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  4.  – Washington Court Rules a Defendant Can Be Convicted of Violating a No-Contact Order Even if the Order Incorrectly Identifies the Race of the Protected Party

Washington Court Rules a Defendant Can Be Convicted of Violating a No-Contact Order Even if the Order Incorrectly Identifies the Race of the Protected Party

On Behalf of | Dec 4, 2018 | Assault

Domestic violence no-contact orders are required to provide sufficient information to give notice to the party prohibited from contact of the terms of the prohibition. No-contact orders are not required to be exact, however, and a defendant can be convicted of violating an order even if some of the information is inaccurate.

For example, in State of Washington v. Michael Dwayne Harris, the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington upheld a conviction for violation of a no-contact order where the victim’s race was improperly identified, finding the order nonetheless provided sufficient notice to the defendant regarding who he was prohibited from contacting. If you are charged with a violation of a no-contact order, you should seek the assistance of an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney to assess what evidence the state may use against you.

Alleged Violation of the No-Contact Order

Allegedly, the defendant was prohibited from contacting a woman identified as his intimate partner via a domestic violence no-contact order (the Order). The Order also set forth the date of the woman’s birth and identified her as African-American. Four years after the order was issued, the defendant’s wife called the police to report the defendant assaulted her. The defendant was arrested, after which he admitted to being at his wife’s home but stated that she assaulted him. He also admitted there was a no-contact order that barred him from contacting his wife but he believed it had expired. The police then confirmed that the birthdate of the party protected by the Order was the same as the defendant’s wife’s birthdate. The defendant was charged with violating the Order.

Trial Testimony Regarding Identity of the Protected Party

During the trial, the state introduced the Order as evidence. The defendant’s wife gave testimony that her birthdate was the same as the birthdate of the protected party and that she and the defendant had been married for 8 years. The wife also testified that while she identified as Caucasian she was the person identified in the Order. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the state failed to prove his wife was the protected party due to her race. The defendant convicted of violating the Order, after which he appealed, arguing that the evidence of record did not support the verdict, due to the fact that the evidence established that the victim was Caucasian and the Order prohibited the defendant from contact with an African-American woman. He also argued that the Order violated his right to due process because it failed to provide him with adequate notice of the identity of the party protected under the notice. The court of appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Court’s Finding Regarding the Sufficiency of the Evidence

The court found that the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction, despite the fact that the defendant’s wife was Caucasian and the protected party was identified as African-American in the Order. Specifically, the court stated that even though the Order did not correctly identify the defendant’s wife’s race the fact that her full name and birthdate were the same as the protected party, and that she was the defendant’s wife at the time the Order was issued, was sufficient for a jury to find that she was the protected party. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the Order did not provide him with sufficient notice that he could not contact his wife, stating that the defendant failed to cite any case law requiring the Order to be exact. Additionally, the court found the Order provided fair notice regardless, due to other information in the Order. As such, the court affirmed his conviction.

Retain a Seasoned Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

If you face charges of violating a domestic violence no-contact order you should retain an experienced domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible to evaluate the facts of your case and help you formulate a defense. The skilled domestic violence defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith and White will work diligently to help you retain your rights. Contact our offices at 253-363-8662 or via the online form to set up a consultation.