Last year, the city of Puyallup passed an ordinance that made it a crime to expose a minor to domestic violence.
Now, the city of Sumner has done the same. The ordinance was brought up by Sumner attorney Andrea Marquez.
“We decided to pursue that here,” Sumner Police Chief Brad Moericke said. “From a law enforcement standpoint and community standpoint, it’s incumbent on us to protect our youth from family violence.”
According to city code, a person commits the crime of exposing a child to domestic violence when he or she "commits a crime against a family or household member, as defined in RCW 10.99.020" and when "the crime is committed in the immediate presence of, or is witnessed by, the suspect’s or the victim’s minor child, minor stepchild, minor foster child, or a minor child residing within the household or in the custody or care of the suspect or victim." In this case, a minor is under the age of 16.
If convicted, the offender is imprisoned to no less than 30 days.
“I think this is long overdue in many of our communities,” Sumner Councilman Earl Stuard said at a council meeting on May 7. “I have seen first hand the impact of generational domestic violence. That’s where children learn to be violent in their relationships, and this is a huge step toward stopping that.”
Since Sumner City Council passed the ordinance in May, one man has been charged with the crime and was arraigned on June 28. Police say the man punched his female domestic partner in the presence of a 3-year-old child and a 5-year-old child.
“The new law has already been utilized, and we know from speaking from prosecutors (in Puyallup) that it’s been effective there,” Moericke said.
Puyallup City Attorney Joe Beck believes the ordinance has been successful since it was adopted nearly a year ago.
“We believe that the ordinance has had the intended effect and served the purposes for which it was originally enacted,” Beck said in an email.
According to Jeanette Merod, domestic violence victims advocate for the city of Puyallup, 28 counts of exposing a minor to domestic violence have been filed in the city since August 2017. Of them:
Ten counts still open and under active prosecution.
Three ordered to complete evaluations and follow up with recommended treatment or counseling.
Four counts were found guilty.
Eight counts dismissed per plea agreement, leading to conviction on other domestic violence charge which enables the court to order treatment and/or counseling.
Three cases dismissed for other reasons (prosecution unable to move forward)