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Washington Court Discusses Evidence of Domestic Violence in Criminal Cases

by | Jan 23, 2024 | Assault, Assault and Evidence, Criminal Defense, Domestic Violence, Evidence, Violencia doméstica

In Washington criminal matters, evidence of prior bad acts and crimes is typically considered inadmissible due to concerns about prejudice. However, the state recognizes exceptions to this general rule and allows the introduction of such evidence for specific and limited purposes. One recognized exception is when the evidence is deemed “inextricably intertwined” with the underlying crime. This was explained by a Washington court in a recent ruling in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s motion in limine to preclude evidence of domestic violence. If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, it is in your best interest to consult a Tacoma domestic violence defense lawyer to evaluate your options as soon as possible.

Factual Background and Procedural History

It is reported that the federal government charged the defendant with conspiracy to engage in cyberstalking and multiple counts of cyberstalking. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to preclude the government from introducing testimony from the defendant’s former spouse about alleged domestic violence. In support of his motion, the defendant contended that testimony on domestic violence lacked a temporal connection to stalking and should be excluded.

Evidence of Domestic Violence in Criminal Cases

The court denied the defendant’s motion to preclude the testimony of his former spouse. In doing so,  the court rejected the defendant’s argument that such testimony lacked a temporal connection to and was not “inextricably intertwined” with the cyberstalking charges.

The court referred to two categories of cases where evidence is considered “inextricably intertwined.” One such category involves evidence used to allow the prosecutor to set forth a complete and understandable story regarding the commission of a crime. Here, the court found that the potential commission of domestic violence by the defendant was indeed inextricably intertwined with the cyberstalking charges.

First, the domestic violence had a temporal connection to the cyberstalking case, as it was alleged to have occurred throughout the defendant’s stalking campaign. Secondly, the court noted a causal connection, suggesting that the former spouse’s testimony might reveal that the defendant’s abuse was one reason for her involvement in the crimes he was charged with. The court concluded that testimonial evidence of domestic violence would have a contextual and substantive connection to the alleged cyberstalking crime and ruled it could be admitted into evidence.

The defendant also sought to admit statements made by federal government attorneys and law enforcement agents. The court acknowledged that federal government attorneys could be considered party opponents, and their statements might be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence and granted the defendant’s motion. The court refused to extend this rule to federal and state law enforcement agents, however, citing the inability to bind the sovereign and principles of sovereign immunity.

Meet with a Trusted Tacoma Attorney

Domestic violence offenses can carry serious penalties, and it is critical for anyone accused of engaging in acts of domestic violence to speak to understand how a conviction may impact their rights. If you are accused of a crime of domestic violence, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney. The trusted Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your available defenses and aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to arrange a consultation.