4th Degree Assault: Gross Misdemeanor. Assault in the 4th degree is a “catch all” offense. All assaults that are not serious enough to be classified as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree assault are charged as an assault in the 4th degree. 4th degree assault is a gross misdemeanor and punishable by 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000. Although, if this is a first offense you may be eligible for diversion programs or eventual dismissal of the charge.
Conviction Consequences: A conviction of Assault 4th degree domestic violence can have lasting consequences and create a barrier to employment and immigration consequences.
FBI DNA Test: In 2017 the Domestic Violence laws changed. If you are convicted of domestic violence assault you will be forced to submit to a DNA test and your DNA will be stored in a FBI database. This change in Washington State Domestic Violence law is outlined in RCW 43.43.754(1)(a)(i).
Jury Trail Strategy: If you are accused of domestic violence assault then you have a right to a jury trial. There are several common defenses in domestic violence assault jury trials:
a. False Accusation: This is the most simple defense. In order to support a defense of false accusation it is necessary to give the jury a reason for the alleged victims false accusation that they were assaulted. This reason is most commonly a upcoming divorce or deteriorating romantic relationship. In many cases I am able to show the jury a timeline of events that indicate the relationship between the divorce or break-up an the false accusation of domestic violence.
b. Self-Defense: Self-defense is a valid defense in cases of domestic violence assault. Under RCW 9A.16.020 self-defense is lawful "whenever a party is about to be injured and....in the case of force is not more than is necessary." In other words, the force used in self defense must be proportionate.
c. Accidental Injury: An Assault must be intentional under the law. This means that accidental or incidental contact that caused injury to a party is not an assault. The State must prove that an assault was intentional in order to convict a defendant of the crime of Assault-domestic violence.
Non-conviction Diversion and Jail Alternatives: In certain situations it is possible that a non-felony accusation of domestic violence can be diverted into a non-conviction. These non-conviction programs may have different names in different courts. Names such as Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC) or Deferred Sentence may be used. These programs are not always best and may have serious consequences people in divorce litigation and non-U.S. citizens in immigration proceedings.
a. Domestic Violence and Divorce: You may have been falsely accused of domestic violence by a disgruntled spouse or significant other because a break-up is coming. Entering into a non-conviction treatment based domestic violence class can help you avoid conviction but may ruin your chances of a successful outcome in your divorce litigation.
b. Immigration Consequences, Visa and Green Card Applications: A accusation of domestic-violence and even Non-conviction diversion can result in an immigration application being rejected. Even if you avoid conviction for an accusation of domestic violence assault you may be put under probation. If you are under "probation" or the supervision of a court during the period of time that you apply for a visa extension or green card you could have your immigration status revoked.
c. H1B VISA and Domestic Violence: If you are in the United States on a H1B Visa you should avoid agreeing to be under supervision of the court or "probation" during the visa application period.
Domestic Violence Treatment: Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 388-60 outlines Domestic Violence treatment. Treatment class for domestic violence is generally 6-12 months long and requires one 90-minute session per-week. These classes are available through private companies or court probation offices. These programs can differ widely and are not all the same. Additionally, domestic violence treatment instructors can report you to the court for: poor attendance, bad attitude or other small infractions in the class. This can result in additional problems in your case. Choosing the correct domestic violence class for your situation is critical.