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One of the proclaimed hallmarks of the United States, including Washington’s, judicial system is the fact that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. This applies to all people. So this applies to any accused person no matter what they are accused of. So this should apply to people accused of domestic violence.

However, if you or someone you love has been accused of domestic violence you probably feel like you are already being punished. You probably especially feel unjustly punished if you are the alleged victim and had no intention of pressing charges but your partner was arrested anyway because of the mandatory arrest law. You will have had a no contact order put on you. This will have made it impossible to converse with your partner either directly or indirectly. It has probably kept you out of your home. It may have made it difficult to go to work. It will have kept you from any children you have with your partner. You have had your gun rights taken away. If you have a job where a gun is required, you are out of work. You may have been ordered not to drink alcohol or have had other restrictions put on you. You probably already feel stigmatized by your family, friends or any else who is aware of the accusations.

Undoubtedly you want this whole experience to be over. Your defense attorney is required to bring you any plea bargain that the prosecution proposes. When he does it is likely that he will counsel you against taking it. You, on the other hand, may see it as a way out your current mess and may very well want to take it. It would be wise to listen to why he counsels against it. He knows what you are facing for the rest of your life if you accept. Continue reading

When you’re facing a criminal domestic violence charge, there are many things that may go into your defense. If you took physical action because you reasonably feared for your safety and used only as much force as necessary, you may have a valid defense of self-defense. In a recent case from Tacoma, the Washington Court of Appeals threw out a conviction because the trial court’s refusal to allow the accused man to testify about two previous attacks, in which he was the victim and his alleged victim was the attacker, improperly limited the man’s constitutional right to put on a defense.

In this case, Tacoma police officers, responding to witness claims that a man was striking a woman with his knee, found the woman, Lisa Miles, with several injuries to her face. The man, Kenneth Driscoll, told officers he acted in self-defense.

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A good win for Smith & White, PLLC as we successful brought claims against the City of Lakewood for wrongfully withholding documents.  We had to appeal to the Court of Appeals to achieve our victory.  We  think transparency in government is a worthwhile fight.

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No one should live in fear. No one deserves to be abused. No one asks for domestic violence. Victims need to be helped and protected. These are platitudes that are now generally accepted by the public. This is good because they are true. However, there is an unspoken societal caveat to these statements. Society quite often assumes that the victims are always women and the abusers are always men. This is simply not true. The truth is not made any easier for the public to accept since the cases of domestic violence with a male victim are vastly under-reported. There are many reasons for this and this article is a continuation of an examination of this issue. Continue reading

This is a continuing examination of an issue that has only recently been being given any consideration. Everyone knows there are victims of domestic violence – the media has made certain that everyone is aware of the problem. This is a good thing. It is a problem and that everybody needs to be aware of and do what they can to eradicate. The bad thing is that most people seem to believe that all victims are women and all perpetrators are men. The fact is that there are men victims and women victims. One of the reasons this assumption is made is due to the one sided-ness that this issue is generally discussed from. But one of the other reasons is that male victims, even more so than female victims, fail to report their abusers or seek help and choose instead to silently live with the violence.

There are several reasons for this discrepancy and many of them are peculiar to men victims only. Continue reading

Criminal laws in Washington, like criminal laws in other states, can allow prosecutors to pursue multiple charges that all arise from a single act or incident. In such a situation, it is important to understand exactly how far your constitutional rights, including the right to be free from double jeopardy, can go to protect you in the event that you are not acquitted on all charges. In one recent example related to this issue, the Washington Supreme Court upheld lower courts’ decisions allowing the state to re-try a man from Tacoma, who initially faced two second-degree assault charges from one act of striking a neighbor with a baseball bat, on the one charge that resulted in a hung jury at the first trial.

In this case, the charges stemmed from a neighborhood dispute in East Tacoma. Vincent Nix and Robert Scott each had children whose bicycles were missing. Their searches led them to Johnny Fuller, who lived nearby and repaired and sold bicycles. Although the fathers found one of the bicycles, they did not locate Scott’s daughter’s bicycle. The fathers refused to leave Fuller’s property and threatened to call the police. Fuller went inside, retrieved an aluminum baseball bat, and struck Scott on the arm, injuring him.

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There was an interesting case in the Washington courts about seven years ago. The participants will be kept anonymous but permission has been received to simply share the story. The case involved child custody and domestic violence. Both the man and the woman, or father and mother, were claiming to be the victims of domestic violence. The innocent party had spent years actually hiding the violence and not calling the police except for once. So there was very little evidence. The court was left in the unenviable position of dealing with a basically “he said, she said” case and making their decision. It does sound like the court had a hard road in deciding.

It would also seem, however, that there was circumstantial evidence that could be used. The man was small – he stood at 5’1” and was about 160 pounds. He was also cripplingly arthritic and had no police record at all. The woman was substantially larger – she stood at 5’11” and was about 300 pounds. She also had a history of diagnosed mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and had needed to be institutionalized twice, once for a suicide attempt and once for violent acts. The court chose to believe the woman. The man could not believe it. He himself asked later, “Even if I was capable of violence, which I don’t think I am, what chance would I possibly have against her? She could easily overpower me without using violence at all!” It does seem odd. But she had this going for her – she was the woman. It is getting better but the courts still have a hard time seeing the possibility that the man can be the victim in a domestic violence case. Continue reading

You have been accused of stalking. You are probably quite understandably upset, worried and maybe even angry. In most of these cases the two parties know each other. You may have been completely unaware that the other person was upset by your presence or communication. You are worried what this will mean to your future.  Commonly, this is a former intimate partner or relationship making this a domestic violence allegation.

Stalking is charged when you are suspected of repeatedly following another person who is afraid or intimidated by this and you know (or should have known) that they felt fearful. Please notice that you do not need to intend to frighten the other person for this crime to be charged; it simply matters that they felt threatened. This is generally a gross misdemeanor charge with penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine. But, there are situations which can increase this to a felony charge with penalties of up to 5 years in jail a $10,000 fine. This increase happens when you have a past conviction of stalking or there is a restraining order in place or you are suspected of trying to intimidate a witness in another case. So this is very serious. Also, if this is a domestic violence situation then the probation, even on the misdemeanor, can be five years long.  That is what you need to know and that is why you need a defense attorney. Continue reading

It is a known fact that domestic violence happens, is a problem for Washington (not to mention the whole country), and has caused permanent injuries and even fatalities. Yet it is also known that for every victim that is found, helped and able to get out, there are many unreported domestic violence situations.  In fact, it is usually the case that when the police or courts are involved the abuse has been going on for some time before it was reported. In many cases the only reason that some domestic violence situations are reported is that a third party witness called it in or a major injury or fatality was sustained and there was no choice but to involve others for medical aid

For many people this raises a lot of comments and questions. “Surely they couldn’t like being abused – no one does. I would never let that happen to me. Why didn’t they just call the police or at least leave? Why did they stay?” These comments and questions are usually derived from sympathy for the victims and are well intentioned. However, they also show a lack of understanding of what it is like to be in an abusive relationship involving domestic violence. There are many reasons why people choose to stay in a domestic violence situation. The reasons do not condone the violence by any means. Nor are the reasons usually well thought out. But it does help us empathize with people if we can at least partially understand. Continue reading

One of the worst tragedies in our society today is that of domestic violence. One of the most surprising statistics that you can find if you look is that every 37.8 seconds there is a man being physically abused. This is surprising because the research seems mostly to concern itself with women victims and it is generally known that there is a woman being abused just as frequently if not more so. There is no formula for why it happens. Yes there are common risk factors and those will be examined but even if all the risk factors exist in a household there is no guarantee that physical violence will happen. Conversely, even if none of the risk factors are present there is no guarantee that violence will not happen. Anyone can be a perpetrator. Anyone can be a victim. Anyone can be accused too – if you find yourself in this situation you will want to consult a defense attorney as quickly as possible.
One of the more common risk factors Continue reading

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