Lowry signs tough domestic violence penalties, guardian ad litem changes

TACOMA - At the YWCA Women's Support Shelter in Tacoma today, Gov. Mike Lowry signed laws increasing penalties for domestic violence crimes and modifying the state's guardian ad litem system.

Lowry signed House Bill 2472, which contains provisions he and Attorney General Christine Gregoire requested earlier this year. The law makes domestic violence an aggravating circumstance which judges can use to sentence beyond the standard range in crimes where the offender has a history of abuse of the victim, commits the crime in the presence of children under 18, or exhibits deliberate cruelty in commission of the crime.

"It's time that we treat domestic violence as the serious crime that it is," Lowry said. "The effects of these crimes are felt not only by those who receive the physical abuse, but also by the children who witness this behavior and grow up believing that violence and intimidation are legitimate ways to resolve family problems."

The law also creates a new misdemeanor offense of interfering with the reporting of domestic violence, such as hanging up a 911 call, and makes the third violation of a no-contact order a felony. The law requires the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to collect data on violations of court orders for use by law enforcement officials around the state.

"This law provides a lifeline to victims and, in many cases, the children who carry scars from witnessing violence in their homes for years to come," Gregoire said. Last year, Gregoire co-sponsored a statewide summit on domestic violence that produced this legislation.

Lowry also signed into law Senate Bill 6257, which makes changes regarding guardians ad litem in guardianship, dependency and domestic relations cases. Under the law, each superior court in the state must create a registry of qualified guardians ad litem and put into place a process of reviewing their qualifications on a regular basis. Also, the rights of alleged incapacitated persons are strengthened to give them more say over who serves as their guardian. The law also requires the Office of the Administrator for the Courts to develop a comprehensive curriculum for guardians in dependency and domestic relations cases.


For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.