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Articles Posted in Evidence

DNA-217x300Under Washington law, law enforcement agencies have the duty to collect DNA samples from certain criminal defendants. If a criminal defendant refuses to submit to an agency’s request for a DNA sample, they may be compelled by the courts to comply. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a defendant charged with an assault crime argued she should not have to comply with DNA identification. If you are accused of an assault offense, it is important to know and understand your rights, and you should confer with a Tacoma assault defense attorney promptly.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with first-degree assault. She entered a guilty plea and was convicted. Following her conviction, she was directed to provide a biological sample for purposes of DNA identification analysis. She appealed, arguing that the State already had her DNA as she had been convicted of felonies before.

DNA Identification of Criminal Defendants in Washington

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order compelling the defendant to provide a DNA sample. The appellate court adopted the state’s argument that the defendant’s appeal was moot. Specifically, the court noted that the Department of Corrections collected the defendant’s DNA shortly after she was sentenced, therefore removing the appellate court’s ability to provide effective relief for the alleged legal error. Continue reading

man-running-away-225x300In criminal cases, the state bears the burden of proof. Specifically, in order to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt, the state must establish each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In many instances, this means that the state has to prove the defendant acted with intent. In such cases, if the defendant is convicted despite a lack of evidence that they acted knowingly, their conviction may be reversed. This was illustrated recently in a Washington matter in which the court found that the state failed to prove that the defendant knowingly violated his domestic violence no-contact order. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is smart to contact a Tacoma domestic violence defense lawyer regarding your potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was subject to a domestic violence no-contact order that prevented him from coming within 500 feet of his estranged wife’s home. In September 2020, the wife’s neighbor saw the defendant walking in his backyard. The neighbor approached the defendant to ask him what he was doing on his property. Instead of responding, the defendant began to run and subsequently ran in front of his estranged wife’s trailer.

It is alleged that following the incident, the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including felony violation of the domestic violence no-contact order. He waived his right to a jury trial, and the case proceeded to a bench trial. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly violated the terms of his no-contact order. Thus, he was convicted. He then appealed. Continue reading

JohnnyGenerally, Washington law prohibits prosecutors from using hearsay evidence to attempt to establish a defendant’s guilt. The law permits the introduction of hearsay evidence for other purposes, however. Further, even if hearsay evidence is improperly introduced at a criminal trial, the error may not constitute sufficient grounds for overturning a guilty verdict. This was demonstrated in a recent ruling in which a court rejected a defendant’s appeal of his assault conviction even though the prosecution offered improper hearsay evidence at trial. If you are accused of assault, you may face significant penalties, and it is wise to speak to a Tacoma assault defense attorney at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC to evaluate your possible defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and the victim became romantically involved shortly after the victim moved to Washington. One evening, they were spending time together at the defendant’s apartment when the victim received a text message from a male friend. The defendant saw the message and became angry, and the two began to argue. The disagreement became physical, and the defendant held the victim down, put his arms around her neck, and threatened to kill her.

It is alleged that the victim lost consciousness. When she awoke, the defendant kicked her in the head and prevented her from leaving. She left the next day and went to the hospital. The defendant was ultimately charged with and convicted of second-degree assault and other offenses. He appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to admit medical records that contained inadmissible hearsay. Continue reading

hidden-guns-300x176The state and federal constitutions generally protect people from unreasonable searches, which means, in part, that absent exigent circumstances the police must have a warrant to conduct a search of a person’s body or property. If a police officer seeks a warrant to search a property based on information from an informant, their request should only be granted if they demonstrate probable cause to believe that the items in question will be found on the property. Recently, a Washington court discussed what constitutes probable cause in a case in which the defendant appealed his unlawful possession of a firearm conviction. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Tacoma weapons charge defense lawyer at Smith & White, PLLC as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of firearms and other offenses after police found weapons in his apartment during a search pursuant to a warrant. The police sought the warrant after receiving information from a confidential informant indicating that the defendant was selling illicit substances and had weapons in his possession, which was unlawful because he was a convicted felon. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was convicted on all counts. He appealed, arguing in part that the warrant was not supported by probable cause.

Probable Cause for Issuing Warrants

The Washington and United States Constitutions dictate that search warrants will be issued upon a finding of probable cause. The appellate court explained that probable cause is present when the affidavit in support of a warrant sets forth facts and circumstances that are adequate to establish a reasonable inference that the defendant is most likely engaged in criminal activity and that evidence of their unlawful behavior may be found at a specific location. Continue reading

locker-of-guns-300x214In Washington, people convicted of felonies are often barred from owning or possessing firearms. As such, if the police find guns in the possession of a convicted felon, it can lead to criminal charges and sentence enhancements. Further, the penalties can increase with the number of weapons found. Recently, a Washington court issued an opinion explaining the grounds for imposing multiple firearms enhancements in criminal cases, in a matter in which the defendant appealed his sentence. If you are accused of a weapons crime, it is advisable to meet with a Washington weapons charges defense lawyer regarding your potential defenses.

The Defendant’s Arrest, Trial, and Sentencing

It is reported that a confidential informant advised the police that the defendant, a convicted felon on parole, possessed two weapons: a rifle and a shotgun. He sold the weapons to an undercover officer the following day. Approximately three months later, he was indicted on an unlawful possession of a firearm charge, and was arrested the following day. Officers searched his residence and found a revolver. They searched his storage unit as well and found two more guns.

Allegedly, the defendant entered a guilty plea. The pre-sentence report recommended, among other things, a level-two enhancement because the crime involved five firearms. The enhancement was applied, after which the defendant appealed. Continue reading

Under both Washington and Federal law, people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means, in part, that the police cannot detain or interrogate people without a warrant, with few exceptions. One such exception is the Terry stop, which is an investigatory stop conducted due to a suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity. The scope of the Terry stop exception is narrow, though, and searches that fall outside of the scope may constitute custodial arrests without a warrant in violation of constitutional rights. The standards for reviewing the nature of a stop were recently explained by a Washington court, in an opinion issued in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of firearms. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is smart to consult a Washington weapons charges defense lawyer to assess whether your rights were violated.

The Defendant’s Stop

It is reported that the defendant was driving his vehicle when an officer recognized him and followed him to a nearby restaurant parking lot. The officer was aware that there was a warrant out for the defendant’s arrest and that he was a convicted felon. The officer, along with two other officers, tackled the defendant inside of the restaurant, held him down and handcuffed him. They then advised him that he was under arrest for a felony crime. One of the officers then questioned the defendant, who admitted he had a gun.

Allegedly, the officer located the weapon, and the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He moved to suppress the handgun found during the search, arguing the police did not have the lawful authority to search and detain him. the court denied his motion, finding that the Terry stop exception applied, and the defendant appealed. Continue reading

In Washington, people convicted of felony offenses typically lose the right to own firearms. Thus, if a person who is not permitted to own a gun is found with one in his or her possession, it may result in additional charges. As possession is a key element of many weapons offenses, if the State cannot produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate a defendant actually had a weapon, the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, a Washington court set forth an opinion discussing what evidence is needed to demonstrate possession of a weapon in a case in which the defendant argued his conviction was improper. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a knowledgeable Washington criminal defense lawyer to discuss your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Charges

It is reported that police were working with detectives to investigate drug crimes. They ultimately obtained a warrant to search the home of the defendant, and during their search, found a sawed-off shotgun and two other weapons. The defendant was subsequently charged with multiple crimes, including unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of an illegal firearm. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained in the search at trial, but his motion was denied. He was ultimately convicted of the charged offenses by a jury, after which he appealed.

Evidence Needed to Establish Possession of a Weapon

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the State failed to produce adequate evidence to convict him of unlawful possession of firearms. Specifically, he asserted that the evidence presented at trial merely showed that he was in the proximity of guns seized by law enforcement. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed his conviction. Continue reading

It is not uncommon for people to be familiar with one another without knowing each other’s names. As such, if a person witnesses a casual acquaintance committing a crime, the police and prosecution may rely on pictures or video to help the witness identify the offender. Recently, a Washington court addressed the issue of whether social media posts used to identify a criminal defendant are admissible as evidence in an assault case or if doing so violates the constitutional right to confront a witness. If you are accused of assault, it is vital to meet with a skillful Washington assault defense attorney to assess your rights.

The Alleged Offense

It is reported that in October 2017, the witness encountered the defendant, who she knew from high school, in a convenience store. She spoke with him briefly, and saw him make gang signs. Before he exited the store, she saw one of his friends had lifted up his shirt to reveal a gun. The friend then gave the gun to the defendant.

Allegedly, the witness saw the defendant point the gun at a car and heard shots being fired. Bullets hit multiple windows on the vehicle. She then called the police and reported what she witnessed but could not recall the defendant’s name. When she spoke with the police in person, she showed them pictures from the defendant’s social media account. The defendant was charged with assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought to suppress his social media posts from being introduced at trial, but his motion was denied. He was convicted, after which he appealed. Continue reading

While people generally have the right to own weapons, some people who have prior felony convictions are barred from owning firearms and can face criminal charges if guns are found in their possession. While a person that is not permitted to own guns can be charged with multiple weapons charges, they cannot be charged more than once for possessing the same weapon, and if they are, it likely constitutes double jeopardy. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington ruling in which the court reversed one of the defendant’s convictions for unlawful possession of a weapon. If you are charged with a weapons offense, you may be able to avoid a conviction, and it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable Washington gun crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that a barista called the police and reported that the defendant visited the drive-through window of a coffee shop, reported that he was running from the police, and showed the barista a revolver. Three days after that incident, the defendant shot a person with a revolver when he was at a lake. The defendant was subsequently charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. He was convicted as charged. He then appealed his firearm convictions, arguing that the two counts arose out of the same conduct and that double jeopardy applied, requiring the court to vacate one of his convictions. The court ultimately agreed.

Double Jeopardy in the Context of Gun Crimes

The court explained that double jeopardy protections are provided by the constitution, and therefore, the defendant did not waive his right to raise this argument by asserting it for the first time on appeal. The principle of double jeopardy prohibits a person from being put in jeopardy more than once for the same offense. Continue reading

Physical altercations often follow verbal disagreements, and in some cases, it is difficult to determine who is ultimately responsible for starting a fight. Thus, in many instances in which a person is charged with assault, self-defense is a viable defense. The State may try to thwart a self-defense argument, though, by asserting that the defendant was the first aggressor and should be found guilty. The appropriateness of a first aggressor instruction was the topic of a recent ruling issued by a Washington court, in a matter in which the defendant argued the instruction was improper. If you are accused of assault, it is prudent to speak to a capable Washington assault defense attorney to evaluate your options.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant was waiting at a bus stop where another man was also waiting. The defendant walked back and forth very close to the other man, who asked the defendant to back up. The defendant then showed the man a knife and became verbally aggressive. The man then encountered the victim in the bathroom and advised him of the defendant’s behavior. When the victim left the bathroom, the defendant started yelling at him, then punched him in the head. The two men started fighting, and the defendant stabbed the victim numerous times. The defendant was charged with two counts of assault with deadly weapon enhancements. He was convicted of both charges, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in giving a first aggressor instruction to the jury.

The First Aggressor Instruction

A court reviews whether there was adequate evidence submitted to warrant a first aggressor instruction de novo. If the evidence produced at trial was sufficient to support the instruction, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party that requested the instruction. The court explained that a first aggressor instruction would not be deemed improper where there is credible evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably find that the defendant provoked the need for the victim to act in self-defense. Continue reading

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