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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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Many people have lost the right to possess a firearm due to criminal convictions. Not only may convictions in Washington result in the loss of firearm rights, but in some instances, so may convictions in other states. In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed when an out of state conviction may be considered a predicate offense for an unlawful possession of a firearm charge. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges that you unlawfully possessed a firearm, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime attorney regarding what you can do to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Prior Offense

It is reported that the defendant was charged with murder in the second degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, arising out of an incident in which he shot an acquaintance in the face. He was convicted on both charges, after which he appealed. Regarding the firearm charge, the defendant argued that the California conviction that served as the predicate offense for the charge was not equal to a felony under Washington law, and therefore, the charge and conviction were improper. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court ruling.

When an Out of State Conviction Constitutes a Predicate Offense

Under Washington law, a person is guilty of unlawfully possessing a firearm if he or she controls or possesses a firearm, and he or she has previously been convicted of a felony in Washington or elsewhere. When the courts review out of state convictions for firearm offenses, they compare them to comparable offenses and sentences in Washington, to determine if they meet the criteria to be considered a predicate offense. The main inquiry in assessing an out of state conviction is whether the defendant would have been convicted under Washington law for engaging in the same conduct that resulted in the conviction. Thus, the court will compare the elements of the out of state crime to the elements of a similar Washington crime, to evaluate whether they are sufficiently similar.

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Many people who have previous convictions have lost the right to own a firearm. Thus, a person subject to firearm restrictions may be convicted of a crime if the State can prove that the person willfully possessed a weapon. In a recent Washington appellate case, the court discussed what evidence the State must produce to obtain a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. If you reside in Washington and are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon or any other firearms charges, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Washington gun crime attorney to discuss what evidence may be used against you.

Factual and Procedural History

Allegedly, police officers searched the home of the defendant pursuant to a search warrant that covered narcotics and firearms. The officers asked the defendant if there were any firearms in the home. He replied that there were, indicating that there were .380 and .45 caliber guns. During the search, the officers found both guns. The defendant was transported to the police station, where he advised the police of a storage unit that held additional guns. The police obtained a warrant to search the unit, and during the subsequent search, they found six firearms. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including two counts of possession of a stolen firearm and eight counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

It is reported that during the trial, the court advised the jury that for each count of unlawful possession, the jury must find that the defendant knowingly had a firearm, and provided the serial number, make, and caliber of each firearm. The jury found the defendant guilty of all counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, and one possession of a stolen firearm count. The defendant appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertions that the State failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the firearms and that the State was required to prove that he knew the serial number of each firearm to obtain a conviction.

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It is common for a person charged with assault to argue that he or she was acting in self-defense. A defendant that successfully establishes that he or she merely committed the alleged acts to protect his or her self may be able to avoid a conviction. Self-defense only excuses a response to an illegal use of force, however. Thus, in many cases, the State will argue that the defendant initially instigated an altercation, and created the need to act in self-defense. In a recent case, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, explained when a jury instruction that the defendant was the initial aggressor of an argument is appropriate in assault cases. If you live in Washington and are charged with an assault offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim live in the same building and had prior confrontations. Then, in December 2017, the defendant approached the victim and began punching him. The defendant then strangled the victim, reportedly out of fear that the victim would use the knife he regularly carried to stab him. Several witnesses observed the incident. When the police arrived, the defendant admitted he started the altercation, and that he strangled the victim. He was charged with second-degree assault by strangulation. Following a trial, a jury convicted the defendant. He then appealed on several grounds, including the argument that the trial court committed an error in providing a first aggressor instruction to the jury.

First Aggressor Instruction

Under Washington law, a defendant charged with assault can argue that his or her acts were taken in self-defense. The self-defense argument is only available, however, in cases in which the defendant’s actions were taken in response to the unlawful use of force. In other words, a person who instigates a confrontation, thereby provoking the person to act in self-defense, is not responding to unlawful force and will not be found to be acting in self-defense. Thus, a first aggressor instruction is appropriate in cases in which there is credible evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably conclude the defendant provoked the need for the victim to act. The instruction is also appropriate in cases in which there is a dispute as to who began an altercation.

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In many instances in which a defendant is convicted of a crime, the court has discretion with regard to the penalty to impose. In some cases, however, a sentence is mandatory and must be imposed regardless of a judge’s inclination to impose a lesser sentence. Recently, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, discussed whether an exceptional sentence is permitted in a case in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon. If you are currently faced with a charge of domestic violence, you should consult a proficient Washington domestic violence attorney regarding the defenses that you may be able to assert.

Factual and Procedural Background

The defendant’s father had a domestic violence no-contact order that barred the defendant from coming within 500 feet of his father’s house. In January 2018, however, the police received a call that the defendant entered the father’s home and repeatedly stabbed his brother-in-law with a steak knife. The defendant was arrested on the following day and admitted to stabbing his brother-in-law, and he stated that he knew that he was not supposed to be in his father’s house. He was charged with domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon.

The defendant entered into a plea agreement and requested an exceptional sentence. The court granted the request in part, imposing an exceptional sentence of time served and the mandatory 12-month enhancement for deadly weapons. The defendant appealed, arguing that the court erred in finding that it did not have the discretion to impose an exceptional sentence for the weapons enhancement. Continue reading

Although all DUI charges should be taken seriously, felony DUI charges can result in significant penalties, including jail time. Most DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, but they can be elevated to felonies in certain cases. Recently, the Supreme Court of Washington clarified the essential elements for escalating a DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony in a case in which the defendant appealed his felony DUI conviction. If you reside in Washington and are currently charged with a felony DUI, it is important to speak with a seasoned attorney to discuss your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

The Defendant’s Driving History and Charges

Reportedly, the State charged the defendant with numerous driving-related offenses, including felony DUI. The DUI was charged as a felony due to the fact that the defendant had four prior offenses, as defined by Washington law, within ten years of his current arrest. The court bifurcated the trial so that the jury heard evidence of the defendant’s conduct on the date he was arrested prior to hearing evidence of his prior acts. Thus, the jury convicted the defendant of misdemeanor DUI, after which evidence of the defendant’s prior offenses was introduced. Specifically, the prosecution advised the jury that the defendant had previously been convicted for DUI, negligent driving, and two counts of reckless driving. The reckless and negligent driving offenses were originally charged as DUIs.

It is alleged that after the prosecution rested, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the felony DUI charge on the grounds that the prosecution failed to present adequate evidence that his convictions for reckless driving involved alcohol. The jury issued a verdict finding that the defendant had four prior offenses. The defendant was sentenced within the felony DUI range, after which he appealed, again arguing there was insufficient evidence that his prior reckless driving convictions involved alcohol. The court of appeals affirmed, after which the defendant petitioned the Supreme Court of Washington for review.

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In many cases, a defendant convicted of a crime will be sentenced to supervised release subject to the terms and conditions set forth by the sentencing court. If a defendant on supervised release subsequently violates and of the conditions, he or she is required to comply with, the court may order the defendant to be sentenced to imprisonment. In a recent case in which the defendant violated the terms of his supervised released by committing a domestic violence assault, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington analyzed how violations of supervised release should be graded by the courts. If you are charged with a crime or violation of supervised release in Washington, it is advisable to consult a Washington domestic violence attorney regarding your options for fighting to protect your liberties.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant, who was on supervised release, lived with his girlfriend, a recovering methamphetamine addict. The girlfriend attended support classes as part of her recovery and often gave rides to a man in the class who was unable to drive. The defendant became jealous and ultimately confronted the girlfriend at one of the classes. When the girlfriend returned home that evening, the defendant punched her in the face. He proceeded to leave a voicemail on the girlfriend’s father’s phone in which he threatened to kill the girlfriend. The girlfriend went to the defendant’s father’s house next door and locked herself in the bathroom. The defendant followed her and again threatened to kill her.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with violations of supervised release arising out of the assault. He then violated a no-contact order by asking the girlfriend to sign an affidavit in support of his defense. Probation issued a report asserting that the defendant violated his release by committing assault in the fourth degree – domestic violence, interfering with domestic violence reporting, threatening to kill, and violation of a no-contact order. Probation also submitted a sentencing guideline identifying the violation of the no-contact order as a felony, which probation argued was a class B violation. Probation recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months. The court ultimately sentenced the defendant to 10 months’ imprisonment, after which the defendant appealed.

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In many domestic violence cases, the defendant will dispute the alleged victim’s account of events, arguing that the victim has an ulterior motive for making the accusations or that the victim’s account is unreliable. Thus, it is not uncommon for a defendant to seek to introduce evidence to impeach the victim, but not all evidence will be deemed admissible. In a recent Washington appellate case, the court analyzed when medical records indicating a victim had an altered perception of reality may be introduced to impeach the victim in a domestic violence assault trial. If you reside in Washington and are charged with a domestic violence crime, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his wife, the reported victim, had an argument. During the argument, the defendant told his wife to kill herself, stated he would kill her himself and strangled her twice. The wife testified that during both times the defendant strangled her, she couldn’t speak or breathe, she had tunnel vision, and she thought the defendant was going to kill her. The defendant was charged with one count of domestic violence second-degree assault for each of the strangling instances, as well as a count of felony harassment for threatening to kill the wife.

Reportedly, the wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly before the alleged assault. During the trial, the husband sought to introduce medical records regarding the wife’s diagnosis and alleged symptoms, to support his position that the wife had an altered perception of reality at the time of the alleged assault. The court deemed the records inadmissible. The defendant was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in excluding the victim’s medical records.

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