The No Contact Order (NCO), and the imposition or non-imposition thereof is probably the most litigated issue throughout the pendency of most domestic violence cases. The no-contact order can prevent a person from seeing his family, children, and friends. It can limit where he can go and specifically order where he can’t. It can even cause him to be removed from his home, regardless of circumstance, and forced to find new housing. It can deprive him of his possessions. Force him to lose his job. Prevent him from going to school. When we talk about the life-changing aspects of a domestic violence charge, we are almost always referring to the outcome that an NCO will produce. What further complicates this scenario is that very often the alleged victim does not want there to be any contact order imposed. Unfortunately, even when there are valid reasons for not imposing a no-contact order and even when the alleged victim makes it abundantly clear to both the “victim’s advocate” and the court that he or she does not fear the defendant and does not desire the protection of an NCO, the court in the vast majority of cases will impose one anyhow.
This section discusses the different types of orders that prohibit contact, the effect of the alleged victim’s position on the NCO, penalties for violating the NCO, and what to do if the alleged victim attempts contact despite the order. This area of domestic violence defense in Washington is rife with dangers and potential consequences. If you have questions about any aspect of a no-contact order, contact the Washington domestic violence lawyers at Milios Defense.
1. The different kinds of protection orders.
There are generally two scenarios where a court will enter an order preventing one person from having contact with another. In one scenario, the individual seeking protection petitions the court for an order restraining another from having contact with or harassing the protected individual, or his or her children. These can be sought by way of a family law proceeding or by direct petition to the district or superior court of jurisdiction. In such cases a petition is filed, notice is given to the responding party, and a hearing is held. If the court determines that a restraining or anti-harassment order is warranted, it will be imposed for a specific period of time. If circumstances change during that period the order may be modified and at the termination of the order, the protected party may seek its renewal. Domestic violations of these kinds of orders are covered here.
The scenario that these section covers are the no-contact order imposed as part of a domestic violence criminal proceeding. In this instance, the court determines at an early stage, usually the first appearance, whether the alleged victim or any other party, is in need of protection. The court draws its authority to impose the NCO from RCW 10.99.040 which states in part:
“Because of the likelihood of repeated violence directed at those who have been victims of domestic violence in the past, when any person charged with or arrested for a crime involving domestic violence is released from custody before arraignment or trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court authorizing the release may prohibit that person from having any contact with the victim.
If no contact is ordered the NCO is drafted to prohibit the defendant from having contact of any kind, whether direct or through a third party, or of coming within a specific distance of the protected individual’s home, work, school, person, etc. Though the alleged victim is allowed to speak to the court, either directly or through an appointed victim’s advocate, the court can, and most often does issue the order irrespective of his or her wishes. The order then remains in place until it is either rescinded by the court or the court loses its jurisdiction, whichever comes first.
2. The alleged victim’s position on the imposition of a No Contact Order.
In many, if not most, domestic violence cases, the alleged victim desires the protection of the no-contact order. If that is the case, the court will impose an NCO virtually 100% of the time. However, in a substantial number of cases, the alleged victim does not want the protection of a no-contact order. There may be no history of violence between the parties. There may be no fear of the defendant. Add to those factors the possibility that the parties are married and raising children together, or run a business together, etc. and there are very real and valid reasons why a court should not impose an NCO. The reality is that in the vast majority of the cases, the court will order the NCO regardless of the alleged victim’s sincere and reasonable wishes. If an alleged victim of domestic violence does not believe he or she has a voice in court or that the appointed victim’s advocate is not adequately advocating his or her position, a private attorney can be retained. We have found that this is often a very effective way to effectuate the desires of the alleged victim of domestic violence and not just with respect to no contact issues but as to the ultimate resolution of the case as a whole.
3. Penalties for violating a no-contact order.
There is a multitude of potential consequence for violating a no-contact order during the pendency of a domestic violence case. First, the violation would constitute a new criminal offense called Violation of a No Contact Order. In certain circumstances, the contract could rise to the level of a Felony Violation of a No Contact Order. Additionally, the contract would constitute a violation of the court’s pretrial conditions which could lead to arrest and additional conditions such as the revocation of bail or imposing or increasing bail. Also, such a violation would likely affect the success of ongoing negotiations with the prosecutor’s office and ultimately, the outcome of the case. It goes without saying, don’t risk violating any contact order for a reason. If for some reason contact needs to be made, inform your Washington DV lawyer for advice.
4. When the alleged victim initiates contact.
As often happens in a domestic violence case, the alleged victim who is protected by a no-contact order will attempt to make contact with the defendant. Remember, if you are a defendant in a DV case, the court has ordered YOU not to have contact. The NCO doesn’t work in both directions. Therefore there is nothing unlawful about the victim having contact with the defendant. However, if you respond to the contact, you are in violation of the order. Even if the protected party agrees to the contact, has initiated the contact, and promises not to “press charges” on the violation, it is still a violation, and the consequences for such a violation have been spelled out above. Also good to remember is that occasionally we run across alleged victims of domestic violence who, for a variety of reason, are seeking revenge on the defendant. These people tend to use no-contact order as a sword instead of a shield. They cajole the defendant into making contact and then report the contact to law enforcement. This behavior is not the norm but it does occur.
Remember. Always protect yourself.