Your relationship with your spouse or partner has likely been tense for a while. Maybe you are even discussing divorce or accusations of infidelity have come up in one of your many arguments. Perhaps it was during one of those arguments that things got particularly heated. A neighbor called police, or your spouse, in a moment of vengeance, dialed 911 and reported that you were being abusive.
This one phone call set in motion a process that you may feel was quickly out of your control. When police arrived, you may have found yourself in handcuffs before you could get in a word of explanation. Your spouse may have even pleaded with the officers that it was a misunderstanding, but before you knew it, you were at a police station where an officer took your photo and fingerprints.
What happens now?
In Washington, as in most other states, when police receive a report of domestic violence, they must make an arrest if they determine an assault has occurred. However, it is not that simple. The definition for domestic violence can involve any member of your family or those with whom you have lived or had a relationship. It also includes a variety of actions and intentions such as these:
- Causing physical harm or bodily injury to someone in your family or household
- Sexually assaulting someone in your family or household
- Stalking or harassing a family member or other relation with the intent of frightening or intimidating
- Causing someone with whom you are in a relationship to fear for his or her safety
As you can see, you do not have to put a hand on your spouse, partner or family member to face charges of domestic abuse. If your partner simply tells police he or she is afraid of you, you may face arrest.
When matters calm down, your spouse or partner may ask police to drop the charges or try to explain the nature of the encounter. However, once charges have been filed against you, the prosecutor is the only person who can request dismissal of domestic abuse charges. A judge must then approve the request. This is because abusers often intimidate their victims into recanting, and this places them in danger of further abuse.
If the prosecutor decides to go ahead with your case, you have a lot at risk. A domestic violence conviction can result in fines, jail, restrictions on your rights and a lifetime of struggle. It may affect your job, your future opportunities and your hopes of winning custody of your children. If you are facing domestic violence charges, you should not take the situation lightly. Reaching out for quality legal representation is always a wise move.