Domestic violence, according to Washington state law, refers to any criminal act a family or household member commits against another. This type of crime encompasses five primary categories of abusive actions: emotional abuse, physical violence, neglect, economic control and sexual assault. Though several behaviors may fall into one of these five categories, some of the more common examples of domestic violence include assault, rape, stalking, manslaughter, property damage, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

According to FindLaw, domestic violence is an offense that warrants immediate arrest. If an officer who arrives at the scene has probable cause to believe that some form of household or relationship violence took place within four hours, the law requires him or her to make an arrest. If the officer determines that two or more households or family members partook in violent behaviors, the law requires him or her to arrest only the primary aggressor. State law also requires the mandatory arrest of those who violate Civil Protection Orders or No Contact Orders.

If the state convicts a person of domestic violence, it may charge the offender with one of three types of crime: misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony. If the state convicts a person of misdemeanor domestic violence, it may punish the offender with up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A gross misdemeanor conviction may result in up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A felony domestic violence conviction may result in a prison sentence of more than one year and a fine.

If you call the authorities to report domestic violence and the state chooses to charge the offender, you do not have the power to drop the charges. Only the prosecutor has the authority to do so, and even then, he or she must retain permission from the judge. If you choose not to testify on behalf of the state, the state will likely prosecute the case regardless.

This article is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.