A no-contact order can be issued in two different settings – either in civil or criminal court (or both). On the criminal side, no-contact orders can be issued for many different types of criminal offenses. We see these issued for domestic violence, sex crimes, harassment, etc.
In this article, we are focusing specifically on criminal no-contact orders.
Do you have a criminal no-contact order in Washington state? This article will explain everything you need to know about these no-contact orders and what you can do about it.
Do You Have a Criminal No-Contact Order in WA State? Here’s What it Means for You
No-contact Order Rules
The no-contact order means that you cannot have any contact with the alleged victim, including contact via phone, email, text, social media, letter, through a third party, or any other form of communication. The accused individual must also stay a certain distance away from the alleged victim, as mandated by the court (RCW 10.99.040).
Any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim can be considered a violation of the order. For instance, if you accidentally see the protected person in a public place, you must leave immediately. If the protected person contacts you, you must not respond. Any response is considered a violation of the order.
A judge issues the no-contact order. That means that even if the alleged victim does not want a no-contact order, it is up to the court’s discretion to issue no-contact order, which happens especially in domestic violence situations.
Additionally, only the court can remove the order. Even if the alleged victim testifies on your behalf, the no-contact order cannot be terminated without a judge’s ruling.
How Long Does a No-contact Order Last?
There are two main types of criminal no-contact orders: pre-trial no-contact orders and post-conviction no-contact orders.
Pre-trial no-contact orders are issued against you after you are charged with a crime, but before any conviction. The pre-trial order is meant to protect the alleged victim while the case proceeds. This type of order stays in place until the a judge orders the no-contact order to be lifted. If your case is dismissed or you are found not guilty after a trial, then the no contact order is lifted.
A post-conviction no-contact order is issued after a criminal conviction and can last various periods of time, from months to years.
How Does the Court Know if a No-Contact Order is Violated?
Immediately after the no-contact order is issued, a copy of the order is entered in the law enforcement computer-based criminal intelligence information system and will remain in the computer system for one year or until a specified date (RCW 7.92.180). That means that if any police officer looks up your license plate, driver’s license, or other information in his/her computer, the no-contact order filed against you will show up.
For example, say you decided to meet up with the person the no-contact order forbids you from seeing. If the two of you are in a car together and you are pulled over, or an officer happens to type your license plate information in his/her computer, you will be caught violating the order.
Let’s take another example. If you and the protected person travel together via plane, a customs inspector will see that you have a no-contact order filed against you. The inspector may see that you are traveling with the alleged victim or that you sat next to or near her/him on the plane.
There are many other ways you can get caught breaking the no-contact order. For example, security cameras may show that you visited the alleged victim, a family member could turn you in, or the even the protected person may turn you in. Even if s/he was the one who initiated all contact, you broke the order and can face serious penalties.
Many other circumstances that could result in you being caught breaking a no-contact order. That being said, even though you are not monitored 24/7, no plan to violate a no-contact order is foolproof, and there is almost always evidence left behind.
Penalties for Violating a No-Contact Order
Violating a no-contact order is considered a separate offense from the original criminal charge. In other words, if you violate a no-contact order, you will be charged with violating the order as a separate count or it may be charged as an entirely separate case.
Penalties for violating a no-contact order include the following:
- If you have less than two prior convictions violating a no-contact order, the charge for a violation of the order without an act of assault is charged as a gross misdemeanor (RCW 26.50.110). Gross misdemeanors can result in a maximum $5,000 fine and up to 364 days in jail (RCW 9A.20.021).
- However, if you have a history of violating no-contact orders or if your original charge included assault or reckless endangerment, the conviction is considered a class C felony (RCW 26.50.110). Class C felonies carry a maximum $10,000 fine and five years in prison (RCW 9A.20.021).
Can You Ask a Judge to Modify or Terminate the No-contact Order?
You can request that a judge modify or Terminate the no-contact order. However, there is no guarantee that you will successfully change or cancel the no-contact order, and it is very difficult to get the order canceled. Even if the protected person testifies on the your behalf, most judges will leave the no-contact order in place.
There are a few strategies to help you get the no-contact order terminated. For instance, you can choose to be evaluated by a domestic violence counselor and then possibly participate in some follow-up treatment. Presenting proof of a positive evaluation and treatment can be very helpful.
Additionally, there are options to have the no-contact order modified. For example, if you are married to the protected person, you may request that the order be modified to allow you and your spouse to undergo marriage counseling. Another example would be if you have children with the protected person, you may be allowed to communicate for purposes of child care. Once the no-contact order has been modified to allow conditional contact, the judge may be more open to cancel the order later.
Every court has different procedures in place to modify or terminate no contact orders. By way of example, here are the steps to requesting a change or cancelation of the no-contact order in the Seattle Municipal Court:
- Review the No-Contact Order Lift Instructions.
- Complete the Protected Person’s Motion to Modify/Rescind Domestic Violence No-Contact Order form and the Protected Persons Address form.
- File the request with both documents with the Records Office located on the 3rd floor of the Seattle Municipal Court, which is at 600 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA. Keep in mind that the judges at the Seattle Municipal Court cannot change or cancel no-contact orders that are issued by another court. If you have more than one contact order issued by different courts, you must go to each court individually to request the change or cancellation of the no-contact order.
- A judge will review your request and decide if a hearing is to be scheduled.
- If the judge decides to schedule a hearing, the victim, the defendant, and all attorneys associated with the case will be notified of the hearing date. Typically, these types of hearings are scheduled on Thursdays at 11:00 am. If you wish, you can provide the court with preferred dates you would like the hearing scheduled on, but there is no guarantee that the hearing will be scheduled on the date you requested.
- At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to explain to a judge why the no-contact order should be canceled or changed.
Do You Have a No-Contact Order Filed Against You? Consult an Expert Attorney
If you are accused of a crime and/or have violated a criminal no-contact order, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Will & Will are expert Seattle Domestic Violence Attorneys that promise to give you the best possible results from your unique case. The fact is, you won’t find a more qualified team to represent you. Court and Michelle Will care about every one of their clients and have successfully resolved thousands of cases.
To set up a free, confidential consultation, contact Will & Will today.