New Washington Laws Streamline Protective Order Process | Courts and crime

The book on protective orders in Washington has literally been rewritten.

Two New Washington Laws — E2SHB 1320adopted in 2021, and SHB 1901passed this year — brought together all the different forms of protection orders under one section of state law.

Now, regardless of the type of protection order sought, the procedures for obtaining and the necessary administrative formalities are similar.

Many changes took place on July 1st.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Commissioner Patricia Fulton, who chairs protective order hearings for the court, said the changes make it easier for plaintiffs to know they are filing the right paperwork. She said it also codifies established case law and best practice.

Background to the protection order

Washington created a domestic violence protection order law in 1984.

It was just the beginning.

“We ended up with six different types of protective orders,” Fulton said.

In addition to domestic violence, there are various adult, stalking, sexual assault, stalking and extreme risk protection orders.

Fulton said the procedures for each differed because there was no law that governed the six.

“They’ve all been codified in different pockets of state law,” Fulton said. “They were all enacted at different times and had different provisions. They had things that were the same, but a lot of things that were different.

Each type of protection order required its own unique form. And who needed what kind of order was not always obvious to those seeking protection.

Now, E2SHB 1320 repeals the old laws governing protection orders and re-codifies them.

Fulton stated that SHB 1901 makes further adjustments and defines certain terms mentioned but not defined in E2SHB 1320.

In addition to all types of orders now using the same form, changes have been made to how law enforcement can serve these orders, how they are judged, and the definition of certain terms.

The form

One of the biggest changes is to the form. From now on, a person in need of a protection order can go to the office of the Superior Court and ask for a protection order form without knowing exactly which one to ask for.

Chalese Rabidue, domestic violence services coordinator for the Walla Walla Police Department, said it was a good thing for victims of abuse.

“It’s harmonizing protection orders so they’re available on one form,” she said. “That way, if someone goes to (court) and asks for a domestic violence order but it doesn’t fit the definition of domestic violence, (the court) can maybe make it an anti-violence order. harassment.”

She said it might help people who ask for the wrong kind of order the first time.

“A petitioner may feel defeated when he tries that first attempt and fails,” Rabidue said. “They give up and don’t get that second form and ask for protection because it was too exhausting the first time.”

Fulton agrees.

“The Legislature kept talking about a ‘no wrong door’ concept,” Fulton said. “The idea behind this concept is that we don’t want petitioners who come to court asking for help to be told, ‘No, you’ve come to the wrong place.’ We want to open doors and provide many avenues for a petitioner to access this process. »

That doesn’t mean everything about the new process is any easier.

“The paperwork is longer,” Fulton said. “It takes me a little longer in court because the form is longer. There are more boxes to check and more opportunities to make mistakes.

However, she doesn’t see this as a bad thing.

“At the end of the day, even if it takes me longer, it’s fine,” she said. “To do these things well, it takes time. There is no shortcut. People’s lives are affected. There can be real collateral consequences to having these orders in place or refusing them for people… I take this seriously, so it takes as long as it takes.

Codification of case law, good practices

Fulton said the new laws also codify something many court officers may have already done.

Take for example. a petitioner asking for the wrong kind of protection. Fulton said she interpreted the case law as allowing her to convert those commands to the correct command and that she was already doing so. But she said not all bailiffs do the same thing.

Now, this practice is codified.

“Now I’m required by law to tell people that if they don’t agree with my decision, they have a right to what’s called a review,” she said. “I’m also required to explain the renewal process… I’ve explained all of this to people before because I just think it’s good information to provide. But now, since July 1, the law requires it. All judges should now do so.

New protections, expanded definitions

The new laws also expand certain definitions that allow court officers to grant protective orders in more situations, Fulton said.

“There were circumstances in which on June 1 I would not have been able to grant an order,” she said. “But from July 1, I can.”

For example, the definition of domestic violence has been expanded to include the term “coercive control”. This means that restraining orders can be granted in cases where no physical abuse has occurred.

Although the definition of coercive control is quite technical, Fulton said examples include smashing things in front of the victim and other actions that might intimidate them, such as reckless driving.

It also includes such things as making threats against the victim or the victim’s family and threatening to leak intimate photos of the victim.

Rabidue sees this as a positive point.

“I think the definition of domestic violence amended to include coercive control is important,” Rabidue said. “Often there may not have been physical abuse, but coercive control comes through a lot of things. And now the fact that we can use it to get a restraining order helps victims.

Serve orders

Once a temporary order has been granted pending a hearing involving both parties, it is up to law enforcement to serve those orders. The new law also made some changes to this process, Rabidue said.

First, the law now requires that the respondent be served within 24 hours “if possible”.

While the inclusion of “whenever possible” gives law enforcement a little leeway, Rabidue said the WWPD is doing its best to meet that deadline. If it is not practical to complete the service within 24 hours, the period cannot exceed five days.

Police can also use email and social media to serve respondents, she said, adding that there are several ways to confirm that the respondent has received the notice.

“We have to verify it one way or another,” Rabidue said. “If they answer me, it works. If I get a read receipt, it works.

She also stated that she had sent email notifications before, only for the Respondent to send angry messages about this to the Petitioner. In this case, these messages to the petitioner may be used to verify that the respondent received the notice and constitute the respondent’s first breach of the order, Rabidue said.

Assistance

Both Fulton and Rabidue pointed out that there is help available for anyone who needs to complete protective order forms.

Walla Walla YWCA attorneys hold clinics at Walla Walla County Superior Court weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., where they will assist anyone in need with filling out forms.

Rabidue said if anyone felt they needed an order but worried the process was too difficult, she would encourage them to reach out and get help. She added that another positive is that petitioners can now attend hearings online and not have to be in the same room as the respondent.

“I would walk them through the process,” she said. “Including the pros and cons of what an order can do for them. I would assure them that myself and the YWCA lawyers would help them through the administrative process and that we would sit with them in court or help them navigate in the Webx system to be able to appear remotely.

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