Practice Areas

Juvenile Law

Domestic Violence

 

Domestic Violence Attorney

Liza Burke is an expert in Domestic Violence law matters including:
  • Adult Felony Criminal Offenses

  • Adult Misdemeanor Criminal Offenses

  • Domestic Violence Defense

  • Victim Defendant Representation

  • Domestic Violence Victim Representation

  • Child Abuse/Neglect

  • CPS Investigations

  • Domestic Violence Protection Orders

  • Anti-Harassment Orders

  • Parent Representation

  • Sexual Assault Protection Orders

  • Pre-Charging Representation

  • Firearm Rights Restoration

  • Sealing and Expungement of Records

  • Other Related Legal Problems

 

Adult Felony Criminal Offenses

The right combination of the wrong factors at any given point in any person's life can lead to a criminal charge, even a felony charge.  Certain jurisdictions may charge every possible charge up front in an effort to leverage a plea.  In King County, the prosecutor's office will often file conservatively which means that not every possible charge is filed at the beginning of the case and the charges can be raised, or additional charges can be added, if the person charged sets his or her case for trial.  Thorough investigation, research, effective communication and strategic approach increase one's chances in making the best trial or negotiation decisions. 

Many felonies may end up reduced with effective advocacy. Many lower level felonies may be "expedited" if the charge fits within the prosecutor's expedited guidelines. This means that a felony is reduced to a gross misdemeanor.  Additionally, felonies do not have to result in jail time.

However, serious felonies require a more intense level of strategy, skill, investigation and trial preparation.  Many more serious felonies such as arson, robbery, higher level assault and sex offenses cannot or should not be resolved short of a trial. Trials are heard by a jury of twelve people. Those twelve must agree unanimously before a conviction can be imposed.  The burden is on the State to satisfy each of the twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of a person's guilt.  This is a high burden.

In short, there are many avenues and protections that can be explored before the "worst case" scenario.  The ultimate protection is the jury trial. 

 

Adult Misdemeanor Criminal Offenses

Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses are defined by statute. Common misdemeanors include DUI, Assault and Domestic Violence.  Some traffic offenses can actually be criminal traffic offenses such as Hit and Run, Reckless Driving, Negligent Driving, etc.  The offenses most vigorously prosecuted are DUI and Domestic Violence. The latter often is prosecuted by specialized prosecutors with training in domestic violence and who focus on nothing other than domestic violence prosecution.  DUIs carry a host of penalties far beyond jail that can impact a person's ability to accomplish the basics of daily life. 

Many misdemeanor offenses may be maneuvered into a favorable outcome. Many jurisdictions have prosecutors who are interested in resolution of a case for budgetary and time resource reasons. Many jurisdictions have ways of resolving misdemeanors that do not result in conviction.

Of course, not all jurisdictions offer favorable processes for resolution or prosecutors who are ready to offer a deal. The good news is that a private attorney has vastly more time and resources to devote to preparing a case than the general city attorney will have.  While at first the notion of the government charging a person with a crime is daunting, hard work, persistence and knowledgeable representation levels that playing field.

 

Domestic Violence Defense

Today's domestic violence justice system response can cause the head to spin it is fast, formidable and, at times, unfair.  A swift and sure domestic violence response system is certainly excellent for victims of domestic violence, but it can also provide excellent ground for false accusations of domestic violence to take route and destroy lives, careers and families.

An allegation of domestic violence alone will usually trigger an arrest and jail for whomever the police determine is the "primary aggressor."  That determination is often made by a single law enforcement officer who does not have sufficient information to dig below the surface of a situation.  An officer will often make an arrest decision based only on relative physical size, emotional demeanor and a comparison of injuries.    Once the officer picks the primary aggressor, that person is headed to jail and stays there until bail is set.   Just one or two days in jail are enough to cause stigma, job loss, emotional chaos, estrangements from children and other negative life impacts.  And this is only the beginning of the domestic violence process.

Once arrested for DV, it is almost certain a no contact order will issue. No contact orders are frequently violated either inadvertently or intentionally. No contact order violations usually result in additional charges being filed.  Additional charges reduce the leverage that may have existed on the original charge.  It is a very common human inclination or honest mistake to violate a no contact order.  A first approach may be to seek recall or modification of the no contact order. This, in itself, is a piece of work, but should be discussed and explored. Failing that, it is critical to get educated quickly on how to avoid common pitfalls that exist in almost every case involving a no contact order.

There are domestic violence courts and calendars, such as those in Seattle Municipal Court and King County District Court,  that are structured primarily to ensure victim safety and offender accountability.  While the accused retains the right to a jury trial and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, courts attempt to ensure that domestic violence cases proceed quickly so that victims do not recant, reunite with the accused or in some other way opt out of participating in prosecution.   Expediting the pretrial stage can serve that purpose but it can also affect a defendant's ability to fully investigate and prepare the most effective defense for trial.  Expedited case processing timelines can also affect the ability to prepare the best negotiating positions.  It is critical to work with an attorney who understands how to expand or work within these timelines effectively.

During the domestic violence case, pressures from the alleged victim, children, family members or forced separate housing situations exist.  These pressures require managing in a way that might not otherwise exist if criminal charges didn't exist.  Many steps outside of the courtroom while a domestic violence case is pending can affect how a person is treated by the court and the prosecutor during and at the conclusion of a case.  Most people, once they understand the domestic violence enforcement system, are able to take care of business and their cases effectively.  The domestic violence prosecution system is a challenge that should not be underestimated, but it can also be successfully handled.

 

Victim Defendant Representation

Many women and men who are accused of domestic violence are actually victims of domestic violence. They either were acting in self-defense, set up entirely, or the victim of ongoing abuse that prompted a violent act in response.  Unfortunately, our domestic violence response system is not perfect and tends to make arrest and investigatory decisions based upon superficial factors.  These factors might include who called 911 first, who was more upset, who had the greater apparent physical injury. Sometimes gender bias plays a role.  Many abusers know how to work the domestic violence response system to their advantage. 

Representation in these circumstances requires an intense multifaceted approach that will include many of the steps taken in any domestic violence defense but will also include gathering information from other sources. The first step for a victim defendant should be attempting to educate and persuade the prosecutor as to the true facts of the situation.  Many good prosecutors will pay close attention to evidence that the defendant is actually victim.

In the civil domestic violence protection order context, the same level of work is involved but on an expedited basis because of the different timelines applicable to these proceedings. In the civil domestic violence protection order context, it is the judge or commissioner who must be convinced that the petitioner is actually the abuser.  Fortunately, the law does recognize that there are circumstances where the petitioner is actually the abuser and authorizes the court to realign the parties and make the original petitioner the respondent and the restrained party under a protection order.

 

Domestic Violence Victim Representation

A victim of domestic violence is not represented by the prosecutor or by the prosecutor's victim's advocate.  If a victim of domestic violence does not wish for prosecution to proceed, the prosecutor does not have to follow the victim's wishes. If a victim of domestic violence does not want a no contact order, the prosecutor does not have to follow the victim's wishes. The victim's advocate may not advocate for a victim's desires in all circumstances.

The prosecutor represents that city or county that is bringing the charges. The prosecutor's interests are in offender accountability, victim and community safety. In many instances, the prosecutor will have concerns or interests that a victim may not have regarding victim safety or offender accountability.  This does not mean that the prosecutor will not listen to a victim.  However, a victim may feel that to be truly heard or to have his/her wishes acted upon may take the assistance of someone who works within the domestic violence system and talks to domestic violence prosecutors every day.

In some circumstances the prosecutor and victim advocate may proceed exactly how a victim would like for them to proceed, but the victim does not feel adequately protected by the steps taken by the prosecutor.  For example, there may be time limits to the length of the no contact order sought by the prosecutor. In these circumstances, the victim may wish to seek a civil domestic violence protection order and seek a longer term of protection. In those proceedings, the defendant may appear and contest the issuance of the order and a victim may wish to have counsel speaking and advocating for his or her interests.

Sometimes a victim simply wants their own independent advisor regarding the legal proceedings surrounding him or her. Again, the prosecutor and victim's advocate serve a role that is not the same as having an advisor and advocate that has 100% loyalty to only to the victim and his or her wishes and needs.

 

   
 

Seattle Attorney, 2701 California Ave SW - 302, Seattle, WA 98116, (206) 933-2414