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Articles Posted in General Defense Info

After a person is charged with a criminal offense, the court will conduct various hearings, including one in which the defendant is asked to enter a plea. While a person’s first inclination is usually to plead not guilty, in some cases, it makes sense to enter a guilty plea. Even if pleading guilty is the best strategy, it is not a decision to be made lightly, as it can have significant ramifications. Thus, the court must ensure that a defendant who wishes to enter a guilty plea is making an educated and consensual decision to do so; otherwise, the plea may be deemed involuntary. The criteria for establishing an involuntary guilty plea were the topic of a recent Washington ruling in a case in which the defendant was convicted of assault. If you are accused of assault, it is wise to speak to a Washington assault defense lawyer to evaluate your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes relating to the death of the victim. After the charges had been pending for over a year, the State filed an amended information with nine charges, including first-degree assault with a firearm. Several months later, the defendant agreed to plead guilty to a count of second-degree assault and a count of first-degree manslaughter.

Allegedly, the defendant provided a written statement at the plea hearing that asserted he was guilty of second-degree assault because he assaulted the victim. The court reviewed the plea statement with the defendant and confirmed that he had reviewed it with his attorney. Thus, the defendant was found guilty as charged. He later appealed, arguing that his plea was involuntary. Continue reading

While criminal defendants can be charged with multiple crimes that are similar, they cannot be charged numerous times for the same offense. Thus, if a defendant is charged with different degrees of unlawful possession of a firearm for a single uninterrupted act, it may constitute a violation of the right against double jeopardy. This was the topic of a recent Washington ruling in which the court vacated one of a defendant’s two convictions for the same act. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Washington weapons charge defense attorney to determine your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges

It is reported that while the defendant was being arrested for the possession of marijuana as a minor, a handgun fell out of his pocket. He had previous convictions that prohibited him from possessing a weapon. Thus, he was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, one first-degree charge, and one second-degree. He was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed, arguing his convictions violated double jeopardy.

Double Jeopardy with Regards to Weapons Charges

Pursuant to the United States and Washington Constitutions, no person can be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. This is known as the prohibition against double jeopardy, and it prohibits the State from imposing numerous punishments for the same crime. If a defendant is convicted of violating one law multiple times, each conviction can only withstand analysis under double jeopardy standards if each one is a separate unit of prosecution.

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In Washington, some crimes have alternative means of commission. In other words, a person may be found guilty of such a crime for engaging in more than one type of activity. Simply because there are multiple ways an offense may be committed does not mean the State’s burden is lessened. Rather, as demonstrated in a recent Washington gun crime case, jury unanimity is required to convict a person of theft of a firearm when there is inadequate evidence to support one of the means of commission. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is advisable to meet with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

The Alleged Theft

It is reported that the defendant was at the home of his minor girlfriend when the home was visited by a neighbor who brought a bottle of liquor. The defendant and the neighbor consumed some of the alcohol, and the defendant, his girlfriend, and the neighbor went outside so that the girlfriend could shoot the neighbor’s rifle. The neighbor and the defendant became involved in an altercation, and the defendant hit the neighbor in the head with the rifle. The girlfriend’s mother called 911, after which the defendant took the gun and ran into the woods.

Allegedly, when the police arrived, they saw the defendant running away but did not apprehend him. Over the next few days, the defendant stored the gun in his home and took it with him outside. The police found the weapon during a search of the defendant’s home. He was charged with and convicted of multiple crimes, including theft of a firearm. He appealed his convicted as to the theft charge, arguing that because the court failed to instruct the jury regarding unanimity, and the State did not present sufficient evidence of two of the three means of committing the crime, his conviction must be reversed.

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Typically, in a Washington criminal trial, the prosecution is limited to introducing evidence that would persuade a judge or jury that the defendant committed the charged offense. As such, any evidence that is unrelated to the underlying crimes, and that would be prejudicial to the defendant may be precluded. For example, the prosecution cannot typically refer to uncharged crimes the defendant may have committed, as discussed in a recent Washington weapons charges case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the prosecution may be permitted to introduce against you at trial.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant had a close relationship with a female friend that lived with a boyfriend and a child she had with the boyfriend. One evening, the boyfriend showed the defendant multiple guns that he owned and kept in a gun safe. The following morning, the defendant, who suffered from several mental illnesses, became convinced that the boyfriend had molested the child and advised his friend that they needed to take the guns and child and leave the apartment.

Allegedly, the friend dismissed the defendant’s allegations, but he persisted, after which they became involved in a physical altercation. The friend called the police, and when the police arrived, they found the defendant outside of the apartment building with a bag containing two guns. The defendant was charged with two counts of firearm theft and second-degree assault. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed on several grounds.

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It is common knowledge that when a person is charged with a crime, they cannot be forced to make self-incriminating statements. Many people do not understand the nuances of the right against self-incrimination, however, or when it applies, as demonstrated in a recent case in which the defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm was upheld, in part because of statements the defendant made to police prior to his arrest. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Washington weapons charge defense attorney regarding your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with theft of a firearm and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Before the trial commenced, the defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police officers prior to his arrest, on the grounds that he was not advised of his Miranda rights, his statements were involuntary, and he was in the custody of the police. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the argument that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. After reviewing the facts of the case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Right Against Self-Incrimination

Upon review, the appellate court found that the defendant was not in police custody at the time he made his incriminating statements, and therefore, the trial court properly denied his motion to suppress. The appellate court explained that in determining whether a suspect is in police custody, the court will assess whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would feel as if his or her freedom was impaired to the degree normally associated with an arrest. The court went on to state that an interrogation in terms of Miranda rights does not only refer to express questioning but also to any actions or words on behalf of the police that the police understand are reasonably likely to result in an incriminating statement.

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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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Simply because a person is charged with a crime, it does not mean they are no longer protected by the law. Rather, criminal defendants are granted many rights by state and federal law, including the right to a speedy trial. Thus, if a trial is unduly delayed, a defendant may be able to obtain a dismissal of the charges pending against him or her. The grounds for dismissing charges due to a delay in trying a case were recently discussed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in a case in which the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is important to retain a skillful Tacoma gun crime attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that in May 2015, the defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. It took approximately one year for the defendant to be appointed counsel and approximately two years for the defendant to be arraigned. The defendant then moved to dismiss his indictment on the grounds that the delay violated his right to a speedy trial. The court denied the motion. The defendant renewed the motion, and it was again denied. The defendant pled guilty while specifically preserving his right to appeal the court’s denial of his motion to dismiss. He was sentenced to seventy-seven months imprisonment. He then appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy Trial

Under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, all criminal defendants have the right to a public and speedy trial. There is no defined limit as to what is considered an unconstitutional delay. Rather, courts usually assess four factors in determining if a delay is sufficient to violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights: the duration of the delay, the reason for the delay, whether the defendant asserted his right to a speedy trial, and whether the defendant suffered prejudice as a result of the delay.

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Many people have lost the right to possess a firearm due to criminal convictions. Not only may convictions in Washington result in the loss of firearm rights, but in some instances, so may convictions in other states. In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed when an out of state conviction may be considered a predicate offense for an unlawful possession of a firearm charge. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges that you unlawfully possessed a firearm, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime attorney regarding what you can do to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Prior Offense

It is reported that the defendant was charged with murder in the second degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, arising out of an incident in which he shot an acquaintance in the face. He was convicted on both charges, after which he appealed. Regarding the firearm charge, the defendant argued that the California conviction that served as the predicate offense for the charge was not equal to a felony under Washington law, and therefore, the charge and conviction were improper. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court ruling.

When an Out of State Conviction Constitutes a Predicate Offense

Under Washington law, a person is guilty of unlawfully possessing a firearm if he or she controls or possesses a firearm, and he or she has previously been convicted of a felony in Washington or elsewhere. When the courts review out of state convictions for firearm offenses, they compare them to comparable offenses and sentences in Washington, to determine if they meet the criteria to be considered a predicate offense. The main inquiry in assessing an out of state conviction is whether the defendant would have been convicted under Washington law for engaging in the same conduct that resulted in the conviction. Thus, the court will compare the elements of the out of state crime to the elements of a similar Washington crime, to evaluate whether they are sufficiently similar.

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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.

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