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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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Often when a person is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, the court will impose a no-contact order as a part of the person’s sentence. When a domestic violence defendant and his or her alleged victim have a child together, however, a seemingly straightforward no-contact order may become complicated. This was evidenced in a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2, in which the court ruled that a no-contact order cannot limit the constitutional right to parent a child. If you are faced with a domestic violence crime, it is important to retain a knowledgeable Tacoma domestic violence attorney who can assist you in seeking a just outcome.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant assaulted his ex-girlfriend, after which he was charged with domestic violence assault. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was aware that the State intended to recommend that he not be permitted to contact the victim. At the sentencing hearing, the State recommended that the court issue a ten-year no-contact order. The defendant’s attorney stated it was a joint recommendation, but advised the court that as the defendant’s ex-girlfriend was pregnant with his child, the order would have to be modified after the child was born. The court entered the order, barring the defendant from contacting his ex-girlfriend in any manner for ten years.

It is reported that after the defendant’s child was born, the defendant filed a motion asking the court to modify the order, as the current order violated his constitutional right to parent his child. The court denied his motion, directing the defendant that he could seek access to his child through family court proceedings. The defendant appealed.

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In many instances in which a defendant is charged with a domestic violence crime, he or she will enter into a plea agreement with the State. Although the court is not required to impose the sentence recommended by the State pursuant to a plea agreement, the State cannot actively undercut the agreement by offering evidence that would persuade the court to disregard the agreement. Recently, in a domestic violence case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed what constitutes a breach of a plea agreement. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Tacoma domestic violence attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the body of an 18-year-old man was found near a campground, after which the defendant was identified as a suspect. The victim and the defendant had been involved in a relationship in which the victim took the role of a slave or submissive. Their relationship was volatile, and the defendant exercised a great deal of control over the victim. The defendant had an extensive criminal history as well. The defendant and victim were traveling with a friend the defendant met in prison when the defendant reportedly shot the victim numerous times. The victim died from his wounds.

It is reported that the State charged the defendant murder in the first degree, and domestic violence while armed with a firearm. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State recommended that the defendant be sentenced to 240 months in prison. The court sentenced the defendant to 295 months in prison, however, after which the defendant appealed, arguing that the State breached the plea agreement.

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Given the unpredictable nature of criminal trials, in many cases, it is prudent to enter into a plea agreement with the State. Generally, a criminal defendant’s attorney will inform him or her of any plea offers, and advise the defendant of whether the offer is reasonable or whether the defendant should proceed to trial. If a defendant’s attorney does not communicate a plea offer, however, and the defendant is convicted, the defendant may not have any recourse if he or she does not learn of the offer in a timely fashion. This was explained in a recent assault case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, highlighting the importance of retaining an effective attorney.  If you are charged with assault, it is essential to retain an assertive Tacoma assault defense attorney to help you seek a favorable result.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including numerous assault offenses and possession of a stolen firearm. The court assigned a public defender to represent the defendant. The public defender received a plea offer from the prosecutor, which the public defender communicated with the defendant. The defendant declined to accept the offer. Subsequently, the prosecutor sent the public defender an offer with a recommended sentence of 120 months. The offer went unanswered and ultimately expired. A jury convicted the defendant on all but one charge, and the court sentenced him to 432 months imprisonment.

It is reported that the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, but the appeal was denied. He then filed a personal restraint petition that was also denied. He subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment, which was considered as a personal restraint petition. The court ultimately dismissed the petition as time-barred.

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Simply because a person is charged with a crime, it does not mean they are no longer protected by the law. Rather, criminal defendants are granted many rights by state and federal law, including the right to a speedy trial. Thus, if a trial is unduly delayed, a defendant may be able to obtain a dismissal of the charges pending against him or her. The grounds for dismissing charges due to a delay in trying a case were recently discussed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in a case in which the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is important to retain a skillful Tacoma gun crime attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that in May 2015, the defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. It took approximately one year for the defendant to be appointed counsel and approximately two years for the defendant to be arraigned. The defendant then moved to dismiss his indictment on the grounds that the delay violated his right to a speedy trial. The court denied the motion. The defendant renewed the motion, and it was again denied. The defendant pled guilty while specifically preserving his right to appeal the court’s denial of his motion to dismiss. He was sentenced to seventy-seven months imprisonment. He then appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy Trial

Under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, all criminal defendants have the right to a public and speedy trial. There is no defined limit as to what is considered an unconstitutional delay. Rather, courts usually assess four factors in determining if a delay is sufficient to violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights: the duration of the delay, the reason for the delay, whether the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, and whether the defendant suffered prejudice as a result of the delay.

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When a defendant is charged with a crime, the State is tasked with proving each element of the crime to prove the defendant’s guilt. If the State cannot meet this burden, the defendant should be found not guilty. For example, many crimes require the State to prove a defendant had actual intent to commit the crime with which he or she is charged. In a recent case in which the defendant was charged with assault, the court explained when the State is required to establish an intent to harm and when a defendant may be convicted despite the lack of evidence of intent. If you are a Washington resident charged with an assault offense, it is wise to confer with a dedicated Tacoma assault defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that a police officer arrested the defendant for a suspected violation of a no-contact order. When the officer searched the defendant, he found drugs on the defendant’s person, after which the defendant attempted to flee the scene. The officer tackled the defendant, who then began kicking at the officer, eventually making contact. The defendant also stated that he should have kicked the officer in the head. The defendant was charged with third-degree assault.

Allegedly, during the trial, the defendant’s attorney stated in his opening and closing arguments that the State could not prove the defendant had the intent to harm the officer, as required to obtain a conviction. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

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