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Washington Court Discusses the State’s Burden of Proof Regarding Self-Defense

On Behalf of | Nov 4, 2020 | Assault

In some criminal matters, even a defendant that admits to committing the allegedly criminal acts may be found not guilty if a valid justification for the behavior exists. For example, in many assault cases, the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by demonstrating that the alleged unlawful acts were taken in self-defense. In a recent Washington assault case, the court discussed each party’s burden of proof with regard to self-defense. If you are accused of an assault crime, it is prudent to confer with a skilled Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Alleged Assault

Allegedly, the defendant and her husband became involved in a verbal altercation over the fact that the defendant had a boyfriend. The defendant began looking for the deed to their house to prove that she was a co-owner but became enraged when she could not find it. She began throwing things and then started to hit and kick her husband. She ultimately charged him with a sword that was a replica from a movie and sliced his arm. The husband called 911 and had to be airlifted to a hospital due to his wounds.

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, which was deemed a crime of violence. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was convicted, after which she appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that she was not acting in self-defense. The appellate court ultimately rejected her arguments and affirmed her conviction.

Each Party’s Burden of Proof with Regards to Self-Defense

Under Washington law, the State bears the burden of proving the absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury will assess evidence a defendant acted in self-defense from the viewpoint of a reasonably prudent person that possesses the same knowledge as the defendant and witnesses the same events. Armed with that information, the jury must determine whether the degree of force the defendant employed was limited to what a reasonable and prudent person would deem necessary under the conditions that appeared to the defendant.

In the subject case, the defendant relied on her testimony regarding the events that transpired in support of her claim that she was acting in self-defense. The court stated, though, that the jury was not required to adopt her version of events and could find that the State’s evidence regarding what occurred was more compelling and credible. The court explained that it deferred to the jury on issues regarding witness credibility, conflicting testimony, and persuasiveness of evidence. In sum, the court found that a rational factfinder could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting in self-defense based on the evidence presented. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Trusted Washington Attorney

In many instances, criminal defendants charged with assault may be able to set forth affirmative defenses to avoid being found guilty. If you are accused of an assault crime, the trusted Washington assault defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and help you pursue the best legal result available under the circumstances. We can be reached via the online form or at 253-363-8662 to set up a consultation.