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Washington Court Discusses Grounds for an Assault Conviction

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2020 | Assault

It is a common misconception that assault involves actual bodily harm. Under Washington law, however, there are multiple acts that constitute assault, most of which do not require proof of physical contact. Thus, a defendant may be convicted of assault even if he or she never touches the alleged victim, as shown in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s assault conviction. If you are charged with an assault offense in Washington, it is crucial to speak with a trusted Tacoma assault defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a successful outcome.

Facts Surrounding the Alleged Assault

It is alleged the defendant and his wife, who were married for eleven years, got into an argument. The wife left their home and began running away, after which the defendant got into his car and drove next to her. The wife eventually went behind construction barriers to avoid the defendant, after which the defendant struck the barriers with his car. The wife testified that she did not believe the defendant was trying to run her over, but she was scared and was asking for help. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including first and second-degree assault. He was found guilty of the second-degree assault charge, after which he appealed, arguing the State did not present sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Proving Assault Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, a person commits second-degree assault by intentionally assaulting another person, inflicting serious bodily harm. Further, there are three definitions of assault in Washington: unlawful touching, an attempt to place a person in fear of harm, or an attempt to inflict bodily injury on another person. When an assault charge arises out of an attempt to harm another person or place a person in fear of harm, the State must establish that the defendant acted with specific intent. In other words, the State must show that the defendant acted with the intention of bringing about a specific outcome.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the State presented sufficient evidence at trial to sustain the defendant’s conviction. Specifically, numerous witnesses testified that the defendant repeatedly struck the construction barriers, while his wife cried and asked for help. Thus, the court found that a rational jury could find that he intended to harm his wife. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that he could not be convicted of second-degree assault because his car did not actually make contact with his wife. Rather, the court clarified, he could be convicted of second-degree assault even if he did not commit an assault by battery. As such, the court affirmed the guilty verdict.

Consult an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are faced with charges of an assault crime, it is wise to consult an experienced Washington assault defense attorney regarding what evidence the State needs to obtain a conviction. The seasoned criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White have the skills and experience required to help you strive for the best result available under the circumstances surrounding your arrest. We can be reached at 253-363-8662 or via the form online to schedule a meeting.