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In many cases in which a person is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, the evidence in support of the charges was obtained without a warrant. Evidence obtained without a warrant may be unlawful, and the State may be precluded from introducing it at trial. In some cases, however, unlawfully obtained evidence may be admitted under the independent source doctrine, as recently discussed by a case decided by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident charged with unlawful possession of a firearm it is essential to retain a zealous Washington weapons charge defense attorney to assist you in setting forth a strong defense.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

It is alleged that police officers responded to a report of a burglary at a business, by the owner of the business. The police then stopped the defendant outside of the business. The owner reported that the defendant was a prior employee who had been fired a week earlier. The defendant admitted he had been living in a room in the business. The owner and the defendant then became involved in a verbal argument and entered into the room.

It is reported that the police followed the men, and observed a handgun near the defendant. The defendant was handcuffed, and one of the police officers opened a cabinet to ensure no one was hiding inside. The cabinet contained two guns. The police then obtained a search warrant and found multiple firearms and amphetamines. The defendant was charged with four counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

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Under Washington law, a person can be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm if the person has previously been convicted of a serious crime and he or she possesses or owns a firearm. Thus, one of the elements the State must prove is a prior conviction for a serious offense. Recently, in a case ruled on by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, the court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of a predicate conviction in an unlawful firearm possession case. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges of unlawful firearm possession it is crucial to engage and assertive Washington weapons charge defense attorney to fight to help you retain your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the police responded to reports of a fight at the defendant’s home. When the police arrived, the defendant admitted he had guns in his house. The defendant then gave the police a rifle. The police subsequently conducted a criminal history check on the defendant, which revealed the defendant had previously been convicted of felonies in Georgia, that prohibited him from possessing firearms.

It is reported the police then obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home. During the search, they recovered a rifle. The defendant denied, however, that he had previously been convicted of crimes in Georgia, stating that it was his brother, not him, who was convicted. The defendant was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and following a trial, was convicted on all counts. He subsequently appealed, arguing the State failed to prove he had prior felony convictions.

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In Washington, in any case in which a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence crime, in addition to imposing a sentence and fines on the defendant, the court may issue a domestic violence no-contact order (DVNCO). While Washington courts are permitted to enter a DVNCO, their authority in defining the duration and terms of the DVNCO are limited by statute and case law, as recently explained by a Washington appellate court. If you are a Washington resident and are currently facing charges of a crime of domestic violence it is essential to meet with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding your rights and protections afforded by the law.

Procedural and Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with domestic violence assault and malicious mischief of the alleged victim. Following a  jury trial, the defendant was convicted as charged. The trial court then entered a felony judgment and sentence of twenty-nine months imprisonment for the assault conviction. The court also sentenced the defendant to 364 days confinement for the malicious mischief conviction, which was a gross misdemeanor, to run consecutively with the felony sentence, but suspended 244 days of the sentence.

It is alleged that the court then issued a DVNCO stating that the defendant was prohibited from contacting the victim for ten years. The defendant appealed the DVNCO with regards to the malicious mischief conviction, arguing that the DVNCO must be limited to the length of the suspended sentence. The appellate court agreed and remanded the case for a separate DVNCO for the malicious mischief conviction. Continue reading

Washington criminal defendants have numerous rights under the law, that aim to prevent unjust convictions. For example, the State must prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and if a defendant is convicted despite insufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt, his or her conviction may be reversed. A Washington court recently discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction. If you live in Washington and are faced with DUI charges it is imperative to retain a trusted Washington DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer after he crossed the center line on a road. The officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol. The defendant admitted to consuming two drinks, after which the officer asked to the defendant to exit the vehicle and undergo field sobriety tests. The defendant agreed and underwent field sobriety tests that he performed poorly. He was subsequently arrested and transported to the sheriff’s office. When he arrived at the sheriff’s office, he refused to submit to a breath test. The officer then obtained a warrant for a blood test.

Allegedly, the defendant was transported to a nearby hospital where his blood was drawn, approximately three hours after his initial stop. The test revealed the defendant’s BAC to be .23. he was charged with felony DUI. A toxicologist testified at trial that typically a person’s BAC would begin to decrease an hour after his or her last drink. The jury found the defendant guilty of DUI and specifically found that he had a BAC of .15 or higher within two hours of driving. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Criminal defendants have numerous rights under state and federal law, including the right to confront a witness. In other words, a person charged with a crime has a right to question the anyone testifying on behalf of the State, and if a person is denied that right it may result in an unjust conviction. A Washington appellate court recently explained what constitutes a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness in a case in which the defendant was charged with assault. If you are a resident of Washington facing assault charges it is critical to meet with a seasoned Washington assault defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedures of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s mother was awoken by screams in the early morning, after which she went into the room her son shared with his girlfriend, where she encountered the girlfriend  who had a swollen eye and blood on her face and appeared frightened. The defendant and his mother were the only other two people in the house. The defendant’s mother called 911 and reported that the defendant struck the girlfriend in the face. The mother handed the girlfriend the phone and the girlfriend stated that she thought her jaw was broken. When the police arrived the girlfriend told the officer that the defendant punched her in the face. EMS arrived as well, and transported the girlfriend to the hospital, where she told the emergency room doctor that the defendant hit her.

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested and subsequently charged with assault in the second degree. The police could not find the girlfriend prior to the trial and the case was tried without her. The defendant was convicted and appealed, arguing that the admission of the girlfriend’s out of court statements that he hit her violated his right to confront witnesses.

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In Washington, if a person is restricted by a domestic violence no-contact order, the person must strictly abide by the terms of the order, or he or she may face significant penalties. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington appellate court case in which the court found that the State produced sufficient evidence that the defendant committed a felony violation of a no-contact order, even though the person protected by the order consented to the contact. If you live in Washington and are charged with violating a domestic violence no-contact order it is imperative to meet with a seasoned Washington domestic violence defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you can set forth to protect your rights.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders, preventing him from contacting the alleged victim. The orders were issued in February and July 2016. The defendant acknowledged receipt of the first order via signature but refused to sign for the second order. He was served the second order, however. Each order contained language stating that the defendant could be arrested even if the victim protected by the order permitted or invited the defendant to violate the terms of the order. The orders further explained that it was the defendant’s sole responsibility to refrain from violating the orders.

It is alleged that on August 2017, a police officer observed the defendant and the victim together. The officer recognized the defendant from a prior violation and approached the pair. The defendant gave his real name, but both the defendant and the victim gave the police a fake name for the victim. The defendant was subsequently charged with felony violation of both no-contact orders. The defendant was convicted by a jury, after which he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

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On August 10, beer lovers around the South Sound will descend on Tacoma’s annual Brew Five Three Beer and Music Festival located on South 9th and Broadway in downtown Tacoma. In an effort to keep the community safe The Law Offices of Smith & White, Tacoma’s expert DUI defense attorneys, will reimburse the cost of a taxi or ride-share from the festival for the first 50 people who submit their receipts (up to $20 compensation).

Ride Safe Program at Brew53

Photo: Smith & White partners James White and Derek Smith at the 2018 Brew53 event.

“Our number one goal at Smith & White is to keep our community safe, not only for those who are participating in this festival, but for others who are on the road,” says attorney James White, partner at Smith & White.

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

Under Washington law, for a defendant to be found guilty by a jury in a criminal case, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. There are exceptions to the rule, however, such as cases involving a continuing course of conduct. This was elucidated in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence stalking. If you live in Washington and are charged with stalking or another crime of domestic violence you should consult a skilled Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your liberties.

Pertinent Facts and Procedure

Allegedly, the defendant and his victim were married for eighteen years. During the pendency of their divorce, the victim obtained a no-contact order, that prohibited the defendant from coming within 500 feet of her home. The defendant was observed driving around the victim’s property on numerous occasions, after which he was charged with felony stalking and a gross misdemeanor offense of violating a civil antiharassment protect order, both of which were crimes of domestic violence. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury convicted the defendant of both charges. He was sentenced to twelve months and one day in prison for the stalking charge. The defendant subsequently appealed arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it needed to unanimously agree that his actions constituted a crime.

Unanimity Requirement

Under Washington law, only a unanimous jury can issue a guilty verdict in a criminal case. If the evidence shows numerous acts occurred that could constitute the charged offense, either the State must elect which act it relied upon in issuing the charges or instruct the jury that it must choose which act it found the defendant committed that constituted a crime. If the State does not elect an act or provide the jury with a unanimity instruction, it is a constitutional error that requires a new trial, unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless.

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In many cases in which a person alleges he or she was the victim of a crime of domestic violence, the court will issue an order barring the defendant from contacting the victim. No-contact orders are strictly enforced and if a person violates a no-contact order it can result in felony charges. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed the shifting burdens of proof when a defendant is charged with violating a no-contact order. If you are a Washington resident charged with violating a domestic violence no-contact order or any other domestic violence crime it is critical to engage an assertive Washington domestic violence defense attorney who will fight to help you retain your rights.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, in October 2015, a court issued a no-contact order that restrained the defendant from contacting his former girlfriend, the mother of his daughter.  Specifically, he was prohibited from knowingly entering or remaining within 500 feet of the girlfriends’ house, school, place of work or car. The order was in affect for five years.  In February 2017, the girlfriend observed the defendant outside of her apartment, in violation of the order, and called the police. The police responded and questioned the defendant, who stated that he was there to give an EBT card to his daughter and nodded in the direction of the girlfriend’s apartment.

It is reported that the police subsequently arrested the defendant, and he was charged with a domestic violence felony violation of a no-contact order. During the trial, the defendant testified that he was not aware that he was violating the order at the time of his arrest. He was convicted of violating the order and sentenced to 72 to 96 months in prison. He subsequently appealed arguing the prosecutor committed misconduct by shifting the evidentiary burden. The court denied the defendant’s appeal.

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