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Many criminal statutes require the State to prove that a defendant possessed a certain mental state during the commission of the crime. If the State cannot establish that the defendant had the required state of mind when an offense was allegedly committed, then the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, a Washington court discussed whether a defendant could argue that he lacked the requisite mental state to violate a domestic violence no-contact order due to voluntary intoxication in a case in which the defendant was charged with numerous crimes. If you live in Washington and are accused of a crime of domestic violence, it is advisable to consult a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders that barred him from contacting his former girlfriend with whom he shared a child. Specifically, the orders stated that the defendant was not permitted to communicate with his former girlfriend except to discuss custody exchanges, and prohibited him from coming within 1,000 feet of her, her school, work, or home. While the orders were in effect, the former girlfriend found the defendant in her living room in the early morning.

Allegedly, the defendant appeared to be intoxicated and was crying and mumbling. He then swallowed a bottle of pills and lost consciousness, after which the former girlfriend called the police. The defendant was ultimately charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of a felony violation of a domestic violence order. During the trial, the defendant requested an instruction on the defense of involuntary intoxication, which the court denied. The jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his request.

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In many instances in which a person is accused of engaging in acts of domestic violence, a court will issue a protective order barring the person from contacting the alleged victim. While a violation of a protective order may constitute a crime, if the terms of the order are unclear, it may not be understandable. In a recent Washington case, an appellate court discussed what terms in a protective order are sufficient to apprise a defendant of his or her limitations and what constitutes adequate evidence of a violation. If you are a Washington resident faced with charges of violating a protective order, you should confer with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your possible defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant drove his girlfriend to the home of her granddaughter. The granddaughter had a valid protective order in place against the defendant, however, that required the defendant to “stay away” from the granddaughter and her home. After the defendant dropped off his girlfriend, he was arrested for violating the protective order and charged with multiple felony domestic offenses due to his prior criminal history.

Allegedly, the defendant pleaded guilty to certain charges but proceeded to trial on the charge regarding the violation of the anti-harassment provision of the protective order, arguing that the language of the order requiring him to “stay away” was vague. The trial court disagreed, finding that the language was understandable, and convicted the defendant. The defendant then appealed, arguing the State’s evidence was insufficient to obtain a conviction.

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Typically, in a Washington criminal trial, the prosecution is limited to introducing evidence that would persuade a judge or jury that the defendant committed the charged offense. As such, any evidence that is unrelated to the underlying crimes, and that would be prejudicial to the defendant may be precluded. For example, the prosecution cannot typically refer to uncharged crimes the defendant may have committed, as discussed in a recent Washington weapons charges case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the prosecution may be permitted to introduce against you at trial.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant had a close relationship with a female friend that lived with a boyfriend and a child she had with the boyfriend. One evening, the boyfriend showed the defendant multiple guns that he owned and kept in a gun safe. The following morning, the defendant, who suffered from several mental illnesses, became convinced that the boyfriend had molested the child and advised his friend that they needed to take the guns and child and leave the apartment.

Allegedly, the friend dismissed the defendant’s allegations, but he persisted, after which they became involved in a physical altercation. The friend called the police, and when the police arrived, they found the defendant outside of the apartment building with a bag containing two guns. The defendant was charged with two counts of firearm theft and second-degree assault. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed on several grounds.

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Often when a person is charged with assault, the evidence the State presents against the defendant is purely circumstantial. Thus, in many cases, there is insufficient evidence for the State to obtain a conviction. In some cases, the State will introduce evidence of substantial bodily harm to support the allegations a defendant committed assault. Recently, a Washington court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of substantial bodily harm in a case in which the defendant was convicted of second-degree assault of her minor son. If you are a Washington resident currently faced with assault charges, it is critical to retain a practiced Washington assault defense attorney to assist you in mounting a strong defense.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Assault

It is reported that prior to dropping the victim off at daycare, the defendant called the daycare to report that the victim had a bruise on his face due to an accident. Upon examination of the victim, the daycare noticed the victim had substantial bruising on his face and neck. As such, the daycare called the police, who began an investigation into the defendant. The defendant was ultimately charged with assault in the second degree of a child and was convicted following a trial. She then appealed, arguing, among other things, that there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed her conviction.

Evidence of Substantial Bodily Harm

Under Washington law, a person will be found guilty of assault in the second degree of a child if the person is over eighteen years old, and the victim is under thirteen years old. There are numerous ways the State can prove assault in the second degree, one of which is through showing that a defendant intentionally assaulted another person, thereby recklessly causing substantial bodily harm. In turn, substantial bodily harm is defined under Washington law as a bodily injury that involves a disfigurement that is temporary but significant, a fracture, or temporary impairment or loss of bodily function.

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In some cases in which a defendant is sentenced to imprisonment, he or she may be able to obtain a reduced sentence or compassionate release. There are strict parameters that define when a compassionate release is appropriate, and a court will not grant a defendant compassionate release unless the defendant demonstrates that one of the limited circumstances applies. Recently, a Washington court assessed whether the COVID-19 pandemic warrants sufficient grounds for a defendant serving a sentence for assault to obtain compassionate release, ultimately determining that it did not. If you live in Washington and are accused of committing assault, it is advisable to speak to a skillful Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was serving a prison term of twenty months for assaulting a police officer. The defendant, who was 23-years-old, suffered from a heart murmur and filed an emergency motion for compassionate release, arguing that it was warranted due to the threat that he would become infected with COVID-19 while imprisoned. After reviewing the facts and relevant law, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Grounds for Compassionate Release

Generally, a conviction that includes a sentence of imprisonment is a final judgment that may not be modified by a district court, with limited exceptions. For example, under the compassionate release statute, a defendant may only seek a reduction in a sentence when he or she establishes that he or she has met the statutory exhaustion requirements, a compelling and extraordinary reason supports the defendant’s motion, and the reduction sought is consistent with the policy statement, which sets forth the criteria for determining if a compelling reason for a sentence reduction exists.

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It is common knowledge that when a person is charged with a crime, they cannot be forced to make self-incriminating statements. Many people do not understand the nuances of the right against self-incrimination, however, or when it applies, as demonstrated in a recent case in which the defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm was upheld, in part because of statements the defendant made to police prior to his arrest. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Washington weapons charge defense attorney regarding your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with theft of a firearm and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Before the trial commenced, the defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police officers prior to his arrest, on the grounds that he was not advised of his Miranda rights, his statements were involuntary, and he was in the custody of the police. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the argument that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. After reviewing the facts of the case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Right Against Self-Incrimination

Upon review, the appellate court found that the defendant was not in police custody at the time he made his incriminating statements, and therefore, the trial court properly denied his motion to suppress. The appellate court explained that in determining whether a suspect is in police custody, the court will assess whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would feel as if his or her freedom was impaired to the degree normally associated with an arrest. The court went on to state that an interrogation in terms of Miranda rights does not only refer to express questioning but also to any actions or words on behalf of the police that the police understand are reasonably likely to result in an incriminating statement.

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Domestic violence crimes are not limited to physical acts of violence, but also include stalking, cyberstalking, and harassment over the telephone. While a wide array of behavior may give rise to a domestic violence offense, a common element of domestic violence crimes is harm, whether it is actual harm or an actual or perceived threat of harm. Thus, if during a trial for a domestic violence crime, the jury is not properly instructed regarding the elements of the crime, it may violate the defendant’s Constitutional rights. This was discussed in a recent Washington appellate court opinion in which the court reversed the defendant’s convictions for cyberstalking and telephone harassment due to improper jury instructions. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a domestic violence offense, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant sent a series of texts to the victim, who was his ex-girlfriend that lived in another part of the State, asking her if she wanted to engage in sexual conduct with him and his friends, calling her demeaning terms, and threatening to follow her. Later that day, he broke into the victim’s home and set two fires. He was arrested and charged with multiple domestic violence crimes, including telephone harassment and cyberstalking. Following a jury trial, he was convicted. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court violated his First Amendment rights by failing to instruct the jury on the definition of a “true threat.” The appellate court agreed and reversed and remanded his convictions for cyberstalking and telephone harassment.

The Definition of a True Threat for Cyberstalking and Telephone Harassment Charges

On appeal, the State conceded that the jury was not instructed on the definition of a true threat for the crimes of cyberstalking and telephone harassment, but argued that a true threat was not an essential component of those crimes. Conversely, the defendant argued that the failure to provide the jury with such instructions allowed the jury to convict him based on protected speech. The appellate court agreed with the defendant. Specifically, the court stated that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws that inhibit a person’s right to free speech. Further, the court explained that while the protections provided by the First Amendment were broad, they did not extend to unprotected speech, such as speech deemed a true threat.

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In many instances in which a person is convicted of a crime, an element of the person’s sentence will be a prohibition against owning or possessing firearms. If the court does not orally advise the defendant of all of the elements of his or her sentence, however, the defendant may have grounds to object to the sentence. In a recent case decided by a Washington appellate court, the court explained the requirements for imposing a firearm restriction on a criminal defendant. If you were recently charged with a felony, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney regarding what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of the failure to register as a sex offender. During his sentencing hearing, the court imposed a sentence within the standard range. Although the sentence contained a provision stating that the defendant could not possess a firearm, the judgment did not orally pronounce that portion of the sentence during the hearing. Thus, the defendant appealed his sentence to the extent it prohibited him from possessing a firearm.

Firearm Restrictions Under Washington Law

On appeal, the State argued that although the court failed to orally advise the defendant that he was not permitted to own or possess a firearm, the defendant had been convicted of six prior felonies, and was aware that a felony conviction carried a firearm prohibition, and that it was a waste of judicial economy and resources to require the court to orally advise him of the prohibition. The appellate court disagreed, finding that nothing in the record indicated that the defendant had ever been orally advised that he did not have the right to possess a firearm, and stated it was not permitted to disregard the defendant’s rights in the interest of judicial economy.

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It is a well-established rule of law in Washington that the State cannot introduce evidence of a defendant’s prior bad behavior to establish that the defendant committed the crime for which he or she is currently charged. While evidence of prior bad actions cannot be used to prove guilt, it is admissible for other reasons. This was discussed in a recent domestic violence case decided by a Washington appellate court, in which the defendant argued that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of verbal abuse. If you are faced with domestic violence charges, it is in your best interest to retain a skilled Tacoma domestic violence attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant became romantically involved with the victim, and shortly thereafter moved into her home with his five-year-old son. The victim alleged that the defendant punched her in the face multiple times, after which she advised him that she no longer felt safe and wanted to end the relationship. In response, the defendant kicked her in the head and punched her in the face, causing her face to split open. The victim was then afraid to leave her home due to an implied threat from the defendant. She was also worried that if she left, the defendant would harm his son. She eventually called 911, which resulted in the defendant’s arrest. He was ultimately charged with second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, and unlawful imprisonment. He was convicted of second-degree assault and appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertion that the trial court erred in allowing the State to admit prior bad act evidence.

Evidence of Prior Bad Acts

Under Washington law, the State is prohibited from introducing evidence of prior bad acts to demonstrate that the defendant had the propensity or character to commit crimes. Evidence of prior bad acts may be introduced for other purposes, however. For evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted for other purposes, the court must find that misconduct occurred, and assess the purpose for admitting the evidence, and whether the evidence is pertinent to an element of the current crime. The court must also find that the evidence’s probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect.

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It is a common misconception that assault involves actual bodily harm. Under Washington law, however, there are multiple acts that constitute assault, most of which do not require proof of physical contact. Thus, a defendant may be convicted of assault even if he or she never touches the alleged victim, as shown in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s assault conviction. If you are charged with an assault offense in Washington, it is crucial to speak with a trusted Tacoma assault defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a successful outcome.

Facts Surrounding the Alleged Assault

It is alleged the defendant and his wife, who were married for eleven years, got into an argument. The wife left their home and began running away, after which the defendant got into his car and drove next to her. The wife eventually went behind construction barriers to avoid the defendant, after which the defendant struck the barriers with his car. The wife testified that she did not believe the defendant was trying to run her over, but she was scared and was asking for help. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including first and second-degree assault. He was found guilty of the second-degree assault charge, after which he appealed, arguing the State did not present sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Proving Assault Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, a person commits second-degree assault by intentionally assaulting another person, inflicting serious bodily harm. Further, there are three definitions of assault in Washington: unlawful touching, an attempt to place a person in fear of harm, or an attempt to inflict bodily injury on another person. When an assault charge arises out of an attempt to harm another person or place a person in fear of harm, the State must establish that the defendant acted with specific intent. In other words, the State must show that the defendant acted with the intention of bringing about a specific outcome.

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