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Washington Court Discusses Proving Intent in Criminal Cases

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2022 | Domestic Violence

In criminal cases, the state bears the burden of proof. Specifically, in order to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt, the state must establish each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In many instances, this means that the state has to prove the defendant acted with intent. In such cases, if the defendant is convicted despite a lack of evidence that they acted knowingly, their conviction may be reversed. This was illustrated recently in a Washington matter in which the court found that the state failed to prove that the defendant knowingly violated his domestic violence no-contact order. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is smart to contact a Tacoma domestic violence defense lawyer regarding your potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was subject to a domestic violence no-contact order that prevented him from coming within 500 feet of his estranged wife’s home. In September 2020, the wife’s neighbor saw the defendant walking in his backyard. The neighbor approached the defendant to ask him what he was doing on his property. Instead of responding, the defendant began to run and subsequently ran in front of his estranged wife’s trailer.

It is alleged that following the incident, the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including felony violation of the domestic violence no-contact order. He waived his right to a jury trial, and the case proceeded to a bench trial. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly violated the terms of his no-contact order. Thus, he was convicted. He then appealed.

Establishing Intent in Criminal Cases

Pursuant to Washington law, the state bears the burden of establishing each element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt. To assess whether the state has produced sufficient evidence to support a conviction, a court will review the evidence in a light most favorable to the state and evaluate whether any reasonable fact finder could find the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court further explained that if a defendant raises a claim of insufficient evidence, they admit the truth of the state’s evidence and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it. In the subject case, the court noted that the state was required to show that the defendant had knowledge of the no-contact order and that he willfully engaged in contact with another in a manner that is prohibited by the order. Willfulness requires a purposeful act. The court ultimately found that the state failed to demonstrate that the defendant acted willfully; rather, the violation was accidental. Thus, it vacated the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Dedicated Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is important to understand your rights, and you should meet with an attorney. The dedicated Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can assess the circumstances surrounding your charges and assist you in seeking the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a meeting.