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Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

As most people are aware, criminal defendants cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements and must be advised of their rights via a Miranda warning prior to any custodial interrogations. As such, any incriminating statement made by a person during a line of questioning that occurs prior to a Miranda warning may be precluded from evidence. Additionally, as discussed in a recent assault case, if a party makes an incriminating statement following such warnings, it may be inadmissible if the line of questioning as a whole constitutes a two-step interrogation. If you are charged with assault, it is wise to speak to a zealous Washington assault defense attorney to determine what arguments you may be able to set forth in your defense.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and his victim lived in an RV together. A passerby alerted the police to an altercation outside of the RV, which prompted the police to report to the scene. When they arrived, they asked the defendant what happened, and he responded that he was trying to fix things between him and the victim. He further stated that he had not choked the victim, he was just trying to get her to talk to him. The defendant was given a Miranda warning, after which he was questioned.

Allegedly, he again denied choking or hitting the victim but stated that he placed his hands on her shoulders. The defendant was charged with assault with domestic violence allegations. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to preclude the statements he made to the police during the investigation. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted, after which he appealed.

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It is well-established under state and federal law that a person accused of a crime cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements. In some instances, though, a criminal defendant may be coerced into making a statement that can be used against them, due to a lack of awareness regarding his or her rights. In a recent Washington case in which the defendant was accused of domestic violence assault with a firearm, the court discussed when an incriminating statement should be suppressed as an involuntary admission. If you live in Washington and are accused of committing a weapons offense, it is advisable to confer with a skilled Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and another woman were both romantically involved with the victim, but unaware of the existence of one another. They both became pregnant, after which the defendant broke up with the victim. The other woman learned that the defendant was also expecting the victim’s child, and reached out to the defendant. The two women then confronted the victim, and the victim testified that the defendant shot him in the leg.

Allegedly, the defendant was arrested three weeks later and transported to jail. She was advised of her Miranda rights and right to counsel, after which she stated she wished to make a statement. She was reminded of her right against self-incrimination and right to counsel but nonetheless admitted to participating in the shooting. She was then charged with first-degree assault with a firearm. She was convicted by a jury, after which she appealed, alleging in part that the statement she made in jail was coerced.

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Many criminal statutes require the State to prove that a defendant possessed a certain mental state during the commission of the crime. If the State cannot establish that the defendant had the required state of mind when an offense was allegedly committed, then the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, a Washington court discussed whether a defendant could argue that he lacked the requisite mental state to violate a domestic violence no-contact order due to voluntary intoxication in a case in which the defendant was charged with numerous crimes. If you live in Washington and are accused of a crime of domestic violence, it is advisable to consult a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders that barred him from contacting his former girlfriend with whom he shared a child. Specifically, the orders stated that the defendant was not permitted to communicate with his former girlfriend except to discuss custody exchanges, and prohibited him from coming within 1,000 feet of her, her school, work, or home. While the orders were in effect, the former girlfriend found the defendant in her living room in the early morning.

Allegedly, the defendant appeared to be intoxicated and was crying and mumbling. He then swallowed a bottle of pills and lost consciousness, after which the former girlfriend called the police. The defendant was ultimately charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of a felony violation of a domestic violence order. During the trial, the defendant requested an instruction on the defense of involuntary intoxication, which the court denied. The jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his request.

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In many instances in which a person is accused of engaging in acts of domestic violence, a court will issue a protective order barring the person from contacting the alleged victim. While a violation of a protective order may constitute a crime, if the terms of the order are unclear, it may not be understandable. In a recent Washington case, an appellate court discussed what terms in a protective order are sufficient to apprise a defendant of his or her limitations and what constitutes adequate evidence of a violation. If you are a Washington resident faced with charges of violating a protective order, you should confer with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your possible defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant drove his girlfriend to the home of her granddaughter. The granddaughter had a valid protective order in place against the defendant, however, that required the defendant to “stay away” from the granddaughter and her home. After the defendant dropped off his girlfriend, he was arrested for violating the protective order and charged with multiple felony domestic offenses due to his prior criminal history.

Allegedly, the defendant pleaded guilty to certain charges but proceeded to trial on the charge regarding the violation of the anti-harassment provision of the protective order, arguing that the language of the order requiring him to “stay away” was vague. The trial court disagreed, finding that the language was understandable, and convicted the defendant. The defendant then appealed, arguing the State’s evidence was insufficient to obtain a conviction.

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Domestic violence crimes are not limited to physical acts of violence, but also include stalking, cyberstalking, and harassment over the telephone. While a wide array of behavior may give rise to a domestic violence offense, a common element of domestic violence crimes is harm, whether it is actual harm or an actual or perceived threat of harm. Thus, if during a trial for a domestic violence crime, the jury is not properly instructed regarding the elements of the crime, it may violate the defendant’s Constitutional rights. This was discussed in a recent Washington appellate court opinion in which the court reversed the defendant’s convictions for cyberstalking and telephone harassment due to improper jury instructions. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a domestic violence offense, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant sent a series of texts to the victim, who was his ex-girlfriend that lived in another part of the State, asking her if she wanted to engage in sexual conduct with him and his friends, calling her demeaning terms, and threatening to follow her. Later that day, he broke into the victim’s home and set two fires. He was arrested and charged with multiple domestic violence crimes, including telephone harassment and cyberstalking. Following a jury trial, he was convicted. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court violated his First Amendment rights by failing to instruct the jury on the definition of a “true threat.” The appellate court agreed and reversed and remanded his convictions for cyberstalking and telephone harassment.

The Definition of a True Threat for Cyberstalking and Telephone Harassment Charges

On appeal, the State conceded that the jury was not instructed on the definition of a true threat for the crimes of cyberstalking and telephone harassment, but argued that a true threat was not an essential component of those crimes. Conversely, the defendant argued that the failure to provide the jury with such instructions allowed the jury to convict him based on protected speech. The appellate court agreed with the defendant. Specifically, the court stated that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws that inhibit a person’s right to free speech. Further, the court explained that while the protections provided by the First Amendment were broad, they did not extend to unprotected speech, such as speech deemed a true threat.

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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.

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Often when a person is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, the court will impose a no-contact order as a part of the person’s sentence. When a domestic violence defendant and his or her alleged victim have a child together, however, a seemingly straightforward no-contact order may become complicated. This was evidenced in a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2, in which the court ruled that a no-contact order cannot limit the constitutional right to parent a child. If you are faced with a domestic violence crime, it is important to retain a knowledgeable Tacoma domestic violence attorney who can assist you in seeking a just outcome.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant assaulted his ex-girlfriend, after which he was charged with domestic violence assault. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was aware that the State intended to recommend that he not be permitted to contact the victim. At the sentencing hearing, the State recommended that the court issue a ten-year no-contact order. The defendant’s attorney stated it was a joint recommendation, but advised the court that as the defendant’s ex-girlfriend was pregnant with his child, the order would have to be modified after the child was born. The court entered the order, barring the defendant from contacting his ex-girlfriend in any manner for ten years.

It is reported that after the defendant’s child was born, the defendant filed a motion asking the court to modify the order, as the current order violated his constitutional right to parent his child. The court denied his motion, directing the defendant that he could seek access to his child through family court proceedings. The defendant appealed.

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In many instances in which a defendant is charged with a domestic violence crime, he or she will enter into a plea agreement with the State. Although the court is not required to impose the sentence recommended by the State pursuant to a plea agreement, the State cannot actively undercut the agreement by offering evidence that would persuade the court to disregard the agreement. Recently, in a domestic violence case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed what constitutes a breach of a plea agreement. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Tacoma domestic violence attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the body of an 18-year-old man was found near a campground, after which the defendant was identified as a suspect. The victim and the defendant had been involved in a relationship in which the victim took the role of a slave or submissive. Their relationship was volatile, and the defendant exercised a great deal of control over the victim. The defendant had an extensive criminal history as well. The defendant and victim were traveling with a friend the defendant met in prison when the defendant reportedly shot the victim numerous times. The victim died from his wounds.

It is reported that the State charged the defendant murder in the first degree, and domestic violence while armed with a firearm. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State recommended that the defendant be sentenced to 240 months in prison. The court sentenced the defendant to 295 months in prison, however, after which the defendant appealed, arguing that the State breached the plea agreement.

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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.

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