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Criminal defendants have numerous rights under state and federal law, including the right to confront a witness. In other words, a person charged with a crime has a right to question the anyone testifying on behalf of the State, and if a person is denied that right it may result in an unjust conviction. A Washington appellate court recently explained what constitutes a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness in a case in which the defendant was charged with assault. If you are a resident of Washington facing assault charges it is critical to meet with a seasoned Washington assault defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedures of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s mother was awoken by screams in the early morning, after which she went into the room her son shared with his girlfriend, where she encountered the girlfriend  who had a swollen eye and blood on her face and appeared frightened. The defendant and his mother were the only other two people in the house. The defendant’s mother called 911 and reported that the defendant struck the girlfriend in the face. The mother handed the girlfriend the phone and the girlfriend stated that she thought her jaw was broken. When the police arrived the girlfriend told the officer that the defendant punched her in the face. EMS arrived as well, and transported the girlfriend to the hospital, where she told the emergency room doctor that the defendant hit her.

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested and subsequently charged with assault in the second degree. The police could not find the girlfriend prior to the trial and the case was tried without her. The defendant was convicted and appealed, arguing that the admission of the girlfriend’s out of court statements that he hit her violated his right to confront witnesses.

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In Washington, if a person is restricted by a domestic violence no-contact order, the person must strictly abide by the terms of the order, or he or she may face significant penalties. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington appellate court case in which the court found that the State produced sufficient evidence that the defendant committed a felony violation of a no-contact order, even though the person protected by the order consented to the contact. If you live in Washington and are charged with violating a domestic violence no-contact order it is imperative to meet with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you can set forth to protect your rights.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders, preventing him from contacting the alleged victim. The orders were issued in February and July 2016. The defendant acknowledged receipt of the first order via signature but refused to sign for the second order. He was served the second order, however. Each order contained language stating that the defendant could be arrested even if the victim protected by the order permitted or invited the defendant to violate the terms of the order. The orders further explained that it was the defendant’s sole responsibility to refrain from violating the orders.

It is alleged that on August 2017, a police officer observed the defendant and the victim together. The officer recognized the defendant from a prior violation and approached the pair. The defendant gave his real name, but both the defendant and the victim gave the police a fake name for the victim. The defendant was subsequently charged with felony violation of both no-contact orders. The defendant was convicted by a jury, after which he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

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On August 10, beer lovers around the South Sound will descend on Tacoma’s annual Brew Five Three Beer and Music Festival located on South 9th and Broadway in downtown Tacoma. In an effort to keep the community safe The Law Offices of Smith & White, Tacoma’s expert DUI defense attorneys, will reimburse the cost of a taxi or ride-share from the festival for the first 50 people who submit their receipts (up to $20 compensation).

Ride Safe Program at Brew53

Photo: Smith & White partners James White and Derek Smith at the 2018 Brew53 event.

“Our number one goal at Smith & White is to keep our community safe, not only for those who are participating in this festival, but for others who are on the road,” says attorney James White, partner at Smith & White.

The Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure provide many rights and protection to criminal defendants that extend from the time of their arrest through trial. Additionally, even if a person is convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment, he or she may be able to obtain relief via a personal restraint petition. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed the grounds for granting a personal restraint petition, in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to 198 months’ imprisonment following a first degree assault conviction. If you are a Washington resident facing assault charges it is critical to meet with a knowledgeable Washington assault defense attorney regarding your rights and what defenses you may be able to argue to avoid a conviction.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to a mid-range prison term, with a 48-month deadly weapon enhancement. He filed a personal restraint petition, which was successful. His revised offender score was 4 and his revised sentence range was 129 to 171 months. The defendant requested that he receive a sentence at the low end of the range, and that his sentence run concurrently with a sentence in another case. He did not request an exceptional sentence, however.  He was resentenced to 150 months, with the 48-month weapon enhancement. Subsequently, the defendant filed a second personal restraint petition.

Standard for Granting a Personal Restraint Petition

Under Washington law, granting a defendant’s personal restraint petition constitutes extraordinary relief. Thus, a personal restraint petition will only be granted in cases where the defendant meets a high standard. In cases in which the defendant alleges a constitutional error was committed, he or she must show that the error caused actual and substantial prejudice. In cases where the defendant claims a non-constitutional error was committed, however, he or she must prove the error caused a fundamental defect that inherently caused a total miscarriage of justice. In all cases, the defendant must prove that an error was committed by a preponderance of the evidence. Continue reading

Under Washington law, for a defendant to be found guilty by a jury in a criminal case, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. There are exceptions to the rule, however, such as cases involving a continuing course of conduct. This was elucidated in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence stalking. If you live in Washington and are charged with stalking or another crime of domestic violence you should consult a skilled Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your liberties.

Pertinent Facts and Procedure

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim were married for eighteen years. During the pendency of their divorce, the victim obtained a no-contact order, that prohibited the defendant from coming within 500 feet of her home. The defendant was observed driving around the victim’s property on numerous occasions, after which he was charged with felony stalking and a gross misdemeanor offense of violating a civil antiharassment protect order, both of which were crimes of domestic violence. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury convicted the defendant of both charges. He was sentenced to twelve months and one day in prison for the stalking charge. The defendant subsequently appealed arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it needed to unanimously agree that his actions constituted a crime.

Unanimity Requirement

Under Washington law, only a unanimous jury can issue a guilty verdict in a criminal case. If the evidence shows numerous acts occurred that could constitute the charged offense, either the State must elect which act it relied upon in issuing the charges or instruct the jury that it must choose which act it found the defendant committed that constituted a crime. If the State does not elect an act or provide the jury with a unanimity instruction, it is a constitutional error that requires a new trial, unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless.

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In many cases in which a person alleges he or she was the victim of a crime of domestic violence, the court will issue an order barring the defendant from contacting the victim. No-contact orders are strictly enforced and if a person violates a no-contact order it can result in felony charges. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed the shifting burdens of proof when a defendant is charged with violating a no-contact order. If you are a Washington resident charged with violating a domestic violence no-contact order or any other domestic violence crime it is critical to engage an assertive Washington domestic violence defense attorney who will fight to help you retain your rights.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, in October 2015, a court issued a no-contact order that restrained the defendant from contacting his former girlfriend, the mother of his daughter.  Specifically, he was prohibited from knowingly entering or remaining within 500 feet of the girlfriends’ house, school, place of work or car. The order was in affect for five years.  In February 2017, the girlfriend observed the defendant outside of her apartment, in violation of the order, and called the police. The police responded and questioned the defendant, who stated that he was there to give an EBT card to his daughter and nodded in the direction of the girlfriend’s apartment.

It is reported that the police subsequently arrested the defendant, and he was charged with a domestic violence felony violation of a no-contact order. During the trial, the defendant testified that he was not aware that he was violating the order at the time of his arrest. He was convicted of violating the order and sentenced to 72 to 96 months in prison. He subsequently appealed arguing the prosecutor committed misconduct by shifting the evidentiary burden. The court denied the defendant’s appeal.

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Frequently, a person will be charged with assault following an altercation. It is common for both parties in an altercation to commit acts of physical violence and therefore in many cases in which a person is charged with assault, he or she can argue that he or she was acting in self-defense and should not be convicted. In a recent Washington case in which the defendant appealed his assault conviction, the court analyzed what constitutes sufficiency of evidence of self-defense. If you live in Washington and were recently charged with assault you should meet with a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss what defenses may be available in your case.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant and his wife were arguing at their apartment. The disagreement became physical when the defendant grabbed his wife’s hand, pulled it behind her back, and pushed her against the wall. The defendant’s wife’s brother came to the apartment the following day and the defendant and the brother began to fight. The following day the defendant’s wife obtained a protective order prohibiting the defendant from contacting her or entering their apartment. She decided she wanted to end their relationship and removed the defendant’s name from their joint accounts.

It is reported that the defendant went to the apartment to remove his belongings. His wife’s brother met him there and served him with the protective order, after which the defendant became angry and began cursing. The defendant was walking towards the car when he was approached by his wife’s brother. The defendant then stabbed his wife’s brother in the abdomen. He was subsequently charged with and convicted of second-degree assault. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that he was not acting in self-defense, and that the trial court misstated the law when answering a jury question.

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Under Washington law, if a person intentionally makes contact with another person in a harmful or offensive manner, it is considered assault, regardless of whether the contact actually causes harm. There are numerous degrees of assault in Washington, including assault in the third degree, which is an assault against a person in one of several listed professions. A Washington appellate court recently explained what is considered sufficient evidence to prove a defendant committed assault in the third degree, in a case in which the defendant alleged the State lacked sufficient evidence to support his conviction. If you live in Washington and are charged with assault in the third degree you should confer with an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the police went to a home in response to a call made to 911 alleging domestic violence. When the police arrived at the scene, they observed the victim standing in the street visibly upset, and screaming she needed to get her kids back. Immediately after the police arrived, the defendant came out of the home screaming at the victim. He then began yelling profanity at the police and stated that the police should not be there because it was not a domestic violence issue. The police attempted to question the defendant but he turned to go back into the house.

It is alleged that the police then attempted to restrain the defendant and they engaged in a scuffle, and at one point the defendant grabbed one of the police officers by the shoulder. At one point, the defendant picked up a piece of wood that had broken off of the railing on the ramp leading into the home and raised it over his head as though he intended to use it as a weapon. The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of assault in the third degree of a police officer. He appealed, arguing the State had produced insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

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Although in some cases a person will be arrested during the commission of a crime, in many cases a person will be arrested after the alleged crime is committed, based on circumstantial evidence. While circumstantial evidence is admissible to prove guilt, the State must nonetheless produce sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. Recently, a Washington appellate court analyzed the sufficiency of the evidence, in a case in which the defendant was convicted of unlawful possession and theft of a firearm. If you are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or any other weapons charge it is essential to retain a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney to develop persuasive arguments in your defense.

Factual Background

It is reported that the victim, a 79-year-old man owned over two dozen guns that he stored in a locked gun cabinet. The victim’s neighbor noticed that a female acquaintance visited the victim on occasion. On a day in June 2017, the victim left the female acquaintance alone at the home. The neighbor then observed the defendant park a red minivan near the victim’s home, and subsequently run out of the back of the home with a large bundle. The neighbor called the police, who detained the defendant, and entered the home and observed several guns lying on the bed.

Allegedly, the victim returned home during the investigation but refused to enter the home and inspect his gun cabinet. The police released the defendant, but after the victim entered his home and realized several guns were missing, they located and arrested the defendant, who had a single round of ammunition in his pocket. Upon searching the defendant’s minivan, the police found a .22-caliber pistol, ammunition, and several gun cleaning supplies. The defendant was charged with and convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and theft of a firearm. He appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support either conviction.

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It is well-established that to prove a person committed a crime, the State is required to produce evidence adequate to establish each element of the crime. A defendant can attack the State’s case, by arguing that the State has not met its burden regarding the sufficiency of the evidence. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington domestic violence case, in which the defendant argued that the State failed to offer sufficient evidence to prove he was in a “dating relationship” with his alleged victim. If you live in Washington and are charged with a domestic violence crime it is essential to retain a diligent Washington domestic violence defense attorney who will assert any available defenses on your behalf.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant and his alleged victim met through an online dating website and communicated for two weeks before deciding to meet. They met at a restaurant, where they ate and had drinks together. They then traveled to a second bar, where they had another drink, and stopped at the defendant’s house where the defendant introduced the victim to his mother. The couple then proceeded to a waterfront area, where they kissed and went to additional bars where they consumed alcohol, before returning to the defendant’s home. They had intercourse and then fell asleep.

It is alleged that the victim awoke to find the defendant urinating on the floor. The victim attempted to rouse the defendant, who became irritated and began punching and strangling the victim. The victim left the house and called the police, who took the victim to the hospital and arrested the defendant. The defendant was ultimately charged with assault in the second degree and felony harassment, both of which included domestic violence allegations. The defendant was convicted on both charges, after which he appealed.

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