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Tacoma Washington Court Explains Sufficiency of Evidence in Assault Cases

by | May 22, 2024 | Assault, Criminal Defense

In criminal cases, the prosecution must establish each element of the charged offense in order to demonstrate guilt. In cases involving assault of law enforcement agents, this often means the prosecution has to demonstrate the defendant acted with intent. As discussed in a recent Washington assault case, intent can be established by circumstantial evidence. If you are faced with assault charges, it is wise to talk to a Tacoma assault defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Case Setting

It is alleged that a police officer approached the defendant in response to a service call. The defendant, who was intoxicated and incoherent, became agitated, yelled, and flailed her arms. Despite the officer’s warnings, she continued yelling and then advanced towards him with her chest pushed forward. The defendant, fearing an assault, raised his hand defensively but did not approach her. The defendant made contact with his hand and then raised her hands, prompting the defendant to restrain her and place her under arrest. Another officer, who is Black, arrived and assisted with the defendant, who thrashed and directed a racial slur at him before kicking him twice.

Reportedly, the state charged the defendant with two counts of assault in the third degree, one for each officer. Body camera footage of the incidents was admitted at trial, but did not show the kicks. Before the trial, the defendant objected to the admissibility of footage containing the racial slur, arguing it was prejudicial and irrelevant, but the court allowed it, providing a curative instruction to the jury. The jury found the defendant guilty on both counts. She then challenged the verdict.

Evidence Needed to Support Assault Convictions

The court first addressed the sufficiency of the evidence for the conviction of assault against the first officer. To do so, the court reviewed the evidence, considering whether any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The court, while noting that intent was an element of the charged offenses, emphasized that intent can be inferred from the circumstances. The court ultimately found that the evidence, including body camera footage and the defendant’s testimony, showed the defendant intentionally moved towards the officer in a threatening manner, supporting her conviction.

Next, the court reviewed the trial court’s decision to admit body camera footage containing the racial slur, analyzing whether this evidence was relevant and whether its probative value was outweighed by potential prejudice. The court determined the slur was relevant as it was uttered during the alleged assault and indicative of the defendant’s intent. The court also found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence, as it was crucial to the State’s case, and the court had issued a limiting instruction to mitigate potential prejudice. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s evidentiary ruling and the convictions.

Meet with an Experienced Tacoma Attorney

Assault is a serious crime, but there are often numerous defenses people charged with such offenses can assert to avoid a conviction. If you are accused of assault, it is smart to meet with an attorney. The experienced Tacoma assault defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Smith & White possess the resources and knowledge needed to obtain a favorable outcome, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 253-203-1645 to set up a meeting.