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What Is a No Contact Order?

When an individual in Washington is accused of domestic violence, the court frequently issues a no-contact order. There are two types of no contact orders in Washington: (1) pre-trial and (2) post-conviction. Both types of no-contact orders prevent the person accused in a domestic violence case from having contact with the alleged victim. Below is an overview of no-contact orders in Washington. No contact orders are different from civil protection orders that can be obtained in a number of situations. Read this blog on the different types of protection orders if you are interested in protection orders that are not connected to a criminal case. 

Pre-Trial No Contact Orders  

A pre-trial no contact order can preclude contact between the person charged and:

  • The alleged victim of the domestic violence crime, 
  • The children of the person charged if they were present for the alleged crime or are, themselves alleged to be the victims of the crime;
  • The alleged victim’s workplace and home (even if the person charged also lives there).

People are often surprised to learn that a pre-trial no-contact order can force the person accused of domestic violence out of his or her home and can keep them apart from their children before there is even a conviction for a crime. And unfortunately, a pre-trial no-contact order remains in place until the case is resolved or the judge specifically orders it lifted. 

How Does a Pretrial No Contact Order Get Lifted or Modified?

Typically, a pretrial no contact order will only be lifted or modified at the request of the alleged victim.  The alleged victim must work with their attorney or the victim advocate to set a hearing to address the no contact order.  Modifications might include allowing phone or email contact to discuss financial issues or issues around shared children, sharing “custody” of pets, or allowing contact within the confines of a couples’ counseling appointment. 

The court may be willing to lift a no contact order, especially if there is evidence the accused is addressing some underlying issue that may have led to the accusation, such as substance abuse issues, but the court also may only be willing to modify the order or leave it as-is while the case is pending.

Even if the accusation is false, the court will want to hear from the alleged victim on what their “safety plan” will be if the order is lifted.  A safety plan assures the court the alleged victim has a plan for keeping themselves safe in their dealings with the accused person. The alleged victim will need to work with their attorney or the advocate to develop a safety plan to present to the court.

How Does the Person Accused Get Their Personal Belongings out of a Shared House if a No Contact Order is Imposed?

The court will often authorize a one-time “civil stand by” for law enforcement to accompany the accused person to the shared dwelling to pick up needed personal items.  The no contact order must have a written provision authorizing a law enforcement officer to stand by in order for the accused person to avail themself of this option to collect their belongings.

Post-Conviction No Contact Orders

A post-conviction no-contact order is issued after a criminal conviction or as part of a resolution of the case. This type of order can carry the same types of restrictions as a pre-trial no-contact order. Post-conviction no contact orders generally stay in place for at least one year but can vary depending on how the case was resolved and what the prosecutor has agreed to recommend to the court.

Penalties for Violating a No Contact Order 

In Washington, the first-time violation of a no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor. A person who is convicted of violating a no-contact order can be fined up to $5000 and receive up to 364 days in jail. In addition, since the violation of a domestic violence no-contact order is considered a crime of domestic violence, an individual who is convicted of violating a no-contact order forfeits his or her right to own or possess a firearm–even if no gun was involved in the alleged domestic violence incident.  Multiple violations of no contact orders can result in several misdemeanor charges or felony charges for a third offense.

Let Jennifer Horwitz Law defend you against domestic violence accusations

A domestic violence accusation can be a life-altering event. If you’ve been accused of or charged with domestic violence, you should retain an experienced Seattle domestic violence defense attorney immediately. Attorney Jennifer Horwitz will treat you with respect and compassion as she fights to get the best possible result in your case. Jennifer has a proven track record of success in domestic violence cases, and she’ll do everything in her power to obtain a positive. Whether through her strategic negotiation skills or courtroom litigation experience, Jennifer has the tools at her disposal to fight your domestic violence charges. Please contact Jennifer today for a consultation. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.