Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

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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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.

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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.

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Under Washington law, some crimes may be designated as crimes of domestic violence if the State can produce sufficient evidence that the offense meets the criteria set forth under the law. If the State cannot prove each element of a domestic violence crime, a domestic violence designation may be stricken, however, as evidenced by a recent Washington appellate case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the victim received a phone call from an unidentified number. The victim recognized the caller as the defendant, even though the defendant did not identify himself. The caller stated that he was glad that the victim had a brain tumor and that he hoped the victim would die, and used profanity. The caller also called the victim offensive names.

Reportedly, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant at the time of the call. The victim called the police to report that the defendant had violated the restraining order and harassed the victim via telephone. The defendant was charged with violating the restraining order and telephone harassment, both of which were designated crimes of domestic violence. A jury convicted the defendant of both offenses. The defendant appealed on several grounds, including that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that the crimes were acts of domestic violence.

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In Washington, if a defendant is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, the court may consider numerous factors when sentencing the defendant. For example, if the defendant has prior convictions, those convictions are used to calculate a defendant’s offender score, which is then used in determining an appropriate sentence. In a recent case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault domestic violence, the Court of Appeals of Washington discussed how out of state prior convictions should be assessed when determining an offender score. If you reside in Washington and are charged with one or more domestic violence crimes, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney about what actions you can take to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to the charges. Prior to sentencing, both the defendant and the State submitted briefs regarding the defendant’s Florida criminal history. Following argument on the matter, the court found that five of the defendant’s twelve prior convictions were equal to misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, and treated two of the convictions as the same course of conduct. Thus, the defendant was given an offender score of 6 on the harassment charge and was subsequently sentenced to 56 months of imprisonment. He then appealed.

Scoring of Out of State Convictions

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed an error in calculating his offender score. Specifically, he argued that the 6 Florida convictions the court counted towards his score were only comparable to misdemeanor offenses.

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In Washington, in any case in which a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence crime, in addition to imposing a sentence and fines on the defendant, the court may issue a domestic violence no-contact order (DVNCO). While Washington courts are permitted to enter a DVNCO, their authority in defining the duration and terms of the DVNCO are limited by statute and case law, as recently explained by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident and are currently facing charges of a crime of domestic violence it is essential to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your rights and protections afforded by the law.

Procedural and Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with domestic violence assault and malicious mischief of the alleged victim. Following a  jury trial, the defendant was convicted as charged. The trial court then entered a felony judgment and sentence of twenty-nine months imprisonment for the assault conviction. The court also sentenced the defendant to 364 days confinement for the malicious mischief conviction, which was a gross misdemeanor, to run consecutively with the felony sentence, but suspended 244 days of the sentence.

It is alleged that the court then issued a DVNCO stating that the defendant was prohibited from contacting the victim for ten years. The defendant appealed the DVNCO with regards to the malicious mischief conviction, arguing that the DVNCO must be limited to the length of the suspended sentence. The appellate court agreed and remanded the case for a separate DVNCO for the malicious mischief conviction. Continue reading

In Washington, if a person is restricted by a domestic violence no-contact order, the person must strictly abide by the terms of the order, or he or she may face significant penalties. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington appellate court case in which the court found that the State produced sufficient evidence that the defendant committed a felony violation of a no-contact order, even though the person protected by the order consented to the contact. If you live in Washington and are charged with violating a domestic violence no-contact order it is imperative to meet with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you can set forth to protect your rights.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders, preventing him from contacting the alleged victim. The orders were issued in February and July 2016. The defendant acknowledged receipt of the first order via signature but refused to sign for the second order. He was served the second order, however. Each order contained language stating that the defendant could be arrested even if the victim protected by the order permitted or invited the defendant to violate the terms of the order. The orders further explained that it was the defendant’s sole responsibility to refrain from violating the orders.

It is alleged that on August 2017, a police officer observed the defendant and the victim together. The officer recognized the defendant from a prior violation and approached the pair. The defendant gave his real name, but both the defendant and the victim gave the police a fake name for the victim. The defendant was subsequently charged with felony violation of both no-contact orders. The defendant was convicted by a jury, after which he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

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Under Washington law, for a defendant to be found guilty by a jury in a criminal case, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. There are exceptions to the rule, however, such as cases involving a continuing course of conduct. This was elucidated in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence stalking. If you live in Washington and are charged with stalking or another crime of domestic violence you should consult a skilled Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your liberties.

Pertinent Facts and Procedure

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim were married for eighteen years. During the pendency of their divorce, the victim obtained a no-contact order, that prohibited the defendant from coming within 500 feet of her home. The defendant was observed driving around the victim’s property on numerous occasions, after which he was charged with felony stalking and a gross misdemeanor offense of violating a civil antiharassment protect order, both of which were crimes of domestic violence. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury convicted the defendant of both charges. He was sentenced to twelve months and one day in prison for the stalking charge. The defendant subsequently appealed arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it needed to unanimously agree that his actions constituted a crime.

Unanimity Requirement

Under Washington law, only a unanimous jury can issue a guilty verdict in a criminal case. If the evidence shows numerous acts occurred that could constitute the charged offense, either the State must elect which act it relied upon in issuing the charges or instruct the jury that it must choose which act it found the defendant committed that constituted a crime. If the State does not elect an act or provide the jury with a unanimity instruction, it is a constitutional error that requires a new trial, unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless.

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