Violating a no-contact order is one of, if not the, most common crime of domestic violence charged in Washington state. A no-contact order can be imposed in a variety of ways. See No Contact Orders in Washington DV cases. And whether it is having contact with someone who is protected by a no-contact order, a restraining order, or an order of anti-harassment, violation of the order is a criminal offense. If the order is one that protects a household member, family member or someone with whom there is a dating relationship, it constitutes a crime of domestic violence.
Elements of Violation of a No Contact Order
There are at least a dozen different statutes that set out the potential elements of this charge (RCW 10.99.040, 10.99.050, 26.09.300, 26.10.220, 26.26.138, 26.44.063, 26.44.150, 26.50.060, 26.50.070, 26.50.130, 26.52.070, or 74.34.145). Essentially, the government must be able to prove that there was a valid order in place, that the defendant had been given valid notice of the order, and that the prohibited contact was engaged in. The types of contact prohibited in most orders are direct or indirect contact with the protected party, contact through a third person, being in a prohibited place or within a prohibited distance. Obviously, direct contact would include in-person contact, phone calls, emails, text messages, etc. Indirect contact simply means that at your behest, someone has contact with the protected party.
Wishes of the “victim” are irrelevant
Of particular concern with this offense is that it can be, and often is, committed with the assistance of the party the order is deemed to protect. The fact that the “victim” did not object to the contact, was desirous of the contact or even instigated the contact is largely irrelevant. A person who is restrained from contact with another cannot have contact with that person. Period. The person who the order protects does not have the authority to vacate the protection order. There are only two ways such an order can be vacated. Either the issuing court has to vacate the order or the order has expired, either due to the length of the order running or the jurisdiction of the ordering court lapsing. Regardless, if you have any doubts as to whether a contact is allowed, you should contact a Washington domestic violence attorney before engaging in any contact.
A violation of an order prohibiting contact is a gross misdemeanor so long as the violating contact was not an assault and if there were not two previous convictions for violating similar protection orders. RCW 26.50.110. As such, a conviction could mean up to a year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine as well as all of the other mandatory DV penalties.
If the prohibited contact did constitute an assault or there had been two or more previous convictions for violating a similar protective order, the contact would constitute a Class C felony, meaning the maximum penalty could be as high as five (5) years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine. Felony Violation of a No Contact Order is scored as having a seriousness level five (5). That means someone with no previous history would be looking at 6-12 months in jail. However, by definition, most people charged with this offense would have an offender score of 1 or higher, in which case a conviction would mean prison time.
In addition to facing new criminal charges for violating the no-contact order, a person also would also likely be accused of violating either condition of release on a separate pending domestic violence matter or violating the terms of Domestic Violation probation on an earlier Domestic Violation conviction. In a sense, there could be two sets of penalties because of the one alleged violation. If you are facing a charge of violating a no-contact order, contact a Washington Domestic Violence Lawyer at Milios Defense for help.