Anti-Harassment Orders, DV Protection Orders, and Sexual Assault Protection Orders

There are a number of different types of “no-contact” orders, some issued in the civil context, some in a criminal proceeding. Some of the most common orders include:

This firm has worked with all of these types of orders, representing defendants, respondents, and petitioners. If you find yourself responding to a petition for any of these orders, or if you are accused of violating any of these orders, it's critical that you obtain the services of a no-contact order lawyer or a protection order attorney. Please feel free to call our office to see if we can assist you.  Please be aware that we will need to complete a "conflicts" check before we can speak with you, to make sure there is no conflict of interest in us assisting you.  An example: we cannot represent both sides in such a dispute, 

If you are planning to file a request for one of these orders for yourself or a child or dependent adult, it is very helpful to have legal counsel assist you, particularly if the other person has their own attorney. If you have already filed one of these orders, and you would like assistance or advice, give us a call to see if we can help you.

Anti-Harassment Orders:

The State Legislature described the reason behind creating an anti-harassment order process in the following way:

The legislature finds that serious, personal harassment through repeated invasions of a person's privacy by acts and words showing a pattern of harassment designed to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim is increasing. The legislature further finds that the prevention of such harassment is an important governmental objective. 

RCW 10.14.010

But how is this defined?

First, there must be "unlawful harassment," of the Petitioner (the person seeking protection under the order) by the Respondent (the person responding to the petition).  This behavior cannot constitute protected speech under the 1st Amendment.  In other words, you can't ask the Court to find that someone has harassed you merely because you don't like what they have to say.

Here is how the Legislature has defined unlawful harassment:

“Unlawful harassment” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner, or, when the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.

Second, there must be more than one instance of harassment.  There must be a pattern of behavior, or a "course of conduct."  Here is how a "course of conduct" is defined:

 "Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. “Course of conduct” includes, in addition to any other form of communication, contact, or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication, but does not include constitutionally protected free speech. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

Domestic Violence Protection Orders:

To obtain a Domestic Violence Protection order, or a "DVPO," two things must be shown.

  • First, there must be proof that the relationship between the Petitioner (the person seeking protection under the order) and the Respondent (the person responding to the petition) must constitute "family or household members."  This is defined as:
    • Spouses (current or former)
    • Domestic partners (current or former)
    • Persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
    • Adult persons related by blood or marriage
    • Adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past
    • Persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship
    • Persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship
    • Persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.
    •  "Dating relationship" means a social relationship of a romantic nature. The Court can consider the length of time the relationship has existed; the nature of the relationship; and the frequency of interaction between the parties in determining whether a dating relationship existed.
  • Second, the Petitioner must prove (by a "preponderance of the evidence" - i.e. "more likely than not") that the Respondent committed an act (or acts) of domestic violence against the protected party.
    • Domestic violence” means: (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member.

The Court must also conclude that a petition was filed in the correct location.  It must be filed in the county or the municipality where the Petitioner resides.  However, if the petitioner has left the residence or household to avoid abuse, then the petition can be brought in the location of the new household/residence.

What if the DV "abuser" has actually filed a petition against the "abused?"

The law allows the Court to switch the parties, if it is clear that the person who is responding to a petition  is in fact the abused person. RCW 26.50.060(4) allows the Court to realign the designation of the parties as "petitioner" and "respondent" where the court finds that the original petitioner is the abuser and the original respondent is the victim of domestic violence.  However, in reality many judges would still require the Respondent to file their own separate petition.  But in some circumstances, the court may issue a  temporary order for protection on behalf of the true victim until the victim is able to prepare that petition.

Contact While a No-Contact Order is in Place:

Contact with the alleged victim (or “petitioner”) in these circumstances would lead to a criminal charge in most instances, or a finding of civil contempt in others. If the order is a pre-trial condition of release on another matter, and the court finds that the contact violated the no contact order, the court could choose to hold you in custody while your case is pending. The alleged “contact” can include text messages, online contact, telephone calls, emails, contact through a third party (relaying messages from a defendant), or in-person contact. If the contact is determined to be an “assault” – it can lead to a felony charge for a felony violation of a no contact order. It's important to have an attorney familiar with the laws in this area to combat the assumptions and prejudice that come from the filing of requests for no-contact orders, or the allegations that these orders have been violated.

Many people mistakenly believe that the contact does not constitute a violation if it is “invited” by the alleged victim.  This is not the case.  Be very careful about any contact from the “alleged victim.”    If the alleged “victim” contacts a defendant, invites them to talk, visit, etc., and the defendant does not immediately discontinue the communication, the defendant can face criminal charges.

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Andy Robertson has a proven track record of creative and effective advocacy for clients facing criminal charges throughout the state of Washington. Ryan Robertson's practice focuses exclusively on high-quality creative appellate representation in criminal and administrative matters, as well as expungements, vacation of records, and petitions to seal.