Should Domestic Violence Penalties be Tougher?
In Washington State, there is growing political pressure to increase penalties for domestic violence offenses. The Attorney General’s Office has passed laws in recent years to increase penalties for repeat offenders and for those found to have used choking during a domestic dispute.
The domestic violence designation can be added to any criminal charge where there is a current or past domestic relationship with the victim. Although many domestic disputes are between couples in a romantic relationship, they can also be between family members or roommates.
The growing political pressure to increase domestic violence consequences is the result of violent domestic crimes committed by repeat offenders. Legislation has been proposed to count a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction as a felony if the person is later convicted of a felony domestic violence charge.
To get a criminal defense attorney’s perspective, we asked Cristine Beckwith of Beckwith DV Law for her thoughts on stricter domestic violence laws. “Is it a greater crime to assault a family member or roommate as opposed to a stranger? I think we have to be careful when we say that an alleged crime against a domestic partner should be punished more harshly than a crime against another person. Of all the cases we defend, false accusations are highest with a domestic violence arrest. When the police are called during a relationship dispute, emotions are running high and alcohol is often involved. The person making the accusations is often times not in the frame of mind to make accurate and clear statements to the police. If domestic violence laws become tougher, this will hurt the men and women who are the victims of false statements made to law enforcement.”