In 2017, the Washington State Legislature created a new classification of assault that results in felony-level punishment for what was previously classified as a non-felony act. It is called Felony Assault in the Fourth Degree and it will mean prison sentences for people who commit simple assault in a domestic relationship.
Elements of Felony Assault 4
If, after July 23, 2017, a person is charged with and convicted of domestic violence fourth-degree assault AND also after that date was convicted of two other specific crimes of domestic violence, what would normally be charged as a gross misdemeanor becomes a felony. The elements of the conduct that equate to Assault in the Fourth Degree remain unchanged from that of the gross misdemeanor definition contained in RCW 9A36.041(1). It is the presence of the two previous convictions that elevate it to a felony level. Thus, two or more convictions for any of the offenses listed below in combination with a current charge of assault in the fourth degree, so long as all of the offenses are designated as crimes of domestic violence, will constitute a felony:
- Assault in the First, Second, Third or Fourth Degree
- Violations of no-contact or protection orders
- Any crime of harassment
Felony Assault Four DV Penalties
Having two prior convictions for domestic violence-related offenses when being charged with what would have been a non-felony assault will dramatically impact the potential consequences one faces. Prior to the new statute, there was no mandatory jail sentence if convicted of Assault 4 DV. That is not the case with Felony Assault 4 DV. First, Felony Assault Four is designated as having a criminal seriousness level of 4. Second, the prior DV offenses that turn it into a felony also count toward the offender score. That means someone charged with this offense will likely have an offender score of anywhere between two to four points. The end result would be that even without any additional history a conviction could mean a minimum of 12-20 months in prison.
If you have prior domestic violence history established after July 23, 2017, and are under investigation for what appears on the surface to be a simple assault, contact a domestic violence attorney at once. It is possible that a serious felony charge could be filed against you.