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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

Washington criminal defendants have numerous rights under the law, that aim to prevent unjust convictions. For example, the State must prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and if a defendant is convicted despite insufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt, his or her conviction may be reversed. A Washington court recently discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction. If you live in Washington and are faced with DUI charges it is imperative to retain a trusted Washington DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer after he crossed the center line on a road. The officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol. The defendant admitted to consuming two drinks, after which the officer asked to the defendant to exit the vehicle and undergo field sobriety tests. The defendant agreed and underwent field sobriety tests that he performed poorly. He was subsequently arrested and transported to the sheriff’s office. When he arrived at the sheriff’s office, he refused to submit to a breath test. The officer then obtained a warrant for a blood test.

Allegedly, the defendant was transported to a nearby hospital where his blood was drawn, approximately three hours after his initial stop. The test revealed the defendant’s BAC to be .23. he was charged with felony DUI. A toxicologist testified at trial that typically a person’s BAC would begin to decrease an hour after his or her last drink. The jury found the defendant guilty of DUI and specifically found that he had a BAC of .15 or higher within two hours of driving. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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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.

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