Washington Court May Order Domestic Violence Treatment

domestic violence

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When a court sentences a defendant to community custody in a Washington criminal case, there are some conditions the court must impose and others that the court may impose in the court’s discretion.  These conditions are set forth in RCW 9.94A.703.  Pursuant to the statute, the court may require an offender to “[p]articipate in crime-related treatment or counseling services” or “in rehabilitative programs” that are reasonably related to the offense, the risk of reoffending, or community safety.  Additionally, a court may order an offender convicted of a domestic violence crime to participate in a domestic violence perpetrator program, if either the offender or the victim have a minor child.

In a recent case, a defendant challenged the imposition of domestic violence treatment.  The defendant was convicted of second degree assault, unlawful imprisonment, and felony harassment of his former girlfriend.  The jury found the defendant and the victim were members of the same family or household.

The state asked the trial court to require the defendant to complete domestic violence treatment.  He objected.  The defendant argued the statute only authorized the court to require domestic violence treatment if the offender or victim had a minor child.  The trial court found it did have the authority to require the treatment and did so. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued the trial court erred in ordering the treatment because the statute only authorizes a court to order domestic violence perpetrator treatment if either the defendant or the victim have a minor child.

The appeals court analyzed how the applicable statutes work together.  The appeals court noted that RCW 9.94A.703(3) allows the court to order crime related treatment and rehabilitation programs “[a]s part of any term of community custody.” (Emphasis added by the appeals court.)  The appeals court found nothing limiting or qualifying the provision.  The appeals court found this provision allowed the court to order a domestic violence perpetrator’s treatment program, regardless of RCW 9.94A.703(4), which allows the imposition of such a condition when one of the parties has a minor child.

The defendant argued the requirements in RCW 9.94A.703(4) would have no effect if RCW 9.94A.703(3) allows the court to order domestic violence perpetrator treatment.  The appeals court disagreed, however.  The appeals court noted that RCW 9.94A.703(3) only allows the court to order treatment that is related to the crime, the circumstances of the offense, the risk of reoffending, or community safety. There are a number of offenses that fall under the definition of “domestic violence,” and a treatment program may not meet the requirements under subsection (3) for all of those crimes.  A court can order domestic violence perpetrator’s treatment under subsection (4)if the defendant or victim has a minor child regardless of whether the requirements in subsection (3) are met.

The appeals court affirmed the sentence.  This case illustrates the discretion that appeals courts allow trial courts in imposing domestic violence treatment.  If you are facing domestic violence charges, the criminal defense attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC can help you fight for your rights. Call us at (206) 622-6562 to schedule a consultation.

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