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Many crimes have degrees, and a defendant charged with one crime may ultimately be found guilty of a less serious offense that carries reduced penalties. Thus, in many instances, a defendant will request that the jury receive a lesser included offense instruction in hopes of avoiding a conviction for the more serious charge. A lesser included offense instruction is not appropriate in every case, but if a trial court errs in determining that such an instruction is not warranted, it may constitute grounds for reversing a conviction, as demonstrated in a recent Washington ruling issued in an assault case. If you are charged with an assault offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Washington assault defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your options.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant lived with the victim, who was his girlfriend. The couple got into an argument, and the defendant pushed the victim to the ground. While the exact details of what transpired after that are disputed, the defendant admitted that he pinned the victim to the wall. The victim stated that he strangled her and dragged her through the apartment. The defendant was charged with second-degree assault by means of strangulation and fourth-degree assault. During his trial, he asked for a lesser included offense instruction for the fourth-degree assault charge. The court denied his request, and he was convicted on both counts. He then appealed, arguing the trial court erred in denying his request.

Lesser Included Offense Instructions

Pursuant to Washington law, a defendant is entitled to a lesser included offense instruction if every element of the lesser included offense is a necessary element of the charged offense, which is referred to as the legal prong, and if the evidence in the case supports an inference that the defendant committed the lesser offense crime, which is known as the factual prong. The court explained that while the applicable test was still valid, recent rulings had caused confusion as to whether the factual prong required evidence that only the lesser included offense was committed, to the exclusion of the greater crime. Continue reading

While people generally have the right to own weapons, some people who have prior felony convictions are barred from owning firearms and can face criminal charges if guns are found in their possession. While a person that is not permitted to own guns can be charged with multiple weapons charges, they cannot be charged more than once for possessing the same weapon, and if they are, it likely constitutes double jeopardy. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington ruling in which the court reversed one of the defendant’s convictions for unlawful possession of a weapon. If you are charged with a weapons offense, you may be able to avoid a conviction, and it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable Washington gun crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that a barista called the police and reported that the defendant visited the drive-through window of a coffee shop, reported that he was running from the police, and showed the barista a revolver. Three days after that incident, the defendant shot a person with a revolver when he was at a lake. The defendant was subsequently charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. He was convicted as charged. He then appealed his firearm convictions, arguing that the two counts arose out of the same conduct and that double jeopardy applied, requiring the court to vacate one of his convictions. The court ultimately agreed.

Double Jeopardy in the Context of Gun Crimes

The court explained that double jeopardy protections are provided by the constitution, and therefore, the defendant did not waive his right to raise this argument by asserting it for the first time on appeal. The principle of double jeopardy prohibits a person from being put in jeopardy more than once for the same offense. Continue reading

Criminal defendants are afforded the right to a fair trial. Among other things, this means that the State cannot introduce evidence that a defendant engaged in other wrongs, crimes, or bad acts to show that the defendant has bad character and acted in conformance with that character in committing the underlying offense. Such evidence may be admitted for other reasons, though, as long as it is not overly prejudicial. Recently, a Washington court issued an opinion discussing the preclusion of evidence of other wrongs and crimes in a case where the defendant appealed his numerous convictions for assault. If you are accused of committing an assault crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Washington criminal defense attorney to assess your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault. The charges arose out of an altercation with his girlfriend. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to preclude the State from introducing evidence that he owned weapons. The trial court denied his motion, and during the trial, the State offered testimony indicating that the defendant owned a gun and kept it in the home he shared with his girlfriend. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged, after which he appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his gun ownership.

Admission of Evidence of Other Crimes, Bad Acts, and Wrongs

Under Washington law, evidence of bad acts, crimes, or wrongs is inadmissible to demonstrate a person’s character or to show that the person acted in conformance with that character. Trial courts have to begin with the assumption that such evidence should not be admitted. It is permissible to admit it, however, if it is introduced to show intent, knowledge, or a lack of mistake. Continue reading

Criminal defendants in Washington have the right to a trial by jury. They do not have the right to pick the jurors, however. Rather, jurors are randomly selected from people living in the county where the crime occurred. The prosecution and the defense both can question jurors for potential bias, though, and can make peremptory challenges to strike certain jurors that they feel may not be able to render an impartial decision. Peremptory challenges cannot be used for unethical or unjust purposes, however, like racial discrimination. In a recent opinion issued in a DUI case, a Washington court discussed the grounds for evaluating whether a peremptory challenge to a juror was improper. If you are charged with a DUI crime, you should confer with a seasoned Washington DUI defense attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with felony DUI, felony physical control while under the influence, and reckless driving. The case proceeded to trial, and during the voir dire of the jury, the State used peremptory challenges to three jurors. The defense objected to the use of the challenges, but two of the jurors were excused regardless. The defendant was found guilty of the physical control charge and sentenced to fifteen months in prison. He then appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in allowing the State to remove two jurors because the strikes constituted racial discrimination, in violation of Washington law.

Racial Discrimination in the Selection of Jurors

Under GR 37, a Washington Rule, racial discrimination in the process of selecting a jury is prohibited, regardless of whether it arises out of an implicit bias or is the result of purposeful discrimination. GR 37 was adopted by the Washington Supreme Court to address the unjust exclusion of potential jurors due to an unconscious bias. It allows a party to object to the use of a peremptory challenge on the grounds that it demonstrates improper bias, after which the objecting party must articulate its reasons, and the court must evaluate whether the challenge is justified based on the totality of the circumstances. Continue reading

Physical altercations often follow verbal disagreements, and in some cases, it is difficult to determine who is ultimately responsible for starting a fight. Thus, in many instances in which a person is charged with assault, self-defense is a viable defense. The State may try to thwart a self-defense argument, though, by asserting that the defendant was the first aggressor and should be found guilty. The appropriateness of a first aggressor instruction was the topic of a recent ruling issued by a Washington court, in a matter in which the defendant argued the instruction was improper. If you are accused of assault, it is prudent to speak to a capable Washington assault defense attorney to evaluate your options.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant was waiting at a bus stop where another man was also waiting. The defendant walked back and forth very close to the other man, who asked the defendant to back up. The defendant then showed the man a knife and became verbally aggressive. The man then encountered the victim in the bathroom and advised him of the defendant’s behavior. When the victim left the bathroom, the defendant started yelling at him, then punched him in the head. The two men started fighting, and the defendant stabbed the victim numerous times. The defendant was charged with two counts of assault with deadly weapon enhancements. He was convicted of both charges, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in giving a first aggressor instruction to the jury.

The First Aggressor Instruction

A court reviews whether there was adequate evidence submitted to warrant a first aggressor instruction de novo. If the evidence produced at trial was sufficient to support the instruction, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party that requested the instruction. The court explained that a first aggressor instruction would not be deemed improper where there is credible evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably find that the defendant provoked the need for the victim to act in self-defense. Continue reading

Under Washington law, a DUI offense that would ordinarily be prosecuted as a misdemeanor may be graded as a felony under certain circumstances. For example, if a DUI defendant has numerous prior qualifying convictions, it could constitute grounds for charging a DUI offense as a felony. Recently, a Washington court set forth an opinion explaining how prior offenses are scored in a case in which the defendant appealed his felony DUI conviction. If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, you could face significant penalties, and it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Washington DUI defense attorney to determine your possible defenses.

The History of the Case

The defendant was charged with a DUI offense. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty of felony DUI due to the fact that the trial court determined he had three qualifying offenses within the ten years prior to his conviction. The defendant stipulated to his offender score but later appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly included a misdemeanor crime when calculating his offender score, which resulted in an improper score. The court ultimately agreed and remanded the matter for resentencing.

Calculating an Offender Score Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, a DUI is considered a felony if the defendant has three or more qualifying offenses within the ten years preceding the offense. To determine an offender score for a felony DUI offense, the court will assign one point to each felony offense as an adult and one point to each serious traffic offense other than offenses used solely for enhancement purposes. Continue reading

Generally, the State is not permitted to introduce evidence of prior bad acts or wrongs to establish that a person violated the law on a certain occasion. In other words, the State cannot point to previous behavior in an effort to convince a jury that a defendant acted similarly on the date of an alleged crime. Evidence of other wrongs may be admitted for other reasons, however. The grounds for admitting evidence of prior acts of domestic violence was the topic of a recent Washington opinion, in a matter involving a felony violation of a no-contact order. If you are accused of a domestic violence offense, it is advisable to speak to a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney about your rights.

The Alleged Crime

It is reported that the defendant and the victim became romantically involved when they were co-workers. At some point, a no-contact order was entered, preventing the two from associating with each other. Regardless, they saw each other at a party for their former employer. Later that evening, the victim sent a friend messages indicating she had been assaulted by the defendant. The friend went to the victim’s house and observed marks on her leg and face. He then heard someone in the garage and hid in the bathroom, and called 911.

Allegedly, during the 911 call, the defendant could be heard engaging in an altercation with the victim. The police arrived and arrested the defendant, who was charged with felony violation of a no-contact order. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of prior acts of domestic violence at his trial. Continue reading

Assault charges can result in substantial penalties, but simply because someone is charged with assault does not mean that the State can obtain a conviction. In many cases, there are numerous defenses a person can assert, including self-defense. Recently, a Washington court explained what evidence a defendant must set forth to demonstrate that an action was taken in self-defense, in a matter in which the defendant appealed his conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. If you are charged with assault, it is vital to meet with a dedicated Washington assault defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant lived with his wife in an apartment, and his mother-in-law and father-in-law lived in the same complex. The defendant became abusive towards his wife, and she obtained a no-contact order against him, but she continued to live with him regardless. She eventually told him she wanted a divorce due to his behavior. The following day, she left the apartment to take their children to school and returned home after a short time. When she arrived in her apartment, she found her mother bleeding on the floor. The mother, who suffered critical injuries, indicated that the defendant had assaulted her. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He was convicted of assault, after which he filed an appeal, arguing in part that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense.

Proving an Assault Constitutes Self-Defense

Under Washington law, to obtain a conviction for assault, the State must prove that the defendant acted with the intent to cause great bodily harm and did, in fact, inflict significant harm. If a defendant raises a claim that he was acting in self-defense, the burden shifts to the State to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was not acting in self-defense. Continue reading

Domestic violence is a serious issue and is treated as such by the Washington courts. Therefore, in order to prevent victims of domestic violence from suffering continued harm, a court may order a defendant convicted of violating a no-contact order to attend counseling or mental health treatment. Recently, the discretion and basis for imposing certain community custody conditions in cases involving domestic violence were explained in an opinion issued by a Washington court, in a matter in which the defendant argued his sentence was unrelated to his crime. If you are charged with violating a no-contact order or a similar crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to determine your rights.

The Alleged Crimes

It is reported that in 2017, the defendant was convicted of six counts of misdemeanor domestic violence after he damaged his ex-wife’s home and car, set her bed on fire, and threatened to kill himself. After his conviction, a no-contact order was entered prohibiting him from coming within one thousand feet of his ex-wife’s home.

Allegedly, in 2019, the police received a phone call from a relative of the defendant’s ex-wife, stating that the defendant was in the ex-wife’s home and there were concerns for her safety. The police ultimately detained the defendant at the premises, and he was arrested and charged with a felony violation of the no-contact order. He was sentenced to a year in prison, followed by two years of community custody. One of the conditions of his community custody was that he was to attend a domestic violence program. He appealed, arguing that the condition was unrelated to his offense. On appeal, the court affirmed. Continue reading

People are protected by both the State and Federal Constitutions against unreasonable search and seizures. What this means, in part, is that the police cannot stop a driver absent a warrant or a reasonable suspicion that the person is engaging in criminal behavior. Thus, if the police stop a motorist without cause and the person is subsequently charged with a DUI offense, there may be grounds to suppress the evidence gathered during the stop. What constitutes sufficient grounds to effectuate a traffic stop was the topic of a recent Washington opinion in which the defendant sought a reversal of his DUI conviction. If you are accused of driving under the influence, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable Washington DUI defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, a police officer was dispatched to investigate a hit and run accident involving a white SUV. When he arrived at the scene, he observed a sedan with significant damage to the driver’s side door parked on the shoulder of the highway. The driver of the sedan was lying unconscious on the side of the road, and a witness advised the officer that the white SUV struck the sedan and the driver and sped off.

It is reported that later that evening, a second officer observed the defendant driving a white SUV of the same make and model as the one involved in the accident and made a traffic stop. When he approached the vehicle, the officer observed that the defendant smelled of marijuana, his eyes were glazed over, and he was lethargic. The officer observed that the SUV had damage consistent with the earlier accident, and after questioning the defendant, arrested him for DUI. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, but his motion was denied. He was convicted, after which he appealed. Continue reading

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