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Court Discusses Intent Element of Washington Assault Charges

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2020 | Assault

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.

Intent in Cases Involving Actual Battery

Under Washington law, a person is guilty of third-degree assault if he or she assaults a law enforcement officer that is performing his or her duties. The statute does not define assault. As such, the courts have adopted the common law definition, which requires proof of an unlawful touching, which is an actual battery, an attempt to use unlawful force to cause bodily harm to another person, but failing to accomplish the harmful act, or placing a person in apprehension of fear.

In the subject case, the court ruled that while specific intent is an element of assault, it is not necessary in cases involving an actual battery. In other words, when a defendant commits an assault by actual battery, the State does not need to produce proof of a specific intent to cause fear or inflict significant bodily harm. Rather, the State must merely show that the defendant intended to engage in the physical act that constituted an assault. In the subject case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to show the defendant intended to kick the officer. Thus, the court affirmed his conviction.

Speak with a Seasoned Assault Defense Attorney

If you are faced with a Washington assault charge, you should speak with a seasoned assault defense attorney regarding the State’s burden of proof and your options for attempting to avoid a conviction. The diligent criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will gather the evidence needed to provide you with the best chance of a successful result. You can reach us at 253-363-8662 or via the form online to schedule a meeting.