One of the most devastating consequences of a Washington State Domestic Violence charge is the imposition of No Contact Orders pursuant to RCW 10.99.
What Are No Contact Orders?
No Contact Orders are judicial orders which prohibit one person from contacting another person. Often, the No Contact Order will also prohibit that person from knowingly visiting the home or workplace of the protected party, or from knowingly coming into or reaming in close proximity to a protected party.
What this means is that if you have been issued a No Contact Order against another person, you are not allowed to have ANY contact with that party whatsoever. This includes all forms of electronic communications like phone calls, emails, texts, and facebook posts or chats.
It is also very important to understand that it does not make any difference who initiates the contact. If the protected party contacts you, and you continue the communication past the point that you discover the identity of the party, you will be breaking the order and potentially be charged with a new crime.
When Are No Contact Orders Issued?
No Contact Orders are generally issued in the following two situations:
Criminal No Contact Orders:
Often, when a defendant in a criminal case appears before a court at arraignment in a criminal case, a judge will issue a No Contact Order prohibiting the defendant from contacting victims, witnesses or other co-defendants. A judge may also issue such an order at the time of sentencing in a criminal matter. These No Contact Orders are very commonly issued in Domestic Violence cases.
Civil Anti Harassment Orders:
Not all No Contact Orders originate in criminal charges. Often, an individual (called a petitioner) will proactively ask a judge for an order preventing another party (the respondent) from contacting them. This can be done pursuant to RCW 10.14.040. The petitioner must show that there has been a course and conduct of unlawful harassment. See RCW 10.14.020 for more information on Anti Harassment Orders.
What is a Civil Standby?
A civil standby will allow you a brief opportunity to visit a residence which you have been ordered to stay away from for the purpose of gathering personal belongings. This is generally set up through the local sheriff’s office and must be done in the presence of a law enforcement official. Civil standbys generally only last for 15-20 minutes.
Surrender of Weapons
As per RCW 9.41.800 a judge in a Washington State criminal DV matter may also require a defendant to surrender any firearms or dangerous weapons which they may possess as a condition of release. The judge may also require a defendant to surrender their concealed weapons permit as well.
What Can Be Done to Fight A No Contact Order?
The best way to keep a No Contact Order from being issued is to hire a competent attorney to argue against it at arraignment. Often, an attorney can help a judge feel more confident that the complaining witness is not in any danger if the judge allows contact.
Also, if a No Contact Order has already been issued, a competent attorney can help you petition the court to lift it. We often work with therapists and the complaining witness or their attorney to accomplish this goal.