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Washington Court Discusses Evidence Needed to Prove Assault Offenses  

by | Oct 30, 2023 | Assault

Under Washington law, in order to convict a person of an assault offense, the prosecution has to prove each element of the crime. This does not necessarily mean that they must prove the defendant’s mental status at the time the crime was committed, however, as many assault offenses do not include an element of intent. This was illustrated recently in a Washington matter in which the court rejected the defendant’s assertion that his assault conviction should be vacated as the prosecution did not demonstrate he intended to strangle his victim. If you are charged with an assault offense, you should confer with a Tacoma assault defense attorney regarding your rights.

Case History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with assault by strangulation following an altercation with the victim, his daughter. During the trial, the victim testified that she heard the defendant pounding on her bedroom door and fearing for her safety, grabbed a box cutter in self-defense. A struggle followed, during which the defendant put her in a headlock and applied pressure to her throat. The defendant provided an alternative account of the events, claiming that he accidentally got his hand stuck in the victim’s door, which led to a confrontation and physical struggle.

Allegedly, law enforcement officers testified regarding the scene upon their arrival and the injuries visible on the victim, which were consistent with strangulation. Expert testimony was provided on the physiology of strangulation as well. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed.

Evidence Needed to Prove Assault Offenses  

On appeal, the central issue was the sufficiency of the evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt of assault in the second degree by strangulation. Specifically, the defendant argued that the State failed to establish his specific intent to strangle the victim.

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning, clarifying in its analysis that under Washington law, strangulation can be proven in two ways. The first is by the actual injury suffered by the victim, while the second is by the specific intent of the perpetrator to obstruct the victim’s blood flow or ability to breathe. Thus, the court deemed the defendant’s assertion that the State was required to prove his intent to obstruct blood flow or breathing inaccurate.

The court emphasized that the State could proceed on either or both of these subalternatives within the strangulation alternative of the assault in the second degree statute. In this case, the evidence presented by the State, including the victim’s testimony, expert analysis of her injuries, and the accounts of witnesses, was deemed sufficient to prove the charge of assault in the second degree by strangulation. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Contact an Experienced Tacoma Attorney

Merely because the state charges a person with an assault crime does not mean that they have enough evidence to obtain a conviction. If you are faced with assault charges, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can inform you of your possible defenses and set forth compelling arguments on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to set up a meeting.