SPOKANE, Wash. – Domestic violence is a nationwide problem and following a murder in Indiana, there is national conversation happening about how to prevent these crimes. Here in Spokane, SPD said a majority of the calls they respond to are domestic violence.
Just in October, officers said they have responded to what they called one of the most gruesome cases of domestic violence they had ever seen: a case where a husband allegedly cut out his wife’s tongue, leaving her fighting for her life.
So what are the legal steps in place in Spokane County to protect domestic violence victims? Spokane County District Judge Aimee Maurer said the legal process for domestic violence no contact orders differ based on how it is filed.
“There are essentially two tracks,” she said. “Criminal no contact orders, and then there are the civil protection orders.”
Under the criminal side, if someone is arrested they go in front of a judge who then has to find probably cause and a no contact order could be issued.
Under the civil side, the victim files a petition and a temporary no contact order can be put in place until the case goes before a judge.
“For example,” Judge Maurer said, “if a victim doesn’t want to call the police or get law enforcement involved they can still come in and get protection, we have the civil protection docket that runs Mondays through Fridays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.”
In Indiana, police said a woman was killed by her estranged husband just one day after a motion to have him arrested was denied. The victim in that case did have a no-contact order in place and called police every time her estranged husband violated it.
Still though, that was not enough to protect her.
In Spokane County, a judge would also have to find probable cause to approve a request to make an arrest. Judge Maurer said she sees a lot of cases where victims do not follow up by coming back to court to get a permanent no-contact order issued.
It is those cases that can often be the toughest because if the victim does not follow up, there is nothing the court can do.
“You think, oh my goodness, I could have hopefully helped provide that protection had they followed up, had they come to court you know, that type of thing," Judge Maurer said.