At Smith & White, PLLC we are fully vaccinated against COVID for your safety and convenience. Zoom and Webex meetings remain available.

Articles Posted in Assault

In some cases in which a defendant is sentenced to imprisonment, he or she may be able to obtain a reduced sentence or compassionate release. There are strict parameters that define when a compassionate release is appropriate, and a court will not grant a defendant compassionate release unless the defendant demonstrates that one of the limited circumstances applies. Recently, a Washington court assessed whether the COVID-19 pandemic warrants sufficient grounds for a defendant serving a sentence for assault to obtain compassionate release, ultimately determining that it did not. If you live in Washington and are accused of committing assault, it is advisable to speak to a skillful Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was serving a prison term of twenty months for assaulting a police officer. The defendant, who was 23-years-old, suffered from a heart murmur and filed an emergency motion for compassionate release, arguing that it was warranted due to the threat that he would become infected with COVID-19 while imprisoned. After reviewing the facts and relevant law, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Grounds for Compassionate Release

Generally, a conviction that includes a sentence of imprisonment is a final judgment that may not be modified by a district court, with limited exceptions. For example, under the compassionate release statute, a defendant may only seek a reduction in a sentence when he or she establishes that he or she has met the statutory exhaustion requirements, a compelling and extraordinary reason supports the defendant’s motion, and the reduction sought is consistent with the policy statement, which sets forth the criteria for determining if a compelling reason for a sentence reduction exists.

Continue reading

It is a well-established rule of law in Washington that the State cannot introduce evidence of a defendant’s prior bad behavior to establish that the defendant committed the crime for which he or she is currently charged. While evidence of prior bad actions cannot be used to prove guilt, it is admissible for other reasons. This was discussed in a recent domestic violence case decided by a Washington appellate court, in which the defendant argued that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of verbal abuse. If you are faced with domestic violence charges, it is in your best interest to retain a skilled Tacoma domestic violence attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant became romantically involved with the victim, and shortly thereafter moved into her home with his five-year-old son. The victim alleged that the defendant punched her in the face multiple times, after which she advised him that she no longer felt safe and wanted to end the relationship. In response, the defendant kicked her in the head and punched her in the face, causing her face to split open. The victim was then afraid to leave her home due to an implied threat from the defendant. She was also worried that if she left, the defendant would harm his son. She eventually called 911, which resulted in the defendant’s arrest. He was ultimately charged with second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, and unlawful imprisonment. He was convicted of second-degree assault and appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertion that the trial court erred in allowing the State to admit prior bad act evidence.

Evidence of Prior Bad Acts

Under Washington law, the State is prohibited from introducing evidence of prior bad acts to demonstrate that the defendant had the propensity or character to commit crimes. Evidence of prior bad acts may be introduced for other purposes, however. For evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted for other purposes, the court must find that misconduct occurred, and assess the purpose for admitting the evidence, and whether the evidence is pertinent to an element of the current crime. The court must also find that the evidence’s probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect.

Continue reading

It is a common misconception that assault involves actual bodily harm. Under Washington law, however, there are multiple acts that constitute assault, most of which do not require proof of physical contact. Thus, a defendant may be convicted of assault even if he or she never touches the alleged victim, as shown in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s assault conviction. If you are charged with an assault offense in Washington, it is crucial to speak with a trusted Tacoma assault defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a successful outcome.

Facts Surrounding the Alleged Assault

It is alleged the defendant and his wife, who were married for eleven years, got into an argument. The wife left their home and began running away, after which the defendant got into his car and drove next to her. The wife eventually went behind construction barriers to avoid the defendant, after which the defendant struck the barriers with his car. The wife testified that she did not believe the defendant was trying to run her over, but she was scared and was asking for help. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including first and second-degree assault. He was found guilty of the second-degree assault charge, after which he appealed, arguing the State did not present sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Proving Assault Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, a person commits second-degree assault by intentionally assaulting another person, inflicting serious bodily harm. Further, there are three definitions of assault in Washington: unlawful touching, an attempt to place a person in fear of harm, or an attempt to inflict bodily injury on another person. When an assault charge arises out of an attempt to harm another person or place a person in fear of harm, the State must establish that the defendant acted with specific intent. In other words, the State must show that the defendant acted with the intention of bringing about a specific outcome.

Continue reading

Given the unpredictable nature of criminal trials, in many cases, it is prudent to enter into a plea agreement with the State. Generally, a criminal defendant’s attorney will inform him or her of any plea offers, and advise the defendant of whether the offer is reasonable or whether the defendant should proceed to trial. If a defendant’s attorney does not communicate a plea offer, however, and the defendant is convicted, the defendant may not have any recourse if he or she does not learn of the offer in a timely fashion. This was explained in a recent assault case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, highlighting the importance of retaining an effective attorney.  If you are charged with assault, it is essential to retain an assertive Tacoma assault defense attorney to help you seek a favorable result.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including numerous assault offenses and possession of a stolen firearm. The court assigned a public defender to represent the defendant. The public defender received a plea offer from the prosecutor, which the public defender communicated with the defendant. The defendant declined to accept the offer. Subsequently, the prosecutor sent the public defender an offer with a recommended sentence of 120 months. The offer went unanswered and ultimately expired. A jury convicted the defendant on all but one charge, and the court sentenced him to 432 months imprisonment.

It is reported that the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, but the appeal was denied. He then filed a personal restraint petition that was also denied. He subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment, which was considered as a personal restraint petition. The court ultimately dismissed the petition as time-barred.

Continue reading

When a defendant is charged with a crime, the State is tasked with proving each element of the crime to prove the defendant’s guilt. If the State cannot meet this burden, the defendant should be found not guilty. For example, many crimes require the State to prove a defendant had actual intent to commit the crime with which he or she is charged. In a recent case in which the defendant was charged with assault, the court explained when the State is required to establish an intent to harm and when a defendant may be convicted despite the lack of evidence of intent. If you are a Washington resident charged with an assault offense, it is wise to confer with a dedicated Tacoma assault defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that a police officer arrested the defendant for a suspected violation of a no-contact order. When the officer searched the defendant, he found drugs on the defendant’s person, after which the defendant attempted to flee the scene. The officer tackled the defendant, who then began kicking at the officer, eventually making contact. The defendant also stated that he should have kicked the officer in the head. The defendant was charged with third-degree assault.

Allegedly, during the trial, the defendant’s attorney stated in his opening and closing arguments that the State could not prove the defendant had the intent to harm the officer, as required to obtain a conviction. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Continue reading

It is common for a person charged with assault to argue that he or she was acting in self-defense. A defendant that successfully establishes that he or she merely committed the alleged acts to protect his or her self may be able to avoid a conviction. Self-defense only excuses a response to an illegal use of force, however. Thus, in many cases, the State will argue that the defendant initially instigated an altercation, and created the need to act in self-defense. In a recent case, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, explained when a jury instruction that the defendant was the initial aggressor of an argument is appropriate in assault cases. If you live in Washington and are charged with an assault offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim live in the same building and had prior confrontations. Then, in December 2017, the defendant approached the victim and began punching him. The defendant then strangled the victim, reportedly out of fear that the victim would use the knife he regularly carried to stab him. Several witnesses observed the incident. When the police arrived, the defendant admitted he started the altercation, and that he strangled the victim. He was charged with second-degree assault by strangulation. Following a trial, a jury convicted the defendant. He then appealed on several grounds, including the argument that the trial court committed an error in providing a first aggressor instruction to the jury.

First Aggressor Instruction

Under Washington law, a defendant charged with assault can argue that his or her acts were taken in self-defense. The self-defense argument is only available, however, in cases in which the defendant’s actions were taken in response to the unlawful use of force. In other words, a person who instigates a confrontation, thereby provoking the person to act in self-defense, is not responding to unlawful force and will not be found to be acting in self-defense. Thus, a first aggressor instruction is appropriate in cases in which there is credible evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably conclude the defendant provoked the need for the victim to act. The instruction is also appropriate in cases in which there is a dispute as to who began an altercation.

Continue reading

In many instances in which a defendant is convicted of a crime, the court has discretion with regard to the penalty to impose. In some cases, however, a sentence is mandatory and must be imposed regardless of a judge’s inclination to impose a lesser sentence. Recently, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, discussed whether an exceptional sentence is permitted in a case in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon. If you are currently faced with a charge of domestic violence, you should consult a proficient Washington domestic violence attorney regarding the defenses that you may be able to assert.

Factual and Procedural Background

The defendant’s father had a domestic violence no-contact order that barred the defendant from coming within 500 feet of his father’s house. In January 2018, however, the police received a call that the defendant entered the father’s home and repeatedly stabbed his brother-in-law with a steak knife. The defendant was arrested on the following day and admitted to stabbing his brother-in-law, and he stated that he knew that he was not supposed to be in his father’s house. He was charged with domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon.

The defendant entered into a plea agreement and requested an exceptional sentence. The court granted the request in part, imposing an exceptional sentence of time served and the mandatory 12-month enhancement for deadly weapons. The defendant appealed, arguing that the court erred in finding that it did not have the discretion to impose an exceptional sentence for the weapons enhancement. Continue reading

In many cases, a defendant convicted of a crime will be sentenced to supervised release subject to the terms and conditions set forth by the sentencing court. If a defendant on supervised release subsequently violates and of the conditions, he or she is required to comply with, the court may order the defendant to be sentenced to imprisonment. In a recent case in which the defendant violated the terms of his supervised released by committing a domestic violence assault, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington analyzed how violations of supervised release should be graded by the courts. If you are charged with a crime or violation of supervised release in Washington, it is advisable to consult a Washington domestic violence attorney regarding your options for fighting to protect your liberties.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant, who was on supervised release, lived with his girlfriend, a recovering methamphetamine addict. The girlfriend attended support classes as part of her recovery and often gave rides to a man in the class who was unable to drive. The defendant became jealous and ultimately confronted the girlfriend at one of the classes. When the girlfriend returned home that evening, the defendant punched her in the face. He proceeded to leave a voicemail on the girlfriend’s father’s phone in which he threatened to kill the girlfriend. The girlfriend went to the defendant’s father’s house next door and locked herself in the bathroom. The defendant followed her and again threatened to kill her.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with violations of supervised release arising out of the assault. He then violated a no-contact order by asking the girlfriend to sign an affidavit in support of his defense. Probation issued a report asserting that the defendant violated his release by committing assault in the fourth degree – domestic violence, interfering with domestic violence reporting, threatening to kill, and violation of a no-contact order. Probation also submitted a sentencing guideline identifying the violation of the no-contact order as a felony, which probation argued was a class B violation. Probation recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months. The court ultimately sentenced the defendant to 10 months’ imprisonment, after which the defendant appealed.

Continue reading

In many domestic violence cases, the defendant will dispute the alleged victim’s account of events, arguing that the victim has an ulterior motive for making the accusations or that the victim’s account is unreliable. Thus, it is not uncommon for a defendant to seek to introduce evidence to impeach the victim, but not all evidence will be deemed admissible. In a recent Washington appellate case, the court analyzed when medical records indicating a victim had an altered perception of reality may be introduced to impeach the victim in a domestic violence assault trial. If you reside in Washington and are charged with a domestic violence crime, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his wife, the reported victim, had an argument. During the argument, the defendant told his wife to kill herself, stated he would kill her himself and strangled her twice. The wife testified that during both times the defendant strangled her, she couldn’t speak or breathe, she had tunnel vision, and she thought the defendant was going to kill her. The defendant was charged with one count of domestic violence second-degree assault for each of the strangling instances, as well as a count of felony harassment for threatening to kill the wife.

Reportedly, the wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly before the alleged assault. During the trial, the husband sought to introduce medical records regarding the wife’s diagnosis and alleged symptoms, to support his position that the wife had an altered perception of reality at the time of the alleged assault. The court deemed the records inadmissible. The defendant was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in excluding the victim’s medical records.

Continue reading

Under Washington criminal cases, hearsay evidence is inadmissible. In other words, the State cannot introduce evidence of an out of court statement made by another party, to show the truth of the matter of the statement. There are exceptions to the rule, though, that will render hearsay evidence admissible. For example, if a statement was made under certain conditions, it may fall under the excited utterance exception to the rule against hearsay, as demonstrated in a recent domestic violence case. If you are a Washington resident charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is wise to speak with a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding what evidence the State may introduce against you.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his victim were former romantic partners who decided to resume their relationship. In January 2018, the victim picked up the defendant, who appeared angry. The defendant proceeded to verbally and physically assault the victim while she was driving. The victim then drove her car into the parking lot of a casino, where she hoped to drop the defendant off. The victim noticed a police officer patrolling the lot and drove her car directly at him, yelling that the defendant had just assaulted her.

Reportedly, the officer ordered the defendant out of the car and questioned the victim, who stated that the defendant told her he wanted to kill her, and she was in imminent fear for her life. The officer noticed redness around the victim’s neck as well. The defendant was charged with three crimes of domestic violence, including second-degree assault. The case proceeded to trial, during which the officer testified regarding the victim’s statements prior to the defendant’s arrest. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the victim’s statements to be admitted under the excited utterance exception of the rule against hearsay.

Continue reading

Contact Information