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
One of the proclaimed hallmarks of the United States, including Washington’s, judicial system is the fact that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. This applies to all people. So this applies to any accused person no matter what they are accused of. So this should apply to people accused of domestic violence.
However, if you or someone you love has been accused of domestic violence you probably feel like you are already being punished. You probably especially feel unjustly punished if you are the alleged victim and had no intention of pressing charges but your partner was arrested anyway because of the mandatory arrest law. You will have had a no contact order put on you. This will have made it impossible to converse with your partner either directly or indirectly. It has probably kept you out of your home. It may have made it difficult to go to work. It will have kept you from any children you have with your partner. You have had your gun rights taken away. If you have a job where a gun is required, you are out of work. You may have been ordered not to drink alcohol or have had other restrictions put on you. You probably already feel stigmatized by your family, friends or any else who is aware of the accusations.
Undoubtedly you want this whole experience to be over. Your defense attorney is required to bring you any plea bargain that the prosecution proposes. When he does it is likely that he will counsel you against taking it. You, on the other hand, may see it as a way out your current mess and may very well want to take it. It would be wise to listen to why he counsels against it. He knows what you are facing for the rest of your life if you accept. Continue reading
When you’re facing a criminal domestic violence charge, there are many things that may go into your defense. If you took physical action because you reasonably feared for your safety and used only as much force as necessary, you may have a valid defense of self-defense. In a recent case from Tacoma, the Washington Court of Appeals threw out a conviction because the trial court’s refusal to allow the accused man to testify about two previous attacks, in which he was the victim and his alleged victim was the attacker, improperly limited the man’s constitutional right to put on a defense.
In this case, Tacoma police officers, responding to witness claims that a man was striking a woman with his knee, found the woman, Lisa Miles, with several injuries to her face. The man, Kenneth Driscoll, told officers he acted in self-defense.
A good win for Smith & White, PLLC as we successful brought claims against the City of Lakewood for wrongfully withholding documents. We had to appeal to the Court of Appeals to achieve our victory. We think transparency in government is a worthwhile fight.
No one should live in fear. No one deserves to be abused. No one asks for domestic violence. Victims need to be helped and protected. These are platitudes that are now generally accepted by the public. This is good because they are true. However, there is an unspoken societal caveat to these statements. Society quite often assumes that the victims are always women and the abusers are always men. This is simply not true. The truth is not made any easier for the public to accept since the cases of domestic violence with a male victim are vastly under-reported. There are many reasons for this and this article is a continuation of an examination of this issue. Continue reading