Snoqualmie enacts tougher domestic violence legislation

On April 27, 2020 the Snoqualmie City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance making it a crime to expose a minor child to domestic violence.

According to the new law the council “found it to be in the best
interest of the residents of the city to protect minor children from the effects of domestic violence.”

Snoqualmie Resident Heidi Lawless proposed the tougher domestic violence legislation. She commented, “Domestic violence is an issue that touches all of us in one way or another. The impact is felt not just by the victim themselves, but by witnesses, family members and friends. This ordinance helps to give our children a voice in a situation that currently they would not of had. It also helps to hold an abuser accountable for the damage that is done to everyone involved.”

Heidi said nearby Issaquah has a similar ordinance that has shown positive results and when she discovered Snoqualmie Valley cities did not have such a law, in January, she brought it to the attention of North Bend and Snoqualmie.

She said she was grateful the new Snoqualmie ordinance was approved, adding, “Our children deserve protection, a voice and validation for crimes they witness. We all learn by lessons and examples that are taught and shown to us. This ordinance sets the right example for everyone.”

According to the new law, a person commits the crime of exposing minor children to domestic violence when he/she 1) commits a domestic violence crime, as defined in RCW 10.99.020, and 2) the crime is committed in the immediate presence of, or is witnessed or heard by, the person’s or the victim’s minor (under the age of 18) child, minor stepchild, or a minor child residing within the household of the person or victim.

Exposing a child to domestic violence is classified as a gross misdemeanor by the city’s ordinance. If convicted, a person could face “not less than 30 days” in jail. If the offender gets less than the maximum sentence, they can be placed on probation and the court can impose conditions like attending a certified domestic violence treatment program, as well as programs that addresses the effects of domestic violence on children.

According to the City of Snoqualmie, “The new law also enables the city prosecutor to request an immediate no-contact order between the perpetrator and the child(ren).”

SPD Chief Perry Phipps said, “By adopting this ordinance, we are in a better position to help protect the youth in our community who have been impacted by domestic violence.” 

The new law takes effect five days after passing and publication as stipulated by law.

North Bend may consider a similar law at some point.

Mayor Rob McFarland commented “Although an ordinance specifically targeting minors of domestic violence offenders has not yet been taken to North Bend City Council, domestic violence and all who are affected by it is a matter that North Bend elected officials take very seriously. Public Safety has always been a fundamental driving force for decisions and actions of council and City staff. Since the beginning of this year, COVID-19  has been our primary focus as it has created both health and economical hardships. It is the unwavering position of this City that public safety and stopping the spread of the virus is the paramount consideration and the top priority of everything we do.”

Snoqualmie City Hall. Photo: City of Snoqualmie

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  • While COVID-19 has been and should be a primary focus for all. It should also be a priority now more than ever to protect our children from the serious lifelong trauma associated with domestic violence. This virus will pass, and we as a society will learn to regain a new normality, but a child who is witness to or effected by violence in the home may never fully recover from such traumatic experiences. The closure of schools, libraries, restaurants, retail stores, and a ban on large gatherings, has upended every aspect of normal life. Several agencies report concerns that with the stay at home order family’s may be actually less likely to report domestic violence do to being isolated, separated from their support networks and trapped in their own homes. Many of King County cities are reporting an actual decrease in 911 calls, yet they are seeing an increase in domestic violence calls. Adding this ordinance to North Bend will not only help safeguard the youngest most vulnerable residents, it will also enhance the protection for those with no voice, and the most to lose.

  • Living Snoqualmie