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What if someone you love is addicted to opiates?

Opiate addiction is a pervasive problem in many areas of the country, including Western Washington.  Opiate addiction can predictably lead the sufferer into entanglement with the criminal justice system as he or she, desperate to avoid withdrawal, resorts to petty theft, burglary, or worse to fund his or her habit.

When an addict accumulates multiple charges in a compressed period of time it is often viewed…

State of Washington v. Samalia: Cell-phones and the Abandonment Doctrine

In State v. Samalia the Washington State Supreme Court addressed whether a motorist who fled a stolen vehicle and left his cell phone inside the vehicle had “abandoned” the property and thereby surrendered any privacy interest he had in the phone.  This case is one of many that are sure to make their way to the Supreme Court in coming years,…

State v. Mayer: A Cop’s Misleading Explanation of Miranda

In a case where the defendant, Nicholas Mayer, was accused and convicted of ten criminal counts after robbing a teriyaki restaurant at gunpoint, the Washington State Supreme Court had to decide whether Mayer adequately waived his Miranda rights (derived from the Fifth Amendment), and furthermore, whether that improper Miranda would have mattered when the evidence was stacked against the defendant.

After robbing…

The Files Are In The Computer; State v. Cates and “Plain View”

Article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution (see p. 5) states that “[n]o person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” The case of State v. Cates grapples with whether a community custody condition permitting a community corrections officer (CCO) to inspect the files of an individual under community supervision is facially valid…

State v. Brush: What is a “prolonged period of time”? That’s up to the jury…

In 2004, the United States Supreme Court, in Blakely v. Washington, held that for a judge to sentence a defendant above the standard sentencing range established by the state sentencing guidelines, a jury, not a judge, has to find the facts supporting the aggravating factor.  In response, the legislature established a number of aggravating factors which will effect their sentence. In…

State v O’Dell: Youth and Culpability

In State v O’Dell, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision with potentially far-reaching impact on the way courts sentence teenage offenders for serious felony charges.  Sean O’Dell was convicted of second degree rape of a child for having sexual intercourse with a 12 year-old girl (she testified that it was forcible, he testified that it was consensual) less than two…

State v. S.J.C.; Sealing of Juvenile Records

The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled on a case, State v. SJC, which presented the question of whether the Washington State Constitution, Art. I Sec. 10 – Administration of Justice  requires the court to apply the Ishikawa factors when a former juvenile offender has satisfied the statutory requirements of RCW 13.50.050 to seal his or her juvenile court record. The juvenile court…

State v. A.H.; Pay Your Restitution of You Want Your Juvenile Conviction Sealed

The State of Washington allows individuals who were convicted of a crime while they were a juvenile to seal the records pertaining to that conviction (RCW 13.50.050), as long as they meet certain criteria.  Among other requirements (e.g. living in the community for two consecutive years without re-offending, not having any criminal proceedings pending against him), former juvenile offenders who wish…

State v. Barry; Defendant’s Courtroom Demeanor as Evidence

In its most recent opinion, the Washington State Supreme Court had to decide whether the trial court erred by instructing the jury that evidence includes everything that they (the jury) witness in the courtroom, including the defendant’s actions and demeanor.

Robert Barry stood trial for two counts of child molestation. During its deliberations, the jury sent the court a question asking…

State of Washington v. Rodriguez: Examining the Strangulation Prong of the Assault 2 Statute

In 2007 the Washington Legislature added another prong to the Assault Second Degree statute, defining “assault by strangulation or suffocation” as its own means of committing Assault 2, a “strike” offense under Washington law.  Previously, an incident of strangulation would have to produce “substantial bodily harm” in order to meet the definition of Assault 2, but that is no longer the case.  Instead, the…

Totality of Circumstances & Terry Stops: Fuentes & Sandoz

The Washington State Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling on a pair of consolidated cases in Fuentes & Sandoz..  Each case involved whether there was a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that would allow officers to conduct a Terry stop. A Terry stop is a legally justified search/seizure by the police that is based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (note: the basis…

State v. Wade: The Court of Appeals Tackles “Other Suspect” Evidence

In State v. Wade, Division One of the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the second-degree murder conviction of Gary Wade for the December 2010 strangulation death of Michelle Thornton, finding that it was not error for the trial court to exclude proffered evidence that Ms. Thornton’s ex-boyfriend, not Mr. Wade, was a possible suspect in her death.

Ms. Thornton was strangled in her…

State v. Budd: A Man’s Home is his Castle

The Washington State Court of Appeals Division III recently handed down an opinion in State v Budd which has to do with the warnings a police officer gives to a resident of a home before entering that home for the purpose of it being searched. Ferrier warnings, as they are called (named after a 1998 Washington State Supreme Court case), inform someone, whose…

State v. Allen: Free Speech vs. Fair Trial

The Washington State Supreme Court recently handed down an opinion in the State of Washington v. Darcus Dwayne Allen, involving Mr. Allen’s appeal of his conviction for First Degree Murder as Maurice Clemmons’ alleged getaway driver in the notorious murder of four Lakewood police officers in November 2009.

Several spectators in the courtroom arrived wearing T-shirts that read “You will not be…

State v. Henderson: the Washington Supremes Examine Lesser-Included Offenses

On February 26th the Washington Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 decision in State v. Henderson reversing a trial court’s decision to deny Mr. Henderson a lesser-included-offense instruction for First Degree Manslaughter as an alternative to First Degree Murder.  Defendants are entitled to lesser-included offense instructions where the evidence could reasonably lead a juror to convict on a lesser offense…

State v. Longo: You Can’t Have Your Marijuana and Eat it Too

In State v. Longo, Division One of the Washington State Court of Appeals held that the State was not barred from introducing evidence of Mr. Longo’s allegedly illegal marijuana grow by virtue of a previous decision in a city forfeiture proceeding which held that the search of Mr. Longo’s house was illegal.

The Court’s decision turned on the doctrine of collateral…

PowerPoint Gone Bad: Prosecutorial Misconduct in Pierce County

Petitioner Odies Delanus Walker was convicted as an accomplice to first degree murder, first degree assault, first degree robbery, solicitation, and conspiracy on the trial level after it was alleged that he and another individual carried out a premeditated attack on an armored-car driver. In State v Walker the Washington State Supreme Court reversed Mr. Walker’s  convictions because of unfairly prejudicial remarks made by the prosecuting attorney during…

Rethinking Assumptions About the Reliability of “Excited Utterances”

In her article, The Reliability of Assault Victims’ Immediate Accounts: Evidence from Trauma Studies, Melissa Hamilton of the University of Texas delves into social science research to question whether there is a scientific basis underpinning the assumptions that justify certain hearsay rules, in particular the “excited utterance” exception to the hearsay rule. 

The excited utterance exception, codified in Evidence Rule…

Sealing Juvenile Records Just Got Easier

Sealing juvenile records just got a little easier with legislation passed in 2014.  Under the Youth Opportunity Act, juveniles will have their records automatically sealed if they are adjudicated of a non-serious offense, if they have completed the affirmative conditions of their sentence, and if their restitution and LFOs have been paid.  Most serious offenses, sex offenses, and certain felony…

“Ban the Box” Efforts Gather Steam

Sometime next year Washington State may join the growing list of states and municipalities which have “banned the box,” prohibiting most employers from requiring job applicants to check off the box “have you ever been convicted of a crime” in their initial screening of job applicants.
In total, 13 states and 70 cities have adopted “ban the box” legislation over the…

State v. Gunderson: The Supreme Court Draws a Line in Domestic Violence Cases

Last week the Washington Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision penned by Judge Steven Gonzalez, reversed a King County Superior Court verdict convicting Daniel Gunderson of felony violation of a no-contact order. The decision drew a line in the sand on 404(b) analysis in domestic violence cases after a series of decisions had expanded the purposes for which the…

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Reports on Domestic Violence Recidivism Trends

The 2012 Washington State Legislature passed a bill directing the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to conduct research on the recidivism trends of people convicted of domestic violence, and write a report on its findings. The scope of this report covered the fiscal years of 2001-2012.

Washington defines “domestic violence” in RCW 26.50.010 as “ (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the…

Forfeiture by Wrongdoing and the Confrontation Clause

In domestic violence cases there is often suspense regarding whether or not the alleged victim will appear at trial and testify against his or her current or former partner.  If the alleged victim does not appear, the prosecution (and court) will frequently assume that the defendant has had something to do with his or her absence.  In State v. Dobbs, our Supreme Court…

The Burglary That Wasn’t

Quentin met Uma[1] at a comic book convention in San Francisco.  He had been kicking around the Bay Area after graduating college, taking an odd job here and there, and otherwise “failing to launch,” as his stepmother would put it.  Uma was a free spirit, given to impulsive decisions.  How much of her unpredictability was an innate to her personality…

The Domestic Violence Victim Advocate Privilege–How Does It Apply?

RCW 5.60.060 – Privileged Communication: Who is Disqualified?

This statute, as its name indicates, identifies whose communications are privileged. Privileged means that neither party to the relationship may testify in open court, nor otherwise disclose, any communication made during the course of that relationship without the other party’s consent. Broadly, the relationships covered by this statute are: spouses/domestic partners, priests &…