Monthly Archives: January 2014

Whatcom County Domestic Violence Filings Increase

The Bellingham Herald reported that, in 2012, more protection orders were filed in Whatcom County. Also, more people were booked into jail for domestic violence.

This information was found in the 10th Annual Report About Domestic Violence, which is linked below:

Report highlights for 2012 included the following:

* Law enforcement reported 1,387 domestic violence offenses in Whatcom County, down slightly from 1,422 in 2011. Nearly 55 percent were assaults and 30 percent were violations of protection or no-contact orders.

* The number of domestic violence protection orders filed in Whatcom County courts went up in 2012. At 427, it was the highest since 2004.

* Domestic violence made up 20 percent of Whatcom County Jail bookings in 2012, an increase from previous years and double the 10 percent of all jail bookings in 2011.

My opinion? Domestic violence is an AWFUL dynamic to have in a relationship. The effects of domestic violence wreak havoc on relationships, reputations and families.

However, most couples are not involved in ongoing domestic violence relationships. The vast majority of these situations involve a couple who argued a little too passionately, perhaps under the influence, and police are contacted. Unfortunately, when the criminal justice system gets involved, the wheels are very hard to stop.

For example, most people are unaware that under RCW 10.99, officers MUST arrest a primary aggressor and immediately take them to jail. Additionally, most defendants MUST move out of their own homes while the case is pending. This is a substantial hardship. And defendants who are convicted of domestic violence crimes risk being incarcerated, paying court fines and restitution, obtaining domestic violence evaluations, undergoing treatment, being monitored by probation, losing their gun rights, and obeying court orders preventing them from communicating with family members. Finally, a domestic violence conviction carries a negative stigma which may deter employment opportunities.

Take my word, these types of charges probably won’t get reduced or dismissed quickly. Most prosecutors and judges want to continue these cases out to see if people will violate no-contact orders. Indeed, many defendants end up facing more criminal charges if they accidentally or intentionally violate a no-contact order. A vindictive and/or vengeful “victim” may invite communication and persuade a defendant to violate the court’s no-contact order.

I’ve seen this happen many times. And once a victim has proof that a contact happened, they can – and most will – contact the police and pursue additional charges of Violating a No-Contact Order (NCOV). These are particularly nasty charges which are very difficult to defend against. An NCOV charge damages the defendant’s bargaining position in reducing and/or dismising the underlying domestic violence charge that got them in trouble in the first place!

Hire an experienced attorney if facing these debilitating charges. And do what they say.

Washington’s New DUI Pilot Program: “Plea Tenderizing” Gains Momentum

Apparently, the legislative movement to heavily monitor defendants charged with DUI is gaining momentum.

Starting January 1, intoxicated drivers charged with their second DUI in Chelan County, Spokane County, and Thurston County may face much tougher punishment after their second offense.

The “24/7 DUI Monitoring Program” requires daily monitoring of any substance use. Defendants – who are still innocent until proven guilty, mind you – must either report to jail twice a day to give a breath test or pay more for an ankle monitor. Offenders pay $4 a day for the breath test and up to $12 a day for the ankle monitor.

“If they pass the test, they’re out the door. If they fail the test, they’re incarcerated,” explained Program Manager Bruce Bjork.

Repeat offenders are a major frustration for law enforcement officers. Many complain the current laws puts people back out on the street with lesser penalties than what they should have.

My opinion? The monitoring is another way of “plea tenderizing” defendants into pleading guilty to alcohol-related offenses. Daily monitoring is a significant inconvenience in time and money. As a result, defendants beleaguered with the time and expense of this excessive pretrial monitoring will want to plead guilty to DUI or a lesser alcohol related charge simply to stop the monitoring rather than fight the case on its merits.