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Domestic Violence: When Police Must Make An Arrest in Washington State

Posted Friday, October 13, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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Washington State has strict laws when it comes to alleged acts of Domestic Violence. Washington state law requires law enforcement to make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe an act of Domestic Violence (usually an assault) has occurred within the last 4 hours.

Under the law, an officer “shall arrest … a person without a warrant when the officer has probably cause to believe that:

• (i) A felonious assault has occurred;

• (ii) An assault has occurred which has resulted in bodily injury to the victim, whether the injury is observable by the responding officer or not; or

• (iii) That any physical action has occurred which was intended to cause another person reasonably to fear imminent serious bodily injury or death.” (RCW 10.31.100).

If law enforcement contacts you and they have reasonable grounds to believe you committed an act of Domestic Violence (even if you acted in self defense or if their information is incorrect) you will be arrested.

Even if the evidence against you is shaky at best, the police are still likely to make an arrest because the standard of “probable cause” is low, and it may cause problems for the officers if it later comes out an act of Domestic Violence did occur. Due to the stringent mandate to make an arrest when it comes to suspicion of Domestic Violence, law enforcement officers often error on the side of caution – even when that means arresting an innocent person.

Further, if an officer has probable cause to believe that household members have assaulted each other, the officer is not required to arrest both persons. The officer’s duty is to arrest the person whom the officer believes to be the primary physical aggressor. (RCW 10.31.100(2)(c)).

If You Are Accused of An Act of Domestic Violence

If you are about to be accused or are being accused of an act of Domestic Violence, it is usually in your best interest to remain silent and ask for an attorney. You do not have to answer questions posed to you by law enforcement. Be polite but firm in your desire to remain silent until you have an attorney by your side.

The skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC know how important it is to defend your rights. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of Domestic Violence defense in Washington State. We know how to advocate for our clients and to pinpoint the weaknesses in the Prosecution’s case. For more than 20 years, Padula & Associates, LLC has been serving the people of King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive and effective criminal defense.

We answer our phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at, or fill out our online free consultation form today.