Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

Under Washington law, if a defendant is convicted of a crime in addition to imprisonment or probation the court may impose monetary penalties. If a defendant is indigent, however, the court may be barred from imposing certain penalties. In a recent Washington appellate court case, the court analyzed the definition of indigence under recent amendments to the Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure and whether indigency bars domestic violence penalty assessments. If you are a Washington resident currently facing domestic violence charges you should meet with a skillful Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case and potential penalties you may face.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant pleaded guilty to seven offenses, each of which included a domestic violence allegation. The court sentenced the defendant to 347 months of imprisonment and imposed mandatory and discretionary legal financial obligations, including a domestic violence penalty assessment. The defendant appealed, arguing that recent amendments to the Washington legal financial obligation laws barred the imposition of penalties, including the domestic violence penalty, due to his indigency.

Indigency Under Washington Law

In 2018, the Washington legislature amended the rules of criminal procedure. The amendments included a prohibition of the imposition of criminal filing fees against defendants who are indigent at the time of sentencing. Further, the 2018 amendments set forth a specific definition of indigence. Under the amendments, the inability to afford a lawyer is not sufficient to prove a defendant is indigent with regards to the ability to pay legal financial obligations. Rather, the defendant must show either that he or she receives a qualifying form of public assistance, that he or she was involuntarily committed in a public mental health facility, or that his or her annual income, after taxes, is 125 percent or less of the current poverty level established by the federal government.

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Under Washington law, a defendant can only be convicted of the crime for which he or she was charged, or a lesser included offense of that charge. Thus, if the State charges a defendant with violation of a protective order but fails to offer proof to establish the defendant committed the crime as charged, the State cannot then modify the information to change the elements of the alleged crime. This was illustrated in a case recently decided by the Washington Court of Appeals in which the court reversed a defendant’s conviction for violation of a protective order, following the State’s mid-trial amendment of the information charging the defendant. If you live in Washington and are charged with violation of a protective order it is in your best interest to consult a skilled Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss potential defenses to the charges you face.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Charges

Reportedly, the defendant and his wife were in the process of divorcing when the wife obtained a protective order against the defendant. The order prohibited the defendant from contacting the wife or entering either of the two properties they previously inhabited together. However, the defendant was advised he could contact the sheriff’s department to assist him in obtaining his belongings from one of the properties. The defendant was also personally served with the order. The defendant was subsequently arrested after his truck was seen at one of the properties. The truck was searched at it was found that both the defendant’s and the plaintiff’s belongings were in the truck. The defendant was found on the property charged with violating the protective order and second-degree burglary.

It is alleged that after the State rested its case at trial, the defendant testified that he was at the property to return the plaintiff’s belongings and pick up his belongings. Further, he admitted the property was subject to the protective order. The defendant moved to dismiss the violation of the protective order charge, however, due to the fact that the information alleged he violated the order by contacting the wife. The State then moved to amend the information to allege that the defendant violated the order by entering a protected property. The State’s motion was granted and the defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed.
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It is common knowledge that criminal defendants are afforded the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Each criminal charge has different elements that the state must prove in order to convict a defendant. If a defendant is convicted absent sufficient evidence, he or she may be able to have the conviction overturned.

Recently, a Washington appellate court reviewed the evidence needed to convict a defendant of assault with a deadly weapon, in State v. Solorazano. If you are charged with a crime, it is important to retain a Washington criminal defense attorney who will fight vigorously to help you retain your liberties.

Factual Allegations

Reportedly, police responded to reports of a domestic dispute at a mobile home. When they arrived, the police placed the defendant into custody. They spoke with his girlfriend, the alleged victim and her daughter, both of whom were panicked and scared. The police found a knife that had a seven inch blade, that they believed the defendant used in the altercation. Neither the girlfriend nor her daughter had any injuries. The defendant was charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. During the trial, the State played the 911 call from the alleged incident, in which the defendant’s girlfriend’s daughter could be heard stating that the defendant had a knife and had placed his girlfriend in a headlock. The defendant was convicted as charged, after which he appealed.

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Many criminal charges and convictions are based on eyewitness testimony and statements, such as statements made by the defendant or other parties. In some cases, individuals charged with a crime may be able to preclude any statements made before or after his or her arrest from being introduced into evidence and used against the individual. Not all statements made to the police must be precluded, however.

A Washington court recently held that statements made by a defendant before his arrest were admissible at the defendant’s trial for violating a no-contact order. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime, you should consult a seasoned Washington criminal defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

Allegedly, police officers were assisting in boarding up a residence subject to abatement when they observed the defendant and a female companion sleeping in a van outside of a residence. Police approached the vehicle and asked the defendant and the female to exit the vehicle and identify themselves. The defendant was agreeable and gave the police a name, and then the defendant and his companion walked away.

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Domestic violence no-contact orders are required to provide sufficient information to give notice to the party prohibited from contact of the terms of the prohibition. No-contact orders are not required to be exact, however, and a defendant can be convicted of violating an order even if some of the information is inaccurate.

For example, in State of Washington v. Michael Dwayne Harris, the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington upheld a conviction for violation of a no-contact order where the victim’s race was improperly identified, finding the order nonetheless provided sufficient notice to the defendant regarding who he was prohibited from contacting. If you are charged with a violation of a no-contact order, you should seek the assistance of an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney to assess what evidence the state may use against you.

Alleged Violation of the No-Contact Order

Allegedly, the defendant was prohibited from contacting a woman identified as his intimate partner via a domestic violence no-contact order (the Order). The Order also set forth the date of the woman’s birth and identified her as African-American. Four years after the order was issued, the defendant’s wife called the police to report the defendant assaulted her. The defendant was arrested, after which he admitted to being at his wife’s home but stated that she assaulted him. He also admitted there was a no-contact order that barred him from contacting his wife but he believed it had expired. The police then confirmed that the birthdate of the party protected by the Order was the same as the defendant’s wife’s birthdate. The defendant was charged with violating the Order.

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Under Washington law, if a person violates the terms of a no-contact order by assaulting the protected person, he or she can be convicted of a felony. Further, a person subject to a no-contact order cannot violate the terms of the order, regardless of the reason for doing so. In State of Washington v. Steven Brian Yelovich, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington reiterated this standard, in holding that a person subject to a no-contact order could not use the affirmative defense of defense of property when charged with a felony violation of the order due to assault. If you are charged with a violation of a no-contact order, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss defenses available to the charges you face.

Facts of the Case

The suspect dated his alleged victim for five years. At some point thereafter, victim obtained a court order prohibiting the suspect from contacting her or causing her any physical harm. The suspect was at his son’s house moving boxes from the garage. The suspect’s car was parked in the driveway approximately four feet from the garage. The suspect thought he saw someone near his car. When the suspect checked his car, the passenger window was broken and items including his cell phone had been removed from the car. He then saw the victim walking down the street. The suspect believed the victim broke into his car and allegedly began following her with his car, regardless of the fact he was prohibited from contacting her. Shortly thereafter he exited his vehicle and reportedly assaulted the victim. The suspect was charged with felony violation of a no-contact order due to his alleged assault.

In an important new ruling from the Washington Court of Appeals that shows just how broad the state’s electronic surveillance law is, the appeals court threw out an attempted murder conviction against a husband whose threats to kill his wife were accidentally recorded on a cell phone’s voicemail application. Even though no third person was involved in secretly recording the exchange, the fact was that neither the husband nor the wife had consented to being recorded, which triggered the electronic surveillance law and made the recording inadmissible in the husband’s trial.

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A famous song from the 1960s, borrowing from Jewish and Christian scriptures, states that there is a “time to every purpose under heaven.” Encounters with police can be like that. Which is to say, when interacting with the police, there is a time to be very forthcoming, and there is a time to refrain from speaking. Suffice it to say, whatever the specifics of your situation may be, the first thing you say when you encounter a law enforcement officer should probably not be, “I did it.” One man from southwestern Washington made that mistake in his case, a case in which the Washington Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.

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A recent decision from the Washington Court of Appeals once again highlights the importance of trial courts’ following proper procedures before they impose non-mandatory legal financial obligations, or LFOs, on criminal defendants. Washington law requires courts to make a customized inquiry specific to the defendant standing trial, in which the court assesses the defendant’s ability to pay any potential LFO. In this recent case, the trial judge did not make that kind of inquiry, and, as a result, the defendant’s appeal of the obligation was successful.

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When you are attempting to overturn a conviction in a criminal case, based upon an error by the trial judge in admitting evidence, there are multiple hurdles you must clear. You must not only prove that the judge made a mistake but also prove that the mistake had a “reasonable probability” of altering the outcome. In a recent domestic violence case, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a man’s conviction because, even though evidence of his past acts was admitted for a wrong reason, there was no reasonable probability that the man would have been found not guilty in the absence of the error.

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