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Court Discusses Hearsay Evidence in Washington Criminal Cases

On Behalf of | May 31, 2022 | Assault

Generally, Washington law prohibits prosecutors from using hearsay evidence to attempt to establish a defendant’s guilt. The law permits the introduction of hearsay evidence for other purposes, however. Further, even if hearsay evidence is improperly introduced at a criminal trial, the error may not constitute sufficient grounds for overturning a guilty verdict. This was demonstrated in a recent ruling in which a court rejected a defendant’s appeal of his assault conviction even though the prosecution offered improper hearsay evidence at trial. If you are accused of assault, you may face significant penalties, and it is wise to speak to a Tacoma assault defense attorney at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC to evaluate your possible defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and the victim became romantically involved shortly after the victim moved to Washington. One evening, they were spending time together at the defendant’s apartment when the victim received a text message from a male friend. The defendant saw the message and became angry, and the two began to argue. The disagreement became physical, and the defendant held the victim down, put his arms around her neck, and threatened to kill her.

It is alleged that the victim lost consciousness. When she awoke, the defendant kicked her in the head and prevented her from leaving. She left the next day and went to the hospital. The defendant was ultimately charged with and convicted of second-degree assault and other offenses. He appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to admit medical records that contained inadmissible hearsay.

Hearsay Evidence in Criminal Cases

The appellate court denied the defendant’s appeal. The court explained that the record in question included a note stating that the victim presented to the hospital after an assault in which she was choked. The defendant argued that the reference to choking corroborated the victim’s testimony, which was the only evidence of the alleged choking, and therefore rendered his attorney’s assistance ineffective.

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning, noting that he could not establish that he suffered prejudice from the admission of the victim’s medical records. Specifically, he was required to show that it was reasonably likely that the outcome of the trial would have been different if the records were not introduced for his appeal to be granted. The court noted that it was not clear that any objection to the records would have been sustained, as they were admissible as business records, and to the extent certain statements within them constituted hearsay, such statements fell under exceptions to the rule against hearsay. Thus, the appellate court denied his appeal.

Meet with a Trusted Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer

The prosecution is not permitted to use improper evidence to establish that a defendant committed an assault offense, and if it does, and it is better to fight its admission at trial than to be forced to appeal. If you are faced with assault charges, it is advisable to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted Washington criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue a favorable outcome under the circumstances. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a meeting.