There are several types of orders of protection available to petitioners experiencing domestic violence, including civil protection orders, protection orders in the context of divorce and legal separation, protection orders in the context of third-party custody action, protection orders in the context of paternity disputes, and, in certain cases, criminal protection orders. As noted above, these orders are only available when the alleged harassment is among “family or household members.”
“Domestic violence” is a defined term meaning physical harm, bodily injury, assault, the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, or stalking. RCW 26.50.010(1). Such orders can prohibit contact all together, exclude the harasser from the location, e.g. residence or workplace, and/or prohibit the harasser from a specified location, within a specific distance. Court forms to use to obtain relief arising from domestic-violence are available through the Washington courts.
RCW 26.60.070 provides for the issuance of an “ex parte temporary order of protection” upon a showing of “irreparable injury.” To determine whether “irreparable injury,” courts consider several factors, such as whether there is a history of violence, the nature of petitioner’s injuries, the respondent’s access to weapons, drug and alcohol abuse, and threats or attacks on family or household members. The court must hold an ex parte hearing on a protection order petition in person or by telephone on the day the petition is filed or the next judicial day. The statute contains general provisions authorizing relief as needed to protect the victim. A court has substantial discretion in crafting provision that will fully protect a petitioner and/or her family. Nonetheless, although it is broad, a court’s discretion is not unlimited. An order issued under RCW 26.50.070 is effective for a “fixed period not to exceed fourteen days or twenty-four days if the court has permitted service by publication.” Reissuance is permitted.
RCW 26.50.060 provides for the issuance of an order “upon notice and after hearing,” sometimes referred to as a “final order.” Final orders require service upon the respondent and hearing. The statute enumerates specific provisions for relief that may be granted by the court, and the length of that available relief.
In situations where a person has reported an incident involving domestic violence to the police, and criminal charges are pending or filed, the State may request a criminal no-contact order on behalf of the victim. The court may also issue such an order at its discretion. Such orders prohibit the harasser and the petitioner from contact of any kind and prohibit the respondent from knowingly coming within or staying within a specific distance of a location. The legislature decided to make such relief available “to recognize the importance of domestic violence as a serious crime against society, and to assure the victim of domestic violence, the maximum protection from abuse which the law and those who enforce the law can provide.” The legislature intended “that the official response to cases of domestic violence shall stress the enforcement of the laws to protect the victim and shall communicate the attitude that violent behavior is not excused or tolerated.” The no-contact order terminates upon the expiration date listed in the order, but it may be terminated or modified by the court prior to that expiration date. A violation of the order results in mandatory arrest.
In 1997, Washington began using an electronic records-keeping system to keep track of protection orders. Known as the Judicial Information System or JIS, the system contains the name and cause number for every protection order issued under RCW Chapter 26.50, every no-contact order issued under RCW 10.14, every dissolution action issued under RCW 26.09, every third-party custody action issued under RCW 26.10, every parentage action issued pursuant to RCW 26.10, every restraining order obtained under RCW 26.44, all foreign protection orders filed under RCW 26.52, and every order for the protection of a vulnerable adult under RCW 74.34. The criminal history of all parties is also entered in the system along with “[o]ther relevant information necessary to assist courts in issuing orders under this chapter as determined by the judicial information system committee.” In 2006, the legislature added sexual assault protection orders issued under RCW 7.90 to the database requirements. Entry into the computer-based criminal intelligence information system constitutes notice to all law enforcement of an order’s existence.
If an individual violates a civil protection order, he or she may be found in contempt of court, and may be subject to punitive or remedial sanctions. A criminal violation of a protection order is generally a gross misdemeanor. The violation is a felony, however, if a defendant has had two prior convictions for violating orders issued under RCW 10.99.040, 10.99.050, Chapters 26.09, 26.10, 26.26, 26.50 RCW or a valid foreign protection order as defined in RCW 26.52.020. The violation is also a felony if the act that violates the order is an “assault” or an act “that is reckless and creates a substantial risk of physical injury to another person.”