Washington Supreme Court Dismisses Custodial Interference Charges
The Washington Supreme Court recently dismissed a case against a father charged with first-degree custodial interference. The case involves a father who took his 4-year-old daughter from Washington to Mexico in violation of the limited visitation rights granted to him under the terms of a domestic violence protection order.
After four months in Mexico, the father was arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border when seeking to reenter the country with his daughter. The daughter was returned to her mother in Washington while the father was detained in prison in California for two months awaiting extradition to Washington.
Back in Washington, the father was charged with first-degree custodial interference pursuant to Washington Criminal Code section 9A.40.060(2). A Superior Court jury found the father guilty of the charges, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and the Washington Supreme Court accepted the father's petition to review his case.
After reviewing the case, the Washington Supreme Court issued an order dismissing the charges. The court based its decision on the fact that the father's limited visitation rights were derived from the terms of a domestic violence protection order rather than a lawful court-ordered parenting plan, as required by the specific section of Washington's custodial interference statute under which the father had been charged.
When is a Person Guilty of First-Degree Custodial Interference?
In Washington, the crime of first-degree custodial interference is a Class C felony. It can be committed in the following ways:
- By a relative. A relative of a child under 18 years old or of an incompetent person is guilty of first-degree custodial interference if he or she intends to deny access, either permanently or for an extended period, to a person having a lawful right to physical custody of the child by taking, enticing, retaining or detaining the child; exposes the child to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury; causes the child to be removed from the state of his or her usual residence; or retains the child in another state after expiration of any authorized visitation period with the intent to intimidate, harass or prevent another from regaining custody.
- By a parent. A parent of a child is guilty of first-degree custodial interference if he or she intends to deny access, either permanently or for an extended period, to the other parent having a lawful right to physical custody of the child pursuant to a court-ordered parenting plan; exposes the child to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury; or causes the child to be removed from the state of his or her usual residence.
- By a parent or a person acting under the directions of a parent. A parent or a person acting under the directions of a parent is guilty of first-degree custodial interference if he or she intentionally takes, entices, retains or conceals a child under 18 years old, for whom no lawful custody order or parenting plan has been entered, from the other parent with the intent to deprive the other parent, either permanently or for an extended period, of access to the child.
Seek Legal Representation
If you have questions about custodial interference, child custody, relocating with your child or any other Washington family law matter, seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney.