Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Following a search of Marco Wences' car in 2003, the State charged him with possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to manufacture or deliver. The State also alleged that Wences was armed with a firearm during the commission of the crime. A jury convicted Wences of all charges in 2005. The trial court instructed the jury that a firearm was a deadly weapon, and the jury answered "yes" to a special verdict form that asked whether Wences was "armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the commission of the crime." The question this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the rule announced in Washington v. Williams-Walker, 225 P.3d 913 (2010), applied to appellate review of Wences' 2015 sentence. Williams-Walker held that the Washington Constitution prohibited a sentencing court from imposing a firearm enhancement based on a deadly weapon special verdict finding. In 2005, Wences did not appear for a scheduled sentencing hearing. Concluding that Wences "should not benefit from changes in the law that apply to him solely because he absconded and delayed his sentencing," the Court of Appeals affirmed the superior court's decision to impose the firearm enhancement based on pre-Williams-Walker law. The Washington Supreme Court held, however, that this result was impermissible under settled law. The Court therefore reversed the appellate court and remanded this case for resentencing consistent with Williams-Walker. View "Washington v. Wences" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on application of RCW 9.73.030 of the Washington privacy act to an inadvertent recording on a cell phone voice mail of a domestic violence assault. The Court held that the recording in this case did not contain a "conversation" within the meaning of the privacy act. Further, even if the recorded verbal exchange here could be considered a private conversation within the privacy act, nevertheless an exception contained in the privacy act applies, rendering the recording admissible. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals to the extent it held otherwise. View "Washington v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Anthony Joseph was convicted of second degree criminal trespass as a lesser included offense of second degree vehicle prowling. He challenged his conviction on the ground that unlawful entry into a vehicle is not a trespass "in or upon premises of another." This case presented a “challenging” question of statutory interpretation because of the overlapping and intersecting definitions of "building" and "premises" in Title 9A RCW. The Court of Appeals affirmed Joseph's conviction, concluding that a vehicle was a "premises" for the purpose of the second degree trespass statute because a vehicle is a type of "building" and "premises" includes "any building." The Washington Supreme Court concluded the legislature plainly intended second degree criminal trespass to encompass trespass into any "building" as defined in the criminal code, RCW 9A.04.110(5), save for trespass into a building in its ordinary sense. This interpretation properly restricts first degree trespass to unlawful entries into ordinary "buildings," a descriptor that needed no further definition. The more severe charge (a gross misdemeanor) was justified by the increased likelihood of trespass into a home or business. All other trespasses fall under the term "premises" and are treated as simple misdemeanors. RCW 9A.52.080. This includes trespasses into premises that are "buildings" broadly conceived, but are not ordinarily thought of as buildings—as relevant here, vehicles. View "Washington v. Joseph" on Justia Law

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In 2015, a Chelan County deputy sheriff arrested Robert Bowie for driving while under the influence (DUI). Bowie received appropriate RCW 46.20.308 warnings about his right to refuse a breath test, signed the implied consent form, and agreed to take that breath test. But 20 minutes later, just before administering the test, the deputy asked Bowie if he would provide a "voluntary" sample. This time Bowie declined. The State charged Bowie with DUI plus a refusal enhancement. The district court granted Bowie's motion to suppress evidence of his refusal. It ruled that the deputy's statement that the test was "voluntary" was "inaccurate[]" and "potentially" misleading. The Superior Court then denied the State's interlocutory petition for a writ of review. The Washington Supreme Court granted direct review of that decision and affirmed. The Supreme Court held RCW 7.16.040 governed the availability of the writ of review in superior court. This statutory writ of certiorari is an "extraordinary remedy." Superior court review via writ was not available in this case. View "Washington v. Chelan County Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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An officer from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife saw respondent Eric Cruz illegally "snag" a salmon in the Similkameen River. McCormick arrested Cruz for this misdemeanor fishing violation. The officer handcuffed Cruz, searched his body, and found no weapons, but further questioned the handcuffed Cruz about whether he had weapons elsewhere. Cruz truthfully acknowledged that he had firearms in his truck. A still-handcuffed Cruz was locked in the back of the patrol car while the officer removed three guns from Cruz's truck. The officer did not have, and never sought, a search warrant. The State subsequently charged Cruz, who had a prior felony, with three counts of second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Cruz moved to suppress the firearms. The trial court agreed with Cruz. The State then moved to dismiss. The trial court granted that motion and dismissed with prejudice. The State then appealed the suppression order, but not the dismissal order. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court granted review to decide whether the rule of Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 343, (2009),and Washington v. Snapp, 275 P.3d 289 (2012) was the controlling case law in this matter, or whether the rule of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), as extended to vehicles in Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983) provided the framework for analysis instead. But a procedural issue became apparent after the Washington Supreme Court granted review. The State's failure to assign error to the order of dismissal. The Court surmised there were three critical problems with the State's appeal in a situation like this: first, the State failed to assign error to the order of dismissal, in violation of RAP 10.3(a)(4); the State failed to brief and argue the propriety of the order of dismissal, in violation of another RAP (RAP 10.3(a)(6)); and the State was the party that "invited" the trial court to enter the dismissal order that it complained about here. Characterizing the "notice of appeal [as being] from the order of suppression and dismissal," as the amended notice of appeal did, fails to solve these invited error, failure to brief, and failure to assign error problems. Here, even if the Supreme Court reversed the suppression order, "the case below would still be at an end." The Court thus dismissed this appeal. View "Washington v. Cruz" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether the trial court in Ascencion Salgado-Mendoza's trial for driving under the influence abused its discretion by refusing to suppress the testimony of the State's toxicology witness. The State initially disclosed the names of nine toxicologists, indicating it intended to call "one of the following" to testify. The State eventually whittled the list down to three names the day before trial, but did not specify which toxicologist it would call until the morning of trial. Salgado-Mendoza moved to suppress the toxicologist's testimony under CrRLJ 8.3(b) based on late disclosure. The trial court refused, finding no actual prejudice to the defense and observing that the practice of disclosing a list of available toxicologists rather than a specific witness was driven more by underfunding of the crime labs than trial mismanagement. The superior court found the trial court abused its discretion and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding the delayed disclosure violated the discovery rules and caused prejudice. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, finding that while the State's disclosure practice may have amounted to mismanagement, Salgado-Mendoza did not demonstrate actual prejudice to justify suppression. View "Washington v. Salgado-Mendoza" on Justia Law

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In 2015, after attempting to steal a riding lawnmower, Joshua Barnes was arrested and charged with theft of a motor vehicle. He filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that a riding lawnmower was not a "motor vehicle" under RCW 9A.56.065. The Washington Supreme Court's plain reading of the statute found that a riding lawn mower could conceivably have contemplated a riding lawn mower. However, the Court found the Washington Legislature intended otherwise. "Because the act itself denotes a restrained definition, we find that as a matter of law, a riding lawn mower is not a 'motor vehicle' for the purposes of the theft-of-a-motor-vehicle statute." View "Washington v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Three cases were consolidated for review by the Washington Supreme Court. Each petitioner-defendant was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Two had high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) but no previous DUI arrests, while the third petitioner had allegedly used marijuana and had a previous DUI conviction. Each challenged his or her testing conditions by petitioning for a writ of review with the Spokane County Superior Court. The superior court denied the writ applications. After review of the superior court record in each petitioner’s case, the Supreme Court reversed, finding all three were entitled to statutory writs of review because they lacked an adequate remedy at law to challenge their pretrial release conditions and because their urinalysis testing requirements contravened article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. View "Blomstrom v. Tripp" on Justia Law

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A jury found Steven Canha guilty of two counts of assault in the second degree and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree. At the sentencing hearing, the superior court calculated Canha's offender score by using four out-of-state criminal convictions, one from California and three from Oregon. However, the court failed to perform a comparability analysis of these out-of-state convictions to see whether they were sufficiently comparable to any Washington offenses. The superior court sentenced Canha to serve 154 months. At issue before the Washington Supreme Court was whether the four criminal convictions from other states were sufficiently comparable to Washington crimes that they should have been included in a defendant's criminal history for sentencing purposes. The Supreme Court conducted the comparability analysis, concluded that three of Canha's four foreign convictions were comparable to Washington offenses, and remanded the case to the superior court to resentence Canha accordingly. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Canha" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Eric Gray electronically sent an unsolicited picture of his penis to an adult woman when he was seventeen years old. The woman notified police; police found and charged petitioner with one count of second degree dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct pursuant to RCW 9.68A.050. Petitioner appealed, arguing the plain language of the statute did not anticipate minors who took and transmitted sexually explicit images of themselves. The Washington Supreme Court found the language of the statute unambiguous, and found petitioner's actions were included under the statute, and the statute did not infringe on his freedom of expression or other Constitutional rights. View "Washington v. Gray" on Justia Law