April 2015 Bar Bulletin
Helping Victims of Domestic Violence Obtain Protection Orders
By William D. Braun
Second of Three Parts
(The first part of this series in last month's Bar Bulletin discussed a "typical" domestic violence case and how it would be assessed under Washington's Domestic Violence Prevention Act. This month's article discusses the hearing process for obtaining a protection order.)
The Full Hearing
Two critical issues at the full hearing are credibility and corroboration. Evidence that supports the credibility of the petitioner and corroborates her account of events is important. Otherwise, the hearing becomes a "he said, she said" event.
Because the burden of proof is on the petitioner, she presents her case first.1 The petition contains her sworn statement. Her presentation should show how the facts alleged in her petition meet the legal definition of domestic violence. If there is evidence that corroborates the petitioner's account, it should be brought to the attention of the court. Any necessary evidence not in the petition can be added through live testimony from the petitioner.
In Jackie's case, her testimony should establish that her husband committed domestic violence against her by strangling her. If the police or the hospital took photographs of the injuries to her neck, these should be included in Jackie's case. If the injuries to Jackie were witnessed by another individual, that person's declaration should be included in Jackie's case.
The respondent then presents his side of the case. The respondent will likely have his own version of events that is different from that of the petitioner. In an effort to put the victim on trial, the respondent may claim that the petitioner has mental health, drug or alcohol problems. The respondent may attempt to control the victim through the court process.
After both sides have been heard, the court will generally permit very limited rebuttal. Then the court will rule on the petition.
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