believes that person assaulted a family or household member.
If the police officer believes that household or family members have assaulted each other, the police are not required to arrest both people. The law directs the police officer to arrest the person "whom the officer believes to be the primary physical aggressor."
Depending on the circumstances of the case, men or women arrested during domestic violence incidents can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in Washington. For example, the Spokane woman accused of shooting her boyfriend was arrested for first-degree assault. This is a Class A felony, the most severe kind. A Class A felony conviction is punishable by up to a life sentence in prison and a fine of $50,000.
The Bureau of Justice statistics has also found that those charged with domestic violence offenses tend to receive harsher sentences than non-domestic violence offenders.