Mandatory Domestic Violence Arrest Age Increased in Washington State

The Washington State Legislature has granted police officers discretion to decide whether to arrest 16- and 17-year-olds who appear to have committed domestic violence.

Washington requires a police officer who has probable cause to believe a person has committed an act of domestic violence within the previous four hours to arrest that person. It is not sufficient for the officer to submit a report and let a prosecutor decide later how to proceed.

Washington enacted this requirement in 1984. It did so as part of a nation-wide attempt to overcome the reluctance of police to arrest persons involved in domestic disputes.

Over the decades since, the legislature has more than once changed the age range of persons subject to mandatory arrest. Most recently, arrest was required for apparent perpetrators who were at least 16 years old. Now it is required only for apparent perpetrators who are at least 18 years old.

This year’s enactment directs police to decide whether to arrest a person 16 or 17 years old by considering “the intent to protect victims of domestic violence, the extent of injuries or threats, and the history of domestic violence or stalking of the parties.”

The bill was passed as Senate Bill 5605. Upon the governor’s signature it became Chapter 113 of the Laws of 2016.