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Washington Court Discusses the Voluntary Intoxication Defense in No Contact (Court) Order Violation

by | May 9, 2024 | Domestic Violence, Violencia doméstica

Under Washington law, violating a no-contact order is a criminal offense. Convictions for such offenses can carry significant penalties, particularly if the defendant has an extensive criminal history. If the prosecution does not establish that the defendant possessed the mental state required to commit the crime, however, the defendant may be able to escape a conviction. In a recent Washington opinion, the court discussed the defense of voluntary intoxication as it pertains to a criminal defendant’s mental state but eventually affirmed the defendant’s conviction for violating a no contact order. If you are faced with domestic violence charges, it is smart to confer with a Tacoma domestic violence defense lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s father lived with a woman who provided him with care and companionship. The woman obtained a domestic violence no-contact order against the defendant in 2020 due to his alcohol-induced aggressive and threatening behavior. This order prohibited the defendant from coming within 200 feet of her residence, school, or workplace.

Allegedly, the defendant began living in a trailer on his father’s property. In January 2021, law enforcement was called to the residence after the defendant entered the home while intoxicated, demanded the woman’s departure, and made threats. Police arrested the defendant for violating the no-contact order. He was charged with felony violation of a court order and other crimes. A jury found him guilty of violating the no contact order and residential burglary. He appealed on numerous grounds.

The Defense of Voluntary Intoxication

On appeal, the defendant claimed that his defense counsel was ineffective for not pursuing a voluntary intoxication defense. While there was evidence of the defendant’s alcohol consumption and outward signs of intoxication, the State argued that he did not meet the necessary criteria for such a defense and that even if he did, its absence did not prejudice him.

The court explained that Washington law states that voluntary intoxication does not make an act less criminal, but it can be considered when determining a defendant’s mental state if that mental state is a crucial element of the crime. For a voluntary intoxication defense to be warranted, the crime must require a specific mental state, there must be substantial evidence of drinking, and the defendant must provide evidence that alcohol affected their ability to reach the required mental state.

Both charges against the defendant, residential burglary and felony violation of a court order, necessitated a particular mental state. While there was substantial evidence of his alcohol consumption, he failed to demonstrate that alcohol influenced his ability to form the required mental state for either crime. Consequently, the court found no deficiency in counsel’s decision not to pursue a voluntary intoxication defense and no reasonable probability that the case’s outcome would have differed if such a defense had been presented to the jury.

Talk to a Trusted Tacoma Attorney

The prosecution must demonstrate each element of a domestic violence crime in order to obtain a conviction, and in many instances, it is unable to do so. If you are charged with domestic violence offense, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney. The trusted Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best legal outcome possible. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 253-203-1645 to arrange a conference.