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Dealing with Multiple Charges Arising from One Incident in a Washington Assault Case

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2016 | Assault

A man facing numerous charges stemming from a physical altercation with his girlfriend was able to prune one but not two convictions off his record in the case. While the state conceded that the two second-degree assault charges against the man were both from the same criminal conduct, the man’s assault charge and harassment charge were separated by a period of time during which he appeared calm and had time to pause and reflect. This gap in time was enough to create two separate criminal intents and allow both charges to withstand the man’s appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals.

The case stemmed from a domestic dispute between Eric Martin and his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Malory Wilson. One evening, an argument erupted over Martin’s drug use, which led to his strangling her, knocking a phone from her hand, leaving, returning by breaking down a door, pinning her to the ground, threatening to kill her, and eventually leaving again (but not before stealing money from Wilson’s purse). Based upon this entire confrontation, the state charged Martin with multiple crimes, including first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, fourth-degree assault, felony harassment, malicious mischief, and two counts of second-degree assault.

The jury in Martin’s case found him guilty on all charges except robbery. In his first appeal, Martin contested the two second-degree assault charges, arguing that they were both from the same criminal conduct. The state agreed, and one of the second-degree assault convictions was vacated. After this success, Martin launched another attack on his convictions, arguing that the harassment charge and the remaining second-degree assault charge were also, just like the two assault crimes, based upon the same criminal conduct. This time, the state did not concede, and the court ruled against the man, imposing a standard-range sentence on all crimes.

Martin appealed, but he was not successful. To qualify as the “same criminal conduct,” two offenses must both be committed against the same victim, have the same criminal intent, and be committed in the same time and place. Without question, both the second-degree assault crime and the harassment were both committed against Wilson at the same time and place. That left the matter of criminal intent. To be one criminal intent, two crimes must be a “continuing, uninterrupted sequence of conduct.” If an accused person has time to pause and reflect, and decide whether to stop or continue going forward with his criminality, that is a separate criminal intent.

In this instance, Martin had the necessary pause-and-reflect time. The evidence in the case showed that he strangled Wilson in the bathroom but then appeared to calm down. After Wilson reached for a phone, however, he became enraged again and threatened her, stating that “I’m gonna kill you before I go to jail.” Because the events were separated by this period of apparent calm, that proved the existence of separate criminal intents and meant that the separate convictions were permissible.

Whether you or a loved one is facing one charge or numerous charges, it is important to get experienced criminal defense counsel on your side. The Tacoma assault attorneys at Smith & White, PLLC have spent many years helping people facing charges mount a strong defense. Call us today at 253-363-8662 to schedule your initial consultation. The first consultation is free.