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Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

In many cases in which a person is convicted of a domestic violence crime, the court will issue a no-contact order, prohibiting the person from contacting his or her victim. The failure to comply with a no-contact order constitutes a crime. Additionally, a person that repeatedly violates no-contact orders could face felony charges. Recently, a Washington court set forth a ruling in which it discussed what constitutes adequate evidence of repeated violations of no contact orders, in a case in which the defendant appealed his felony conviction. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to assess your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that a no-contact order was in place that prohibited the defendant from contacting or being within 500 feet of his parents. The defendant’s father called the police to report that the defendant was in his shed. When the police arrived, they affirmed that the no-contact order was in place and found the defendant in the shed as his father described. He was arrested and charged with violating the no-contact order. As it was the defendant’s third violation of a no-contact order, it was charged as a felony. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing the State failed to produce sufficient evidence of prior violations. On appeal, the court affirmed his conviction.

Evidence of Violations of a No-Contact Order

In order to prove that the defendant’s violation of the no-contact order constituted a felony, the State was required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed violations of no-contact orders on two prior occasions. To determine whether evidence is sufficient, an appellate court must examine whether a rational factfinder would determine that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State.

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In some criminal matters, even a defendant that admits to committing the allegedly criminal acts may be found not guilty if a valid justification for the behavior exists. For example, in many assault cases, the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by demonstrating that the alleged unlawful acts were taken in self-defense. In a recent Washington assault case, the court discussed each party’s burden of proof with regard to self-defense. If you are accused of an assault crime, it is prudent to confer with a skilled Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Alleged Assault

Allegedly, the defendant and her husband became involved in a verbal altercation over the fact that the defendant had a boyfriend. The defendant began looking for the deed to their house to prove that she was a co-owner but became enraged when she could not find it. She began throwing things and then started to hit and kick her husband. She ultimately charged him with a sword that was a replica from a movie and sliced his arm. The husband called 911 and had to be airlifted to a hospital due to his wounds.

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, which was deemed a crime of violence. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was convicted, after which she appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that she was not acting in self-defense. The appellate court ultimately rejected her arguments and affirmed her conviction.

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Assault crimes are often committed in the heat of the moment, in response to an emotionally charged event. Thus, if the State can produce evidence that demonstrates motive, it may be able to persuade a jury that a defendant is guilty of the offense charged. The admissibility of motive evidence was recently discussed in a Washington assault case in which the court denied the defendant’s appeal of his conviction. If you are charged with assault or another crime, it is smart to talk to a trusted Washington assault defense attorney to determine what evidence may be used against you.

The Alleged Assault

It is alleged that the defendant and his victim were engaged and lived together. The victim confronted the defendant regarding his drug use, and they became embroiled in a physical argument. The defendant choked the victim, who broke free and ran outside. The defendant then followed the victim and hit her and proceeded to drag her back into the house. A motorist passing by observed the incident and allowed the victim to call 911. The defendant then fled.

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested two days later. He was ultimately charged with second-degree assault, witness tampering, and other crimes. A trial was held before a jury, and the defendant was convicted as charged, and his offenses were deemed crimes of domestic violence. Following his sentencing hearing, he appealed.

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Under Washington law, if a defendant is convicted of a crime that constitutes an act of domestic violence, the court may find that aggravated circumstances are present that warrant an exceptional sentence. Recently, a Washington appellate court denied a criminal defendant’s challenge to such a sentence, finding that the defendant’s interpretation of the relevant statute was flawed and would lead to an absurd result. If you are accused of committing a crime of domestic violence, it is wise to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to talk about your options.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his wife were separated when the defendant visited the wife in the marital home. They were embroiled in an argument when the husband took out a gun and threatened to kill himself. At that time, the wife was in the bedroom, holding the couple’s infant daughter. The defendant calmed down and tried to uncock his gun. In doing so, he accidentally discharged the weapon, shooting the wife through the bedroom door.

It is reported that the wife subsequently died from her injuries, and the defendant was charged with first-degree manslaughter. During the trial, the judge gave the jury an instruction on the elements of an aggravated domestic violence offense. The jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter and found that the evidence supported the conclusion that the act was an aggravated domestic violence offense. The court imposed an exceptional sentence above the standard range, and the defendant appealed.

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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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