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Court Explains Evidence Needed to Prove a Second Degree Assault in Washington

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2020 | Assault

Often when a person is charged with assault, the evidence the State presents against the defendant is purely circumstantial. Thus, in many cases, there is insufficient evidence for the State to obtain a conviction. In some cases, the State will introduce evidence of substantial bodily harm to support the allegations a defendant committed assault. Recently, a Washington court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of substantial bodily harm in a case in which the defendant was convicted of second-degree assault of her minor son. If you are a Washington resident currently faced with assault charges, it is critical to retain a practiced Washington assault defense attorney to assist you in mounting a strong defense.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Assault

It is reported that prior to dropping the victim off at daycare, the defendant called the daycare to report that the victim had a bruise on his face due to an accident. Upon examination of the victim, the daycare noticed the victim had substantial bruising on his face and neck. As such, the daycare called the police, who began an investigation into the defendant. The defendant was ultimately charged with assault in the second degree of a child and was convicted following a trial. She then appealed, arguing, among other things, that there was insufficient evidence to support her conviction. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed her conviction.

Evidence of Substantial Bodily Harm

Under Washington law, a person will be found guilty of assault in the second degree of a child if the person is over eighteen years old, and the victim is under thirteen years old. There are numerous ways the State can prove assault in the second degree, one of which is through showing that a defendant intentionally assaulted another person, thereby recklessly causing substantial bodily harm. In turn, substantial bodily harm is defined under Washington law as a bodily injury that involves a disfigurement that is temporary but significant, a fracture, or temporary impairment or loss of bodily function.

In the subject case, the appellate court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning that bruises and swelling were insufficient to demonstrate substantial bodily injury. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the trial court stated that substantial meant a degree of harm that is considerable and requires a greater showing than the mere existence of any injury. Thus, under that definition, the court found that the victim’s bruises, swelling, and lacerations were severe enough to constitute a substantial disfigurement. Additionally, the victim suffered a concussion due to the assault, which the trial court found was sufficient to show a substantial impairment of bodily function. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court correctly ruled that there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are accused of assaulting a child or adult, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to discuss what evidence the State may introduce against you. The dedicated Washington assault defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith & White possess the resources and skills to help you set forth compelling arguments in your defense and we will work tirelessly on your behalf.  You can reach us via our online form or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.