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Washington No Contact Order Violation Conviction Upheld Where Protected Party Said She Planned to Drop the Order

When a Washington civil protection order is in place, any contact with the protected party could result in a charge for a violation of the order.  In a recent case, a defendant challenged his conviction for violation of a no contact order, claiming the state did not prove he knowingly violated the order because the protected party told him she had dropped it.

The defendant was stopped for driving with a broken taillight.  The officer discovered the vehicle belonged to the passenger and that she was the protected party in a no-contact order against the defendant.  The officer arrested the defendant.

The defendant told the officer he knew about the no-contact order, but the protected party said she had taken care of it or was having it dropped. The protected party also told the officer she intended to drop the no-contact order.

The defendant was charged with felony violation of a domestic violence court order. At trial, the protected party testified she had three children with the defendant and they had been in a relationship for 10 years.  She testified she had told him on the phone she had the no-contact order dropped.  After being presented with the written statement she gave the police, she testified she told the defendant both that she was going to have it dropped and that she already had it dropped.

The jury found the defendant guilty of violation of a court order and found the defendant and the protected party were members of the same family or household.

The defendant appealed his conviction for felony violation of a domestic violence court order, arguing the state failed to show he knowingly violated the order. To support the conviction, the state had to prove there was a no-contact order on the date in question, the defendant knew the order existed, the defendant knowingly violated it, and he had been convicted for violating a court order twice before.  The defendant had stipulated that the order existed, that he knew about it, and that he had twice been convicted of violating a court order.  The only element left for the state to prove, and the only one the defendant challenged on appeal, was the knowing violation element.

He argued there was insufficient evidence to prove he knowingly violated the order because the protected party testified she told him she dropped the no-contact order.  There was evidence, however, that the defendant told the officer he knew about the order but the protected party told him she had either already taken care of it or that she was in the process of having it dropped.  The appeals court found this evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of knowing violation. The jury could evaluate the credibility of the protected party’s testimony, and their credibility determination was not subject to review on appeal.  Based on the defendant’s stipulation he knew about the order and his statement to the officer the protected party was in the process of getting the order dropped, a reasonable jury could have found the defendant knowingly violated the order.  The appeals court found there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. The appeals court affirmed the conviction, but remanded for the trial court to strike a legal financial obligation that the state conceded should be stricken.

This case serves as a reminder that a person with a no contact order issued against him or her should avoid all contact with the protected party while the order is in place, even if the protected party initiates contact and plans to have the order dropped. Contact still constitutes a violation of the order and may result in a conviction if the protected party initiates or agrees to the contact.

Whether you are seeking or opposing a no contact order, the experienced Seattle civil protection order attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, can help you through the process.  Call us at (206) 622-6562 to set up an appointment to talk about your case.