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Washington Court Explains Evidence Sufficient to Establish Identity in Criminal Cases

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2022 | Assault

In criminal matters, the burden of proof rests solely with the prosecution. In other words, the prosecution must offer evidence sufficient to establish not only that a crime was committed but also that the defendant is the person that committed the charged offense. If the prosecution is unable to meet its burden of proof, the defendant should not be convicted. This was explained recently in a ruling in which a Washington court reversed a defendant’s assault conviction on the grounds that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof. If you were charged with an assault offense, it is wise to meet with a capable Tacoma assault defense attorney to evaluate what evidence the State may introduce at trial.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that Tacoma police responded to a 911 call reporting domestic violence. During the call, the victim identified her alleged attacker by name. The State then charged the defendant with multiple counts of assault with domestic violence aggravators. The victim failed to appear at trial, despite the fact that prosecutors issued a warrant to compel her to appear. The State tried the case without the victim’s testimony.

Reportedly, during the trial, the defendant introduced himself by name, and the officer that responded to the 911 call testified that the victim identified her attacker and that the person she named had the same name as the defendant. The jury ultimately convicted the defendant, and he appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence to establish that he was the victim’s attacker.

Evidence Sufficient to Establish Identity in Criminal Cases

The court agreed and vacated the defendant’s conviction. The court explained that due process necessitates that the State prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the key elements of every crime is identity. In other words, the State is required to prove that the defendant is the person that committed the crime in question in order to obtain a conviction.

The Washington courts have elaborated that identity involves a question of fact for the jury and that any direct or circumstantial fact that is relevant and which would convince or tend to convince a person with ordinary judgment of the identity of a person should be evaluated.

In the subject case, the State produced evidence of the 911 call, in which the victim stated the defendant’s name, build, height, and date of birth and stated that he was the father of her child. The State did not produce any evidence to establish the defendant’s identity other than his name, however. As such, the court found that there was no evidence that he was the victim’s attacker.

Meet with a Skilled Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

The State must offer definitive proof that a criminal defendant is the individual that committed a charged offense, and if it cannot, the defendant should be found not guilty. If you are charged with assault or any other crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The skilled Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White take pride in helping people accused of crimes fight to protect their liberties, and if we represent you, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a meeting.