In short, it is considered to be a restraining order violation in Washington when the individual who has the restraining order filed against them violates any of the terms present in the restraining order. A restraining order is a formal order that is issued by a court that restricts another person from contacting or otherwise harming another person. A restraining order generally does this by requiring the individual to either do or not do certain specific acts.
For example, a restraining order may require a person to maintain a specific distance, such as three hundred feet, from another person at all times. Restraining orders in Washington may either be permanent or temporary orders that can last anywhere from several days to several years. Importantly, violating a restraining order will result in criminal penalties for failing to follow the terms of the order.
Restraining orders are sometimes also referred to as protective orders, depending on the state. However, a restraining order and a protective order are not the same. Although restraining orders and protective orders are both court orders that are designed to protect individuals from harm, restraining orders generally protect people and property in a broader sense, while protective orders are more narrow in scope and are used primarily in civil cases.
On the other hand, protective orders have a broader application and are commonly utilized in both civil and criminal cases as a means of restricting a person from physically harming another person.
A court issues the majority of restraining orders in Washington as a result of a person seeking protection from an immediate harm. Further, restraining orders can be issued in Washington in some cases without a request first being made by the individual who is being protected by the terms of the order.
In fact, a restraining order in Washington may be issued without a person even needing protection. For example, in a divorce case, a Washington family law court judge might automatically issue a restraining order that requires both parties not to sell, destroy, spend, or otherwise dispose of marital property until the divorce has been finalized.
A restraining order may be issued in Washington state under Chapter 26.09 of the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”). The legal penalties for violations of the provisions of a civil restraining order may be found under RCW 7.105.450. However, in order for a person to violate a restraining order in Washington, they have to be properly notified of the order.
In Washington, a person is deemed to have notice of a restraining order if:
- The person to be restrained or the person’s attorney signed the order;
- The person or their attorney was present in court when the restraining order was granted;
- The order was served upon the person to be restrained; or
- The person restrained was given evidence of the restraining order by a peace officer.
Will I Go to Prison if I Am Convicted of Violating a Restraining for the First Time?
In Washington, a peace officer shall arrest and take into custody any person, without the necessity of a warrant, that they have probable cause to believe has violated a restraining order. However, the peace officer must first verify the validity of the restraining order and then determine the terms of the order in order to determine whether or not the terms of the restraining order have been violated.
Typically, this will be done by the person in possession of a certified copy of the restraining order, providing the peace officer with a certified copy of the order. It is important to note that no peace officer may be held criminally or civilly liable for making an arrest based on a restraining order if the officer acts in good faith and without malice.
Once an individual has been arrested upon allegations of violating a restraining order for the first time, they will typically be criminally charged with a gross misdemeanor. A gross misdemeanor is the most serious in the classification of misdemeanors.
The criminal defendant will then undergo the entire criminal process in order to determine whether they are guilty of violating the terms of the restraining order. If convicted, the guilty party will then face legal punishments related to their violation of the order, including possible imprisonment.
What’s the Punishment for a Gross Misdemeanor in Washington State?
In Washington state, a gross misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment of a maximum of 364 days in jail, a criminal fine of up to $5,000, or a combination of both. Additionally, the punishment for a gross misdemeanor that is not fixed by statute also carries the same penalties of imprisonment of a maximum of 364 days in jail, a criminal fine of up to $5,000, or a combination of both.
It is important to note that an individual who is convicted of violating the terms of a restraining or protective order may also receive additional charges regarding their violation of the order. For example, the person may have violated the terms of the restraining order by committing an assault upon the person subject to the order. If that is the case, they may also receive a felony charge in addition to their gross misdemeanor charge for violating the order.
Then, the person who violated the order by committing assault may face the following penalties:
- For a second-degree assault charge, which happens when a person inflicts bodily harm with force or a deadly weapon, potential penalties include imprisonment for up to 10 years, criminal fines of up to $20,000, or a combination of both;
- For a first-degree assault charge, which happens when a person inflicts great bodily harm with force or a deadly weapon, potential penalties include imprisonment for up to life, criminal fines of up to $50,000, or a combination of both for first-time offenders.
What if This Isn’t My First Restraining Order Violation in Washington State?
It is important to note that if this isn’t the first time that you have violated a restraining order in Washington State, then you may face harsher legal penalties. If the person alleged to have violated a restraining order has two previous convictions for violating a restraining order, then the legal penalties will increase to criminal felony charges.
Then, if the defendant is convicted of the felony charge of repeated violations of a Washington State restraining order, they will then face up to 5 years in prison, criminal fines of up to $10,000, or a combination of both.
Additionally, the individual convicted of violating the restraining order multiple times may also be subject to other penalties, such as electronic monitoring. Washington State courts shall specify who must provide the electronic monitoring services and the terms under which the monitoring must be performed. They may also include a requirement that the convicted individual pay the costs of the monitoring.
In determining whether or not a person must pay for their electronic monitoring, the court shall consider the ability of the convicted person to pay. Further, community service and community supervision may also be a part of the punishment.
Should I Contact a Lawyer About Fighting My Restraining Order Violation?
You might have been accused of domestic violence and are being issued a restraining order in Washington or have already had a restraining order issued against you that you believe was not appropriate. If so, it is imperative to immediately consult with an experienced Washington restraining order lawyer.
An experienced criminal attorney will be able to help you understand your rights, as well as to help you fight the restraining order that has been issued against you. As can be seen, the penalties for violating the terms of a restraining order may be severe. As such, a criminal lawyer is needed in order to ensure that your legal rights are being protected and to help you build a solid defense against alleged violations of a restraining order.