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The difference between assault and domestic violence charges in Washington

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Domestic Violence |

The difference between assault and domestic violence charges in Washington

The line between simple assault and domestic violence charges is not necessarily clear. The difference matters, because the same set of circumstances could lead to very different punishments, depending on if the alleged victim is a stranger, a relative or what the law calls an “intimate partner.” This blog aims to shed light on these differences, especially for those in the Port Orchard area facing domestic violence charges.

Assault in Washington, Defined

Assault in Washington is a broad term that refers to any intentional act that causes another person to fear harm, even if no physical contact occurs. It can range from simple threats to actual physical harm. Assault charges can be classified into different degrees, with varying levels of severity and associated penalties.

What makes domestic violence different?

Domestic violence, however, has a more specific context. It’s not just about the physical act of violence but also the relationship between the involved parties. According to Washington law, domestic violence includes crimes committed by one family or household member against another or by one intimate partner against another.

“Family or household members” includes:

  • Adults related by blood or marriage, such as spouses and siblings
  • Those currently or previously living together, including roommates
  • Those with a parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren, as well as biological parents and children.

The term “intimate partners” includes:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Co-parents of a child
  • Adults who are or used to be in a dating relationship
  • Persons over 16 who have lived together or dated.

If the alleged victim and suspect do not have any of these relationships, a domestic violence charge is inappropriate. For example, a fight between two friends that occurs at one of their homes should not be charged as domestic assault.

Why a defense attorney is vital

If you’re charged with domestic violence, it’s crucial to understand your rights, the charges against you and whether you have been overcharged. Consulting with a defense attorney can make a significant difference in your case.