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Washington Court Discusses What Constitutes an Involuntary Confession

On Behalf of | Aug 28, 2020 | Assault

It is well-established under state and federal law that a person accused of a crime cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements. In some instances, though, a criminal defendant may be coerced into making a statement that can be used against them, due to a lack of awareness regarding his or her rights. In a recent Washington case in which the defendant was accused of domestic violence assault with a firearm, the court discussed when an incriminating statement should be suppressed as an involuntary admission. If you live in Washington and are accused of committing a weapons offense, it is advisable to confer with a skilled Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and another woman were both romantically involved with the victim, but unaware of the existence of one another. They both became pregnant, after which the defendant broke up with the victim. The other woman learned that the defendant was also expecting the victim’s child, and reached out to the defendant. The two women then confronted the victim, and the victim testified that the defendant shot him in the leg.

Allegedly, the defendant was arrested three weeks later and transported to jail. She was advised of her Miranda rights and right to counsel, after which she stated she wished to make a statement. She was reminded of her right against self-incrimination and right to counsel but nonetheless admitted to participating in the shooting. She was then charged with first-degree assault with a firearm. She was convicted by a jury, after which she appealed, alleging in part that the statement she made in jail was coerced.

Grounds for Suppressing an Incriminating Statement

Before conducting custodial interrogation, an investigating officer must inform a suspect of her rights, including the right to consult an attorney prior to answering questions and the right to remain silent. Further, even if a defendant waives the right to remain silent, a confession may nonetheless be involuntary because of the process through which the statement was obtained. Thus, the courts will assess the totality of the circumstances surrounding a confession to determine if it was made voluntarily or was made due to coercion by the police.

Under Washington law, a defendant can raise the issue of whether a statement was voluntary to the jury, even if the court deems a statement admissible. Questions regarding voluntariness only arise in instances involving coercion by the police, however. In the subject case, as the defendant failed to demonstrate that the police did anything to coerce her confession, such as threatening her or making promises regarding a favorable outcome, the defendant’s claim that her statement was involuntary failed. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington

Charges involving firearms can result in significant penalties, and it is prudent for anyone charged with a weapons offense to meet with an attorney to discuss potential defenses. The trusted weapons charge defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White take pride in helping criminal defendants protect their rights, and if you hire us, we will aggressively advocate on your behalf. You can reach us at 253-363-8662 or via the form online to set up a conference to discuss your charges.