A recent decision from the Washington Court of Appeals once again highlights the importance of trial courts’ following proper procedures before they impose non-mandatory legal financial obligations, or LFOs, on criminal defendants. Washington law requires courts to make a customized inquiry specific to the defendant standing trial, in which the court assesses the defendant’s ability to pay any potential LFO. In this recent case, the trial judge did not make that kind of inquiry, and, as a result, the defendant’s appeal of the obligation was successful.
A recent case involving an alcohol-fueled quarrel that devolved into a knife attack, while yielding an outcome unfavorable to the woman accused of assault, offers some helpful information on the law of self-defense in assault cases. The Washington Court of Appeals decision, which upheld the set of jury instructions the trial judge gave before the jury found the woman guilty, demonstrates what a claim of self-defense may and may not mean in a criminal trial in relation to the instructions the judge gives the jury. In this case, the instructions were not worthy of reversal because the instructions the judge gave were justified by the evidence, and they did nothing to impede the accused woman’s ability to present her defense fully.
A man facing numerous charges stemming from a physical altercation with his girlfriend was able to prune one but not two convictions off his record in the case. While the state conceded that the two second-degree assault charges against the man were both from the same criminal conduct, the man’s assault charge and harassment charge were separated by a period of time during which he appeared calm and had time to pause and reflect. This gap in time was enough to create two separate criminal intents and allow both charges to withstand the man’s appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals.
A trial court’s decision to sentence an offender, who was only 16 at the time of his crimes, to more than 92 years in prison for his involvement in a drive-by shooting was overturned recently. The trial judge stated that he could not use the offender’s young age as a basis for giving him a lighter sentence. The Washington Court of Appeals said this was incorrect because, in the wake of a 2015 Washington Supreme Court ruling, courts are required to analyze whether an offender’s age affected his culpability.
The U.S. and Washington constitutions give criminal defendants certain clear rights. In Washington, one right accused people have is the right to a public trial. There are several procedural obligations that the courts must follow in order to ensure that an accused person’s trial meets this requirement. One requirement that does not exist is that prosecuting and defense attorneys cannot use sidebar to submit peremptory juror exclusion choices. The Washington Supreme Court, in a recent decision explaining the extent of the public trial right as it relates to submitting peremptory challenges, concluded that attorneys could make these challenges at sidebar as long as certain other processes are followed.
When you are attempting to overturn a conviction in a criminal case, based upon an error by the trial judge in admitting evidence, there are multiple hurdles you must clear. You must not only prove that the judge made a mistake but also prove that the mistake had a “reasonable probability” of altering the outcome. In a recent domestic violence case, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a man’s conviction because, even though evidence of his past acts was admitted for a wrong reason, there was no reasonable probability that the man would have been found not guilty in the absence of the error.
The complex case of an alleged incident of domestic violence in which famed soccer star Hope Solo was accused of being the abuser is once again on track to go forward after the Washington Court of Appeals refused to undo a Superior Court decision that revived the case, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. The misdemeanor case, which was sent back to the municipal court in the City of Kirkland, highlights the complicated nature of domestic violence, in which the people who are abused and who offend are more diverse than the usual stereotypes surrounding domestic violence suggest.
A man who was facing assault and weapons charges decided to represent himself, only to fail in achieving the outcome for which he’d hoped. After a trial, a reversal, and a new set of charges, the man finally pled guilty to second-degree assault. Ultimately unhappy with this outcome, the man attempted to challenge his case on the grounds of two violations of the U.S. Constitution — the protection against double jeopardy and the right to an attorney. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the plea violated neither constitutional provision, and the plea deal was proper, with the man’s case highlighting the clear risks involved in representing oneself in criminal cases.
In a criminal trial, the accused person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Once a jury convicts, however, the standards change. After a guilty verdict, an appeals court is required to rule the evidence to be sufficient and uphold the conviction if, when construed in the manner most beneficial to the prosecution, there is any way a rational trier of fact could have found the accused guilty of the crime. Based upon these rules, the Washington Court of Appeals rejected a jail inmate’s argument that his testimony at trial proved conclusively that he could not have held the required criminal intent to commit assault. Making determinations regarding which witnesses are (or are not) credible and which evidence is (or is not) persuasive are among the duties of a jury, so appeals courts will generally defer to the factual conclusions they make, as the court did in this case.
If you smoke it is more than likely that you know it would be beneficial to not do so. You know about cancer, emphysema, heart problems, respiratory problems, and the list goes. The media has all but bombarded us with this information plus the surgeon general has a warning on every pack. You know it costs anywhere between five and ten dollars a pack. Some of you are even wondering, “Where did you find the five dollar ones?” So you know quitting would save you an awful lot of money. Plus, there are the concerns about smell, the less and less convenient places to go, and quite often family and friend concerns that you get the privilege of listening to over and over and over again. Yet many people continue forward with this very risky habit. Why? Well there are actually a lot of answers but this example was primarily used to show that there is a practice that has people asking the same question.
Everybody knows that if you drink you should not drive. The reasons are even of greater magnitude. You are a danger to yourself and others. The number of car crashes caused by drunk driving is way above that of any other cause. The same is true of fatal car crashes. People know this for the same reason they know the health risks of smoking – the media sends out the message at least daily. Plus, you are risking a DUI arrest. In Washington, that has jail time, hefty fines and many other penalties. Yet many people choose to engage in this risky behavior. This begs the same question – WHY? The answers are multiple. Continue reading