Articles Posted in General Defense Info

The Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure provide many rights and protection to criminal defendants that extend from the time of their arrest through trial. Additionally, even if a person is convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment, he or she may be able to obtain relief via a personal restraint petition. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed the grounds for granting a personal restraint petition, in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to 198 months’ imprisonment following a first degree assault conviction. If you are a Washington resident facing assault charges it is critical to meet with a knowledgeable Washington assault defense attorney regarding your rights and what defenses you may be able to argue to avoid a conviction.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to a mid-range prison term, with a 48-month deadly weapon enhancement. He filed a personal restraint petition, which was successful. His revised offender score was 4 and his revised sentence range was 129 to 171 months. The defendant requested that he receive a sentence at the low end of the range, and that his sentence run concurrently with a sentence in another case. He did not request an exceptional sentence, however.  He was resentenced to 150 months, with the 48-month weapon enhancement. Subsequently, the defendant filed a second personal restraint petition.

Standard for Granting a Personal Restraint Petition

Under Washington law, granting a defendant’s personal restraint petition constitutes extraordinary relief. Thus, a personal restraint petition will only be granted in cases where the defendant meets a high standard. In cases in which the defendant alleges a constitutional error was committed, he or she must show that the error caused actual and substantial prejudice. In cases where the defendant claims a non-constitutional error was committed, however, he or she must prove the error caused a fundamental defect that inherently caused a total miscarriage of justice. In all cases, the defendant must prove that an error was committed by a preponderance of the evidence. Continue reading

Criminal defendants are afforded numerous rights and protections that continue even after a conviction. For example, a defendant has a right to be present and allocute at any sentencing or resentencing hearing. A Washington Appellate court recently discussed what falls under the statutory parameters of a sentencing hearing in a case in which the State filed a motion to amend a sentence to correct a facial invalidity pertaining to firearm enhancements. If you live in Washington and are currently charged with a crime involving the use of a firearm it is essential to retain a skilled Washington weapons charge defense attorney to aid you in formulating a strong defense.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of second-degree and first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, and harassment. Firearm enhancements were imposed for each count, with the exception of the harassment charge. A sentencing hearing was held, during which the court sentenced the defendant to consecutive sentences for each crime. At the hearing, the State requested that the firearm enhancements run concurrently. Thus, the court included a handwritten note regarding the firearm enhancements. The court failed to identify the total number of months of confinement, however.

Under Washington law, the State must prove each element of a crime to rightfully convict a defendant. For example, if a defendant is charged with possessing a stolen firearm the State must provide evidence showing that the defendant possessed a stolen firearm and acted with knowledge that the firearm was stolen. If the State does not have strong enough evidence to show the defendant actually knew the firearm he or she possessed was stolen in most cases, the State may try to rely on profile testimony in support of the charge. This was illustrated in a recent Washington appellate case, where a defendant’s conviction for possession of a stolen firearm was overturned after the State relied on testimony that because the defendant was a convicted felon he was more likely to possess a stolen firearm. If you are charged with a firearm crime in Washington it is critical to retain a seasoned Washington weapons charge defense attorney to assist you in precluding any evidence the State should not be permitted to introduce against you.

Facts Regarding the Crime and Trial

Allegedly, in June 2015, the defendant was confronted by a police officer pursuant to an outstanding warrant. The defendant ran away from the officer and threw a gun while he was running. The officer ultimately apprehended the defendant and retrieved the gun, which was reported stolen in October 2014. The defendant, who was a convicted felon, was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm.

It is reported that during the trial, the State introduced testimony from multiple police officers regarding how convicted felons obtain guns. The officers each testified that “they” will steal them or buy them off the street. Further, the prosecuting attorney in his closing argument stated that it would be impossible to prove the defendant had actual knowledge that the gun was stolen, but “that’s how these guys are getting them.” The defendant was convicted of both charges after which he appealed the possession of a stolen firearm charge.
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While ending someone’s life is typically a brutal and traumatizing event, it is not always viewed as murder by the law. For example, in many cases, self-defense is a valid defense to a murder charge. In cases where one person accidentally kills another person, it may not be murder, but it could result in a conviction for other charges. It is essential for anyone facing murder charges to retain an attorney who will thoroughly explain to the jury any defense for the defendant’s actions.

The Supreme Court of Washington recently analyzed whether the court erred in failing to instruct the jury on excusable homicide, in Washington v. Henderson, a case where the defendant argued he killed the victim in self-defense. If you are charged with a crime, you should meet with a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your available defenses. 

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim were involved in a verbal altercation at a gas station. At one point, the victim lunged at the defendant and appeared to reach for his pocket. The defendant then drew a gun from his pocket and shot and killed the victim. He was subsequently charged with felony murder based on second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. During the trial, the defendant argued he was acting in self-defense and accidentally killed the victim. The court instructed the jury in justifiable homicide but not in excusable homicide. The jury convicted the defendant after which he appealed, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury in excusable homicide. The court of appeals reversed, after which the State petitioned the Supreme Court of Washington for review.

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A person does not lose their liberties simply because he or she is charged with a crime. Rather, under both state and federal law, criminal defendants are afforded with certain rights and protections, including the right to a speedy trial.

The Court of Appeals of Washington recently analyzed what constitutes a violation of the right to a speedy trial, in State v. Holcomb, a case where the defendant’s trial was delayed on several occasions. If you currently facing criminal charges, you should retain an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Factual Background

The defendant was charged with first and second-degree assault, both with firearm enhancements, violating a no-contact order, and tampering with a witness. He was subsequently tried and convicted of all charges. He then appealed, alleging in part, that the trial court violated the time for trial rule and his right to a speedy trial. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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By James J. White, Directing Attorney at Smith & White, PLLC.

It can be bad enough you did not realize you were on probation. But many cases do have a “stealth” probation. You do not have a probation officer, you do not need to do anything affirmative for the court, yet you are still on probation. You maybe did not know or totally forgot and then something unexpected happens.

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There has been plenty of press about the opiate epidemic that has swept the United States.  CDC opioid death statistics.  How the doctors neglect to warn people about the addictive properties of the painkillers which they are liberally prescribing and whether the FDA should approve such addictive substances to begin with are the subject for another article.  Deceptive Marketing of Drugs.  The hard truth that we must face, regardless how we got here, is that there is a crime wave that accompanies any opiate epidemic.

Fortunately, the vast majority of crimes associated with drug addiction are property crimes–theft, trafficking in stolen property, taking motor vehicles and even the noxious but not physically threatening identity theft.  As such, they are often eligible for the residential DOSA alternative to prison.  https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.94A.664. Continue reading

 

Contrary to popular belief, in Washington a police officer cannot simply pull you over based on a “hunch”; there has to be a viable cause, or what is referred to as “reasonable suspicion” for the stop. Be it a minor traffic violation such as running a red light or perhaps an even lesser infraction like a defunct headlight, the officer in question cannot initiate a traffic stop based strictly on the fact the he/she thinks you may have been drinking. That said, assuming you are pulled over as a result of a valid suspicion, being knowledgeable about your rights at that moment and knowing precisely how to act, speak and behave is critical for any future DUI defense.

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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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If you or a friend or relative has been accused of a crime, there are many things about which to concern yourself in the criminal trial. One of these is ensuring that your case includes all of the defenses allowed by the law, possibly including self-defense. You are entitled to request that your jury receive an instruction on self-defense if there is enough evidence in your case to create a reasonable possibility that your actions were in self-defense. As a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision makes clear, it doesn’t matter if the evidence that potentially raises the issue of self-defense comes from your case or the prosecution’s case. If the evidence is validly before the court, and it raises the possibility that you acted in self-defense, the jury should be instructed on self-defense.

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