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In many instances, if a defendant is convicted of using a firearm during the commission of a crime, the court may impose increased penalties. Specifically, if a defendant is found guilty of using a firearm while committing a crime of violence, federal law requires the defendant to be sentenced to imprisonment. In a recent case in which the defendant appealed his convictions, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington analyzed whether armed robbery constitutes a crime of violence. If you live in Washington and are charged with a weapons-related offense, you should meet with a seasoned Washington gun crime attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was a religious militant, and he and two co-conspirators committed two bank robberies and three bombings in support of their beliefs. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including possession of a grenade that was not registered, armed bank robbery, and use of a firearm during arson and armed bank robbery. A jury found the defendant guilty on multiple counts, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The defendant appealed, arguing that his four convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), for the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, should be vacated.

Armed Bank Robbery Constitutes a Crime of Violence

On appeal, the government conceded that the two 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) convictions arising out of the destruction of a building should be vacated, since they did not constitute crimes of violence. Thus, the salient issue on appeal was whether armed robbery constituted a crime of violence. Under federal law, bank robbery is defined as the act of taking or attempting to take any money or property that is in the bank’s custody, through the use of force, intimidation, or violence. If, during the course of a bank robbery, a defendant assaults another person or places another person’s life in danger by using a dangerous device or weapon, the crime constitutes armed bank robbery.

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In many cases in which a person convicted of a crime is a juvenile, the court will consider the person’s youth and impose a more lenient sentence. Even if the court takes a person’s youth into consideration, however, it does not always result in a lesser sentence. Recently, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2, discussed the weight that a person’s age should be granted when determining an appropriate sentence in a case in which a juvenile defendant convicted of multiple weapons charges sought extraordinary relief. If you are a resident of Washington currently facing weapons charges, it is advisable to consult a proficient Washington gun crime attorney to assess your options for protecting your rights.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was in the process of illegally purchasing prescription drugs when he fired a gun several times into the vehicle of the person selling the drugs. One of the rounds the defendant fired hit a person in the vehicle in the jaw. The defendant was subsequently charged with first-degree assault, with a firearm enhancement, and unlawful possession of a firearm. The defendant entered a guilty plea to both charges.

Reportedly, prior to sentencing, the defendant requested an exceptional sentence due to his youth and the difficulties he faced as a child. Specifically, the defendant requested a sentence of 35.6 months in confinement, which is the sentence he would receive if he was sentenced as a juvenile.

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Under Washington law, some crimes may be designated as crimes of domestic violence if the State can produce sufficient evidence that the offense meets the criteria set forth under the law. If the State cannot prove each element of a domestic violence crime, a domestic violence designation may be stricken, however, as evidenced by a recent Washington appellate case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the victim received a phone call from an unidentified number. The victim recognized the caller as the defendant, even though the defendant did not identify himself. The caller stated that he was glad that the victim had a brain tumor and that he hoped the victim would die, and used profanity. The caller also called the victim offensive names.

Reportedly, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant at the time of the call. The victim called the police to report that the defendant had violated the restraining order and harassed the victim via telephone. The defendant was charged with violating the restraining order and telephone harassment, both of which were designated crimes of domestic violence. A jury convicted the defendant of both offenses. The defendant appealed on several grounds, including that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that the crimes were acts of domestic violence.

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In many cases in which a person is arrested due to suspicion of DUI, the arresting officer will ask the person to submit to a blood or breath test. If the person refuses to undergo chemical testing after he or she is arrested, evidence of the refusal can be submitted at trial to establish the defendant’s guilt. Notably, however, as recently explained by a Washington Court of Appeals, a defendant has a constitutional right to refuse to submit to a breath test prior to an arrest, and evidence of such refusal is not admissible at trial. If you are a resident of Washington and are charged with DUI, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable Washington DUI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was stopped for driving five miles over the speed limit and for failing to use a turn signal before changing lanes. When the police officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, he did not observe any signs of intoxication. He ran the defendant’s registration and learned that there was a warrant for her arrest. He arrested the defendant on her outstanding warrant, and then noted an odor of alcohol on the defendant, and that the defendant’s eyes were slightly bloodshot and her eyelids were slightly droopy.

Reportedly, the officer transported the defendant to jail, where he asked her to submit to a preliminary breath test, a tool he uses to establish probable cause. The defendant refused to take the test or to undergo field sobriety testing. She was charged with DUI. Prior to trial, she filed a motion to preclude evidence of her refusal to submit to the preliminary breath test, which the court denied. Evidence of her refusal was introduced at trial, and the defendant was convicted. She appealed, arguing that evidence of her refusal was improperly admitted.

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In certain cases, even if criminal defendants committed the alleged acts out of which their charges arose, they may be able to argue an affirmative defense to avoid a conviction. For example, defendants charged with assault may be able to persuade the judge or jury that their actions were undertaken in self-defense and therefore were justified. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed what jury instructions are appropriate regarding self-defense in a case in which the defendant argued he was unjustly convicted of assault. If you are a resident of Washington charged with assault, it is prudent to consult a skillful Washington assault defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s wife became involved in a dispute with their next-door neighbor over landscaping fabric that was encroaching on the neighbor’s yard through a wooden fence. The argument continued for several days, and the defendant and his wife began to take down the fence. At that point, the defendant alleges that the neighbor came outside and swore at the defendant while carrying a pickaxe. The police came to the defendant’s home in an attempt to diffuse the situation. The defendant continued to take down the fence with his wife, who suddenly stated that the neighbor was approaching them with a gun. In response, the defendant pointed a pistol at the neighbor. The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of second-degree assault.  He subsequently appealed, arguing the court provided inadequate instructions to the jury regarding self-defense.

Self-Defense Under Washington Law

In part, the defendant argued that self-defense is an element of second-degree assault, and therefore, it should have been including in the jury instruction regarding what was needed to convict the defendant. The court rejected this argument, finding that advising the jury regarding self-defense in a separate instruction was appropriate. The court conceded that the Washington Supreme Court previously held that the State must disprove self-defense to prove that a defendant that is charged with second-degree assault committed unlawful acts. The court stated, however, that the State’s burden could be met even if a separate instruction was provided to the jury regarding self-defense. Continue reading

In Washington, if a defendant is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, the court may consider numerous factors when sentencing the defendant. For example, if the defendant has prior convictions, those convictions are used to calculate a defendant’s offender score, which is then used in determining an appropriate sentence. In a recent case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault domestic violence, the Court of Appeals of Washington discussed how out of state prior convictions should be assessed when determining an offender score. If you reside in Washington and are charged with one or more domestic violence crimes, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney about what actions you can take to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to the charges. Prior to sentencing, both the defendant and the State submitted briefs regarding the defendant’s Florida criminal history. Following argument on the matter, the court found that five of the defendant’s twelve prior convictions were equal to misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, and treated two of the convictions as the same course of conduct. Thus, the defendant was given an offender score of 6 on the harassment charge and was subsequently sentenced to 56 months of imprisonment. He then appealed.

Scoring of Out of State Convictions

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed an error in calculating his offender score. Specifically, he argued that the 6 Florida convictions the court counted towards his score were only comparable to misdemeanor offenses.

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If a defendant is charged with assault in Washington, depending on the facts of the case, he or she may be able to argue that the allegedly offensive acts were taken in self-defense. In response to a defendant’s argument that he or she was acting in self-defense, the State may attempt to argue that other reasonable alternatives existed that would have enabled the defendant to avoid engaging in the use of force. Recently the Court of Appeals of Washington analyzed whether a reasonable alternatives argument is appropriate, in a case in which the defendant was granted a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. If you reside in Washington and are charged with assault it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Washington assault defense attorney to discuss what defenses may be available in your case.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant and his girlfriend were walking their dog at night on a trail near the defendant’s house. The defendant had a permit to carry a handgun and was carrying the gun in a holster around his waist during the walk, due to his girlfriend’s concerns for their safety. During the walk, the defendant and his girlfriend encountered two men who appeared to be fighting. One of the men was swinging a detached gutter at the other. Thus, the defendant approached the men to ask if everything was okay.

Allegedly, the men, who were intoxicated, stated they were fine. The defendant began walking back towards his home, but one of the men allegedly followed the defendant and began interrogating him, stating he touched his property. The defendant continued to walk towards his home, but the man became more aggressive and angrier. Ultimately, the defendant took his gun out of the holster and fired it three times at the ground near the man’s feet. The defendant was charged with assault in the first degree while armed with a firearm. During the trial, he argued that he was acting in self-defense, but the prosecution argued he failed to engage in reasonable alternatives. The defendant was convicted of assault in the first degree while armed with a firearm, after which he appealed.

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In many cases in which a person is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, the evidence in support of the charges was obtained without a warrant. Evidence obtained without a warrant may be unlawful, and the State may be precluded from introducing it at trial. In some cases, however, unlawfully obtained evidence may be admitted under the independent source doctrine, as recently discussed by a case decided by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident charged with unlawful possession of a firearm it is essential to retain a zealous Washington weapons charge defense attorney to assist you in setting forth a strong defense.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

It is alleged that police officers responded to a report of a burglary at a business, by the owner of the business. The police then stopped the defendant outside of the business. The owner reported that the defendant was a prior employee who had been fired a week earlier. The defendant admitted he had been living in a room in the business. The owner and the defendant then became involved in a verbal argument and entered into the room.

It is reported that the police followed the men, and observed a handgun near the defendant. The defendant was handcuffed, and one of the police officers opened a cabinet to ensure no one was hiding inside. The cabinet contained two guns. The police then obtained a search warrant and found multiple firearms and amphetamines. The defendant was charged with four counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

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Under Washington law, a person can be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm if the person has previously been convicted of a serious crime and he or she possesses or owns a firearm. Thus, one of the elements the State must prove is a prior conviction for a serious offense. Recently, in a case ruled on by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, the court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of a predicate conviction in an unlawful firearm possession case. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges of unlawful firearm possession it is crucial to engage and assertive Washington weapons charge defense attorney to fight to help you retain your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the police responded to reports of a fight at the defendant’s home. When the police arrived, the defendant admitted he had guns in his house. The defendant then gave the police a rifle. The police subsequently conducted a criminal history check on the defendant, which revealed the defendant had previously been convicted of felonies in Georgia, that prohibited him from possessing firearms.

It is reported the police then obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home. During the search, they recovered a rifle. The defendant denied, however, that he had previously been convicted of crimes in Georgia, stating that it was his brother, not him, who was convicted. The defendant was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and following a trial, was convicted on all counts. He subsequently appealed, arguing the State failed to prove he had prior felony convictions.

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In Washington, in any case in which a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence crime, in addition to imposing a sentence and fines on the defendant, the court may issue a domestic violence no-contact order (DVNCO). While Washington courts are permitted to enter a DVNCO, their authority in defining the duration and terms of the DVNCO are limited by statute and case law, as recently explained by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident and are currently facing charges of a crime of domestic violence it is essential to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your rights and protections afforded by the law.

Procedural and Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with domestic violence assault and malicious mischief of the alleged victim. Following a  jury trial, the defendant was convicted as charged. The trial court then entered a felony judgment and sentence of twenty-nine months imprisonment for the assault conviction. The court also sentenced the defendant to 364 days confinement for the malicious mischief conviction, which was a gross misdemeanor, to run consecutively with the felony sentence, but suspended 244 days of the sentence.

It is alleged that the court then issued a DVNCO stating that the defendant was prohibited from contacting the victim for ten years. The defendant appealed the DVNCO with regards to the malicious mischief conviction, arguing that the DVNCO must be limited to the length of the suspended sentence. The appellate court agreed and remanded the case for a separate DVNCO for the malicious mischief conviction. Continue reading

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