Washington’s Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence

If you have never been arrested before, then the first time is likely to be one of the worst experiences of your life. Feeling the handcuffs click on your wrists and being shoved into the back seat of a police patrol vehicle is an incredibly embarrassing, demeaning and frightening experience, even if no one is obviously watching.  It is scary and humiliating.

Throughout our lives, we’ve been taught that people who get arrested are criminals who have been caught red-handed and are without a doubt guilty of what we think they’ve done, and worse. However, this notion is flat out wrong, and there is no better example of how wrong this is than when someone in Washington gets arrested for a crime of domestic violence.

Washington’s Mandatory Arrest Law for Domestic Violence (“DV”)

When police respond to a domestic violence altercation in Washington, they are required, under Washington law, to arrest someone, if they arrive within 4 hours after a “911” call about the alleged DV incident is received, and if there is probable cause to believe that he or she has committed a crime of domestic violence (or, sometimes, both ‘participants’ are arrested, in rare cases, when each is viewed as a “primary aggressor.” Even if the evidence against that person is fraught with problems or is hardly believable, police will often make the arrest anyway, simply because they might later find themselves in ‘hot water’ with their commander or sergeant if they decide not to, and then it later comes out that they should have.

Not Much Evidence Is Required to Raise Probable Cause

One of the main problems with Washington’s mandatory domestic violence arrest law is that it requires police to make an arrest as soon as they have probable cause that someone committed an act of domestic violence.  Practically speaking, this is an incredibly low standard, particularly in the context of how domestic violence crimes are treated in the early part of an investigation.

How Police Respond to Domestic Violence Allegations Makes it Easy to Find Probable Cause

When someone calls “911” to report a domestic (i.e., potential “DV”) disturbance, the first thing that police officers will do once they get to the scene will be to split up the involved parties, which may be you and your accuser (the alleged DV victim). Not only does this separate the two of you to prevent further interactions with each other, it also allows police to interview each of you on your own. Needless to say, both you and the person accusing you will have your own version, whether completely or slightly different on the facts that allegedly occurred, of what really happened. Your accuser’s stories are likely to be much more drastic than the one that you will tell to the officers, and the alleged victim-accuser is more likely to be believed, too — especially if that person has scratches, bruises, bleeding, damaged property and is, the truth be told, a female.

However, the responding officers are somewhat surprisingly not there to determine conclusively or exactly what happened. That’s a job for the court, prosecutors, and defense attorney to figure out later if and when charges are filed, which usually they are. The police are only there to get a basic sense for a minimum quantum of facts to establish a reasonable believe that probable cause of a crime exists, and they can obtain this solely by listening to your/the accuser. If the story that your accuser tells police involves allegations constituting a crime of domestic violence – regardless of whether their story is accurate (it is often a total fabrication done out of spite, jealousy, drunkenness, etc.) – then police have gotten their probable cause, and are obligated to arrest you under Washington law, providing, again, that they respond to the residence or other scene of the alleged incident with 4 hours.  This is commonly called, colloquially IN Washington state “the 4-hour rule.”

Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Phil Weinberg

If you’ve been arrested for any type of criminal charge involving domestic violence in Washington, and/or have just been served with a civil DV Protection Order, you’ll need an experienced domestic violence defense attorney right away to make sure that arrest does not turn into a criminal conviction. Call the law office of Phil Weinberg at (425) 367-1122 or contact him online.