Renton City Council considers making domestic violence in front of a minor its own crime

The ordinace states that witnessing domestic violence can harm a child’s development.

The Renton City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it a crime to expose a child to domestic violence.

The language of the ordinance states that exposure to domestic violence can harm a child’s emotional, psychological and even physical development. It also states that children exposed to violence are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse drugs or alcohol, act aggressively, suffer from depression or other mental health problems and engage in criminal behavior as adults.

According to the ordinance, it was recorded that last year, 194 children were exposed to domestic violence in the City of Renton.

“The City of Renton seeks to reduce the impact of domestic violence incidents on all victims and witnesses, including minor children who are present when domestic violence occurs,” states the ordinance.

The ordinance as currently written would charge those who commit domestic violence in the “immediate presence” of a minor under the age of 18 with a gross misdemeanor.

“Immediate presence” is defined as within sight of, within earshot of, or within the same room or cavity of a building, dwelling, vehicle, or other property.

The ordinance also outlines that exposing a minor to domestic violence is a charge that will be prosecuted separately from the original domestic violence charge.

According to the ordinance, any person convicted of this crime will be sentenced to no less than 30 days in jail. If the person convicted is sentenced to less than the maximum statutory sentence of 364 days in jail, the court will place the defendant under court supervision and impose conditions of sentencing that include: successful completion of a Domestic Violence Victims Impact Panel, and an evidence-based treatment program, such as Domestic Violence Moral Recognition Treatment.

The Renton City Council first read and considered the legislation during its April 18 meeting.