March 14th, 2023
Challenging False Allegations of Domestic Violence in Washington State
It’s no secret that words can carry tremendous weight. Even a few words muttered in anger can lead to significant consequences. If a current or former spouse, dating partner, or family member has falsely accused you of domestic violence, you understand how serious these allegations can be. Suddenly, you receive notice that you cannot come near or even contact the alleged victim, meaning you cannot even reach out to them to discuss the situation or try to clear up the misunderstanding. Although Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) serve an important purpose, not everyone uses them in good faith. If you are struggling with a false allegation of domestic violence in the Seattle area, contact an experienced and understanding family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Your attorney will assess every detail of your case and help you defend your reputation from these baseless and damaging accusations.
How Domestic Violence Protection Orders Work in Washington
Washington state recognizes that victims of domestic violence need protection from an intimate partner who threatens their safety and well-being. Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) are a type of civil order that prevent alleged abusers from following, stalking, harassing, or contacting the petitioner for a specified amount of time. Under RCW 1.105.100, a person may file a petition for a DVPO alleging “the existence of domestic violence committed against the petitioner or petitioners by an intimate partner or a family or household member.” If the Court grants the petitioner’s request, the DVPO can provide several protections, such as: prohibiting contact between the petitioner and the respondent; removing the abuser from the shared residence; ordering temporary custody and visitation schedule to the petitioner; or ordering the abuser into treatment; compelling the respondent to surrender firearms. Typically, the Court will issue a Temporary DVPO that lasts only 14 days – long enough for a full hearing to be held. After a hearing and further deliberation, the Court may extend the protection order to last for one year (or longer).
How a DVPO Impacts the Respondent
If someone seeks a DVPO against you, it’s essential to recognize the potential consequences for violating the terms of the protection order. Knowingly violating the DVPO’s terms can lead to criminal penalties, such as an arrest and gross misdemeanor charges. In some cases, particularly those involving assault or reckless endangerment, you could face Class C felony charges. If you know the allegations against you are false, it can be tempting to contact the petitioner to ask why they have taken such drastic action. However, contacting the alleged victim in any way—even if the petitioner reaches out to you first—may be interpreted as a violation of the DVPO. It’s best to cease all contact with this person and get in touch with a trusted and compassionate family law attorney instead.
What to Do When Facing False Allegations of Domestic Violence
The process for obtaining a DVPO is designed to support survivors of legitimate domestic violence. The legal system aims to remove as many barriers as possible to ensure victims can access the protections they need to feel safe from their abusers. However, it’s not unheard of for individuals to manipulate this system and obtain protection orders based on exaggerated or downright false accusations. Finding yourself accused of threatening or harming a loved one can be highly distressing, particularly when such allegations are untrue. The most strategic step you can take is to contact a seasoned attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Your attorney will examine every detail of your case and help you identify the best way to challenge these false and harmful accusations. For instance, you may be able to find and present evidence that contradicts the accuser’s account of what happened. You may find inconsistencies in the accuser’s statements or use the accounts of witnesses to show that the alleged victim has a history of exaggerating the truth or making false accusations. Whatever the course of your journey may be, you can trust that your lawyer will fight tirelessly to protect your legal rights and uphold your reputation.
Protecting Your Future
In today’s climate, a mere accusation—no matter how unfounded—can wreak havoc on your reputation. If someone has sought a DVPO against you, it’s natural to want to confront the accuser and push back against their harmful words. However, doing so will likely make matters worse. Before you take this drastic step, protect yourself by speaking with a caring and skilled attorney instead. Your lawyer will help you understand how the protection order affects you, and they can identify your options for challenging these false claims of domestic violence. Sometimes, simply knowing that you do not have to go through this disorienting and stressful experience on your own is enough to give you the courage and confidence to keep moving forward.
Learn more about what steps you can take to defend yourself against false accusations of domestic violence in the Seattle area by calling The Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200.
Andrew Linden is an Associate Attorney at Hemmat Law Group. Mr. Linden graduated from Knox College in 2016 and received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019. He is a member of the Washington State Bar.