Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

2009 Legislation: Domestic Violence Sentencing Reform

Enhanced penalties for repeat/serial domestic violence offenders



 Letter from Attorney General McKenna


 Current Examples

Proposed Legislation

Over the past thirty years, the criminal justice response to domestic violence has stressed accountability for domestic violence offenders and safety for victims.  From training to dedicated police, advocates, courts, and prosecutors the criminal justice system has made domestic violence a priority.  That commitment, however, is not reflected in the sentencing of repeat felony domestic violence offenders. 

The hard work of pursuing and prosecuting repeat domestic violence offenders too often results in weak sentences that fail to protect the victim or to properly account for prior domestic violence convictions.  The result is multifold:

  • Repeat offenders become indifferent to legal consequences of their actions. 
  • The cycle of domestic violence continues unabated. 
  • Victims are put at greater risks due to the ineffective intervention of the criminal justice system. 
  • And many victims lose hope and motivation. 

In short, the message to the community about domestic violence is diluted and even contradictory.  The sentencing of repeat domestic violence offenders requires immediate attention.