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Washington Man Gets $500 LFO Thrown Out in Judgment in Assault Case

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2016 | Assault


In criminal cases in Washington, there are several elements against which you must defend if you’re accused of a crime. One of these is the imposition of a legal financial obligation (LFO) or monetary cost. In order to be obligated to pay, however, the court must provide a statute that specifically authorizes the LFO. In one man’s assault case, the Washington Court of Appeals decided that his LFO was improper because he did not commit any of the underlying crimes listed by the statute as requirements.

The case began with a call to police instructing them to respond to a domestic disturbance in North Bonneville on New Year’s Eve in 2014. Deputies arrived at the scene and first interviewed a woman. Following that interview, they next approached Richard Barnes, whom they believed to be the abuser in this case. Barnes displayed behaviors that made the deputies believe that he was under the influence of alcohol. In fact, Barnes later testified that he’d consumed most of a 12-pack of beer. The deputies decided to arrest him for fourth-degree assault -– domestic violence. In the course of the arrest, Barnes kicked one of the deputies several times.

This kicking episode ultimately resulted in the state charging Barnes with third-degree assault. The jury found Barnes guilty on that charge, and the court ordered the man, among other things, to pay a LFO to the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department in the amount of $500 as part of his assault sentence for kicking the deputy.

Barnes appealed, and he succeeded on his argument related to the LFO. When the state orders you to pay a LFO, the court will cite a statute that authorizes the imposition of an LFO in your case. In Barnes’ case, the court imposed the $500 LFO under the authority of RCW 38.52.430. Barnes argued that his case did not qualify for an LFO under that statute because the law required a conviction of one of a specific, limited list of crimes, none of which was in play in his case.

The appeals court concluded that Barnes was correct. RCW 38.52.430 is entitled “emergency response caused by person’s intoxication,” and it requires two things. First, the police’s emergency response must be directly caused by the convicted person’s intoxication. Second, the state can only recover costs from the convicted person under this statute if he was convicted (or had prosecution deferred) for driving while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated, boating while intoxicated, vehicular homicide committed while intoxicated, or vehicular assault committed while intoxicated.

In Barnes’ case, the state didn’t convict him of any crime involving an automobile, a plane, or a boat, which ruled out all five of the possible underlying crimes listed under RCW 38.52.430. What was more, the state never made an argument at trial that the specific reason that the deputies responded that night was because of Barnes’ intoxication. Based upon either of these two flaws, the imposition of the $500 LFO was improper.

In your Washington criminal defense case, one aspect of your case may be defeating an effort by the state to make you pay a LFO. For a strong and diligent defense, regarding both your trial and your sentencing, contact the Pierce County criminal defense attorneys at Smith & White, PLLC. Our attorneys can help you craft a strong defense. The first consultation is free.