Court Discusses Sufficiency of Evidence of Domestic Violence Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, some crimes may be designated as crimes of domestic violence if the State can produce sufficient evidence that the offense meets the criteria set forth under the law. If the State cannot prove each element of a domestic violence crime, a domestic violence designation may be stricken, however, as evidenced by a recent Washington appellate case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the victim received a phone call from an unidentified number. The victim recognized the caller as the defendant, even though the defendant did not identify himself. The caller stated that he was glad that the victim had a brain tumor and that he hoped the victim would die, and used profanity. The caller also called the victim offensive names.

Reportedly, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant at the time of the call. The victim called the police to report that the defendant had violated the restraining order and harassed the victim via telephone. The defendant was charged with violating the restraining order and telephone harassment, both of which were designated crimes of domestic violence. A jury convicted the defendant of both offenses. The defendant appealed on several grounds, including that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that the crimes were acts of domestic violence.

Sufficiency of Evidence of Domestic Violence

Under Washington law, a misdemeanor conviction for an offense designated as a crime of domestic violence may count against the defendant’s offender score in a later sentencing for another domestic violence crime. A crime will not be considered a crime of domestic violence, however, unless it is committed against a member of the defendant’s family or household.

In Washington, spouses and former spouses, people related by marriage or blood, and people who have a child together are considered members of the same family or household. Additionally, people who have lived together in the past or currently live together, people in a dating relationship, and people with a parent-child relationship are considered family or household members as well.

In the subject case, the defendant and victim were not household or family members pursuant to the definition set forth under Washington law. Further, the State did not produce any evidence that the victim and the defendant were ever members of the same family or household. Thus, the court held that the State did not produce sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant committed crimes of domestic violence and struck the designation from the defendant’s convictions.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Attorney

The State bears the burden of proving each of the elements of a crime of domestic violence to obtain a conviction.  If you are a Washington resident charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is important to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your rights and available defenses.  The dedicated criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will zealously pursue a favorable outcome on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or at 253-203-1645 to set up a conference.

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