Seattle and Bellevue Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
I'm John Polito, a lawyer in Bellevue, Washington, who defends clients in domestic violence cases. For 30 years, I have handled cases involving domestic violence, violations of orders for protection, restraining orders, anti-harassment orders and no-contact orders for people in Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, and other cities in Washington state. Over 90% of my clients have had their cases dismissed or been found not guilty at trial.
You are likely reading this because either you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a domestic violence offense. These cases can have devastating consequences and always result in a more successful outcome when an experienced defense attorney is introduced very early on.
What do I do If I've been wrongfully arrested or charged?
It is very common to be wrongfully accused of domestic violence. These cases almost always start with a phone call to the police, often involving false or exaggerated allegations. Additionally, sometimes the 911 call is made prematurely and by the time the police have arrived, there may be no need for intervention. However, Washington State law requires an arrest if the police arrive within 4 hours and believe there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. This is a very low standard and usually results in an arrest and being taken into custody. Fortunately, this very low standard of proof only applies at the beginning of your case and moves to the much heavier burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes time for the prosecution to try to prove their case.
When should someone call an attorney?
As soon as possible after being arrested. It is best to take immediate action and call an attorney before the prosecution files charges or the first court hearing is held. Early intervention by an experienced attorney can reduce charges or prevent charges from being filed at all. At the first court appearance or arraignment, the prosecution will seek a no contact order. In many cases the prosecution will also seek bail, which can excessive and prevent release from jail. Having a defense attorney present at this first hearing to protect the defendant's rights and get them out of jail is a vital first step. This is critical because splitting up a family is not only emotionally devastating but financially devastating as well. Once the defense attorney is on board early, the attorney can then take all of the steps necessary as the case proceeds through the court system to protect the rights of the accused.'
What is a crime of domestic violence?
There is no separate crime of "domestic violence" per se. Domestic violence is simply a designation that is placed on the criminal charge based on the nature of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim as set forth below.
Types of Domestic Relationships:
- Spouses (current or former)
- Domestic partners (current or former)
- Persons who have a child in common, regardless of having been married or lived together
- Adults related by blood or marriage
- Adults who live or have lived together
- Persons sixteen years of age or older who have or have had a dating relationship
- Persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren
Types of Domestic Violence Charges:
The most common domestic violence charge is either Assault in the 4th degree - Domestic Violence or Assault in the 2nd degree - Domestic Violence. Assault in the 4th degree is a gross misdemeanor with a potential sentence of up to 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. Assault in the 2nd degree is a felony with a potential sentence of prison time and a $20,000 fine. There are other crimes that can fit under this label:
- Malicious Mischief
- Violation of a No Contact order
- Violation of a Domestic Violence Protection Order
- Interfering with a 911 call
- Failure to surrender firearms
Types of potential penalties for Domestic Violence Charges:
- Domestic violence batterer's treatment (DVBT) or similar program
- Loss of right to possess a firearm
- Travel restrictions (including interstate travel)
- Geographic restrictions (residences, places of employment, schools etc.)
- GPS monitoring bracelets
- SCRAM (alcohol and drug) bracelets
- Orders restricting alcohol and non prescription drug use
- 5 years of court supervised probation
- Financial penalties
- Up to 364 days of jail or prison
- Other penalties depending on the circumstances of each particular case
How do I avoid these penalties?
With the early intervention of an experienced attorney, many domestic violence cases can be resolved without a trial, with few sanctions or penalties. If a domestic violence case needs to be tried, unlike many attorneys, I will try it. Over 90% of the cases I have handled have resulted in either a dismissal or a not guilty verdict. This track record of success gives me the credibility and leverage to obtain extremely favorable results for my clients.
What if I was acting in self defense?
If a self-defense argument needs to be made, I will make it. Washington state is a "stand your ground" state. This means that one faced with a assault from another has no duty to retreat and has a right to stand their ground, remain in a place where they have a right to be, and use reasonable force to defend against an attack, regardless of gender. Importantly, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting in self defense, and you have no burden to show that you were. In fact, if we prevail on a self-defense argument, I have successfully obtained reimbursement from the State of Washington for recovery of the attorney's fees and any other damages the defendant has incurred in using self defense. This is a powerful incentive and deterrent I am able to bring to the table when I negotiate for a favorable result in your case.
What if we just had a bad argument?
Domestic violence cases need to be looked at through the prism of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim. Neither police officers, prosecutors or judges know early in the case the dynamic of the relationship. I have represented numerous couples and families that had a bad argument but were subjected to a system where one size fits all. My job is to turn that tide. In fact, many times after the parties have calmed down, there is a rational way to enter into a disposition which will bring peace to the relationship at relatively minimal financial and emotional cost. I will use all of my 30 years of experience and resources as a lawyer to obtain that result.
How can I get my case dismissed?
- Be cooperative with the police but DO NOT give a statement to the police
- Do NOT break the temporary no contact order
- Do NOT have any contact with the alleged victim, even if they contacted you first
- Call an attorney immediately
Free consultation: Contact me, attorney John J. Polito, for a no-cost assessment of your domestic assault/domestic offense case and your options. From my office in Bellevue, Washington, I serve clients in Seattle, King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County. I accept all major credit cards for your convenience. Please call my office at (425) 646-7111, or my cell phone at (206) 371-9870.