Washington Court of Appeals Finds Officer Testimony Sufficient Evidence to Uphold A Conviction for Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer

Under Washington law, to convict a defendant of third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer the state is required to prove the officer was performing his or her job duties at the time of the assault and that the defendant intended to hit the officer. In Washington v. Eagle, the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington upheld the defendant’s conviction for third-degree assault of an officer, finding the officer’s testimony that he was performing his job at the time of the incident and believed the defendant intended to hit him was sufficient evidence of the crime charged. If you face assault charges, it is important to retain a Washington assault defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf.

Facts of the Case

Purportedly, a bystander called the police after she heard a man and woman fighting. When the police arrived, they spoke with a woman who stated the defendant hit her and pushed her to the ground. One of the police officers called the defendant, and the defendant agreed to meet with the officer at a park. After the defendant arrived, he spoke with the officer. The officer then advised the defendant he was under arrest. The defendant did not surrender to the arrest, and an altercation ensued, during which the officer had to force the defendant to the ground. The altercation was recorded via a surveillance camera. The defendant was charged with fourth-degree assault of the woman, but the charge was dropped. He was also charged with third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer.

Allegedly, the officer testified that he recalled the defendant trying to hit him and believed the video footage showed the defendant hitting him, but he could not remember defendant making contact. The surveillance video was shown to the jury during the trial, and they viewed the video frame by frame during deliberations. The jury subsequently convicted the defendant. The defendant moved for a new trial arguing there was insufficient evidence to convict him and the court erred in allowing the jury to review the video frame by frame because it was prejudicial. The court denied defendant’s motion, and he appealed.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals of The State of Washington

On appeal, the defendant argued the prosecutor had committed misconduct by mentioning the call to the police, which had been prohibited via a motion in limine, and allowing the officer to testify that he took photographs. The court disagreed, noting that the jury was directed to disregard the call and that they were not advised of the substance of the call, and therefore it was not prejudicial. Similarly, the court found that allowing testimony regarding the officer’s photographs was not prejudicial either, as no details were provided regarding the content of the photographs.

Regarding the defendant’s argument that there was insufficient evidence to convict him, the court noted that the state was required to prove the officer was in the course of his duties when the defendant assaulted him. The court held that even if the jury did not consider testimony regarding the call to the police or photographs taken by the officer, the officer’s testimony that he was performing his job at the time of the assault was sufficient to establish he was working at the time of the assault. Lastly, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to hit the officer. The court stated that the officer’s testimony that he believed the defendant was going to hit him and the video footage were sufficient to show the defendant’s intent. The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning that the jury did not decide to convict the defendant until it viewed the frame by frame video, noting that it was not relevant. Further, the court noted that the officer’s testimony in and of itself was sufficient to convict the defendant.

Consult a Skilled Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing assault charges, you should consult an assault defense attorney to ensure your cases is handled properly. The skilled criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith and White will analyze the facts of your case and plan a course of action to provide you with a strong chance for a successful outcome. Contact our offices at 253-203-1645 or via the online form to set up a consultation.

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