August 25, 2022

Legal Advocacy Services Guide

Legal terms can be tricky. Understanding the difference between a protection order and a restraining order doesn’t come up often in day-to-day life, unless your favorite crime show mentions it; however, in cases of domestic violence, these terms and rules can be crucial for a survivor’s safety. We often receive questions about what our legal advocates can do for our clients.

To learn more about our legal advocacy services, please read the sections of our guide below:


Legal Definition of Domestic Violence

The legal definition of domestic violence includes:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
  • Creating a fear that physical harm, bodily injury, or assault will happen
  • Sexual assault
  • Nonconsenual sexual conduct
  • Nonconsensual sexual penetration
  • Coercive control
  • Unlawful harassment
  • Stalking

You can read more about the meaning of the legal definition of domestic violence here.


Key Terms for Criminal Legal Advocacy

We have advocates assigned to all Domestic Violence Misdemeanor cases in Spokane City Municipal Court and Spokane County District Court. Below are terms often used in this field of work.

  • Misdemeanors Regarding Domestic Violence:
    • Assault 4th Degree – an assault without substantial bodily harm or use of a weapon
    • Malicious Mischief 3rd Degree – damaged property less than $750
    • Violation of Order – applied for both Civil and Criminal orders. Can include, Restraining Orders, Domestic Violence Orders of Protection, Anti-Harassment Orders, Stalking Protection Orders, etc. 
      • Felony cases – any DV case with substantial bodily harm, use of a weapon, property damage of more than $750 or any assault that takes place when there is an order in place.
  • 1st Appearance or Arraignment hearing:
    • The 1st time the defendant (perpetrator) sees a judge after being arrested. The judge decides whether to put a bond in place or release the defendant from custody, whether to issue a no-contact order, other release conditions, and sets the next court date. We attempt to call all listed victims before these hearings.
  • Pre-Trial Hearings:
    • We attempt to contact all listed victims before the pre-trial to get updated info, statements if they would like, and make sure they are aware of the court date. 
    • At these hearings, the case can be continued out, resolved in a plea deal or Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC) or set for trial. We follow up with every listed victim we spoke with after the hearing to let them know what happened.
  • Trials:
    • Although most cases do not go to trial, legal advocates can attend meetings with the victim(s) to prepare for the trial and testifying. The trial hears the case from attorneys on both sides.
  • Motions:
    • Listed victims can file a request to have the court remove the No Contact Order (NCO). They will then have the opportunity to appear for a hearing and speak directly to the judge about why they would like the NCO removed. 
    • The final decision is up to the judge, they are looking for a “change in circumstance” from the defendant’s end. “Change in circumstance” can mean many different things, but the judge is looking to see if anything has changed since the time the order was put into place. If the motion is denied, the orders will remain in place until the resolution of a case or if another motion is filed and granted. 
    • For more information about this process, please contact a legal advocate at 509-477-3656, option #1
  • Lethality Assessment Protocols (LAPs):
    • Every time law enforcement (LE) responds to a domestic violence call in Spokane city or county, officers must complete the lethality assessment protocol with the victim by asking them 11 ‘yes or no’ questions to determine their risk of domestic violence lethality. 
    • Statistically, victims who “screen in” to the LAP are at an increased risk of lethality by their perpetrator. Law enforcement is supposed to conduct the LAP even when there is no arrest being made.
    • Legal advocates call on all LAPs that were reported to our Helpline to offer supportive listening, resource brokerage, and information regarding open criminal cases if applicable. 
  • Law Enforcement Assistance:
    • Law Enforcement can ask legal advocates to sit in on interviews with victims (if the victim would like an advocate, they can also request for one). Law Enforcement officers can also ask a legal advocate to reach out to a victim if they feel that individual could benefit from additional domestic violence resources or are wary of speaking to Law Enforcement. 

Key Terms for Orders

  • Civil Protection Order
    • Restrains the respondent from specific contacts listed in the order, which can include exclusion from the home, work, school, daycare, telephone, electronically, in writing or third party. If the order is violated, the result for the perpetrator is a mandatory arrest and booking into jail.
    • Victims must file this type of petition on their own or with an attorney.
    • Legal advocates can assist victims in filing these petitions by helping them understand which boxes they may want to check. Legal advocates cannot represent or provide legal advice to victims on these orders. 
  • No Contact Order (NCO)
    • Restrains the respondent from any contact with the victim including home, work, school, daycare, telephone, electronically, in writing or third party. If the order is violated, the result for the perpetrator is a mandatory arrest and booking into jail.
    • The prosecuting attorney must make the request for this type of order and it is up to the judge to grant or deny the order.
    • There is no expiration date to no contact orders while the charges are pending, and once the perpetrator is convicted, orders can be valid for up to 5 years (depending on the resolution). 
  • Restraining Order
    • Restrains the respondent from specific contacts listed in the order. It is usually included in the dissolution paperwork.
    • Restraining orders may only be obtained if the victim is either married to the respondent or has a child in common with him/her; and the order may only be obtained if the victim files a petition for divorce, legal separation, or child custody.
    • The duration of the order is listed in the final decree, and is permanent until modified. If the order is violated, contempt charges may be filed; law enforcement likely won’t arrest.

– Content from Tiffany Yamase, Legal Advocate Manager –


YWCA Spokane is Here for You

If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing help@ywcaspokane.org, or texting 509-220-3725. 

To learn more about accessing additional services at YWCA Spokane, please visit ywcaspokane.org/services.

By: Mia Morton

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