Blog

Legal news and analysis from the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington, Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.

"Necessity" not a defense in unlawful camping case, judge ruled

While the Vancouver City Council has been debating whether it should even be a crime to spend the day outside in public spaces, the city attorney’s office continues prosecuting homeless people cited for violating the unlawful camping ordinance.
 
The prohibitions apply during the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.
 
City Attorney Bronson Potter said a total of 227 citations were issued in 2016 and 2017. 
 
Attorney Ross Meyers went to trial this month with a client who was charged in July with unlawful camping, a misdemeanor, after a Vancouver police officer found him and his girlfriend in Waterworks Park. They had set up a tent and had their possessions with them.  A day earlier, on the Fourth of July, the client had been given notice by a different police officer that he had to stay out of city parks for a week for violating the unlawful camping ordinance.
 
In addition to unlawful camping, the client was charged with unlawful storage of property and exclusion from parks (for violating the initial notice), both of which are misdemeanors.

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Cole wins DUI trial

Attorney Grant Cole won a DUI trial recently in Clark County District Court. His client had refused to take a breath test, so he was facing a mandatory yearlong suspension of his driver’s license in addition to any jail sentence he may have received had he been convicted.

Driving under the influence, a gross misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Cole’s client was pulled over by a Vancouver police officer late one night because he had expired tabs and, according to the officer, had taken a wide turn onto Mill Plain Boulevard and then overcorrected to avoid hitting a curb. 

The officer testified that our client’s eyes were bloodshot and he could smell the odor of alcohol, but he wasn’t confident he had had probable cause to arrest him for DUI. He knew that a Washington State Patrol trooper, a certified expert at administering roadside field sobriety tests, was on duty and nearby, so he asked for him to come to the scene.

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Trial ends abruptly after key witness acknowledges mistake

Attorney Tim Murphy won a dismissal this week for a client, whose trial on a theft charge came to an abrupt end when the state’s only witness, a Wal-Mart security officer, admitted that the store may have actually overcharged the defendant.

Murphy’s client was cited in June 2016 for stealing $21 worth of merchandise from Wal-Mart. She was charged with theft in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

The case dragged on for 17 months. At one point the city of Vancouver dismissed it, but then decided to refile the charge.

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Client acquitted of assaulting grandmother

Attorney Gregger Highberg won a not-guilty verdict this week in Clark County District Court for a client charged with assaulting his grandmother.

Based on the 911 call alone, the evidence seemed to favor the prosecution. Both the grandmother and her daughter (the client’s mother) sounded scared during the 911 call, which was played twice during the Nov. 15 trial. The grandmother says her grandson won’t leave, and “I want him arrested, he’s in here badgering me, abusing me, and everything else to me, and I want him outta my house, I want him arrested.” Her daughter gets on the phone with the emergency dispatcher, says her mother needs to go to the hospital and can be heard saying, “Don’t touch her, don’t touch her!”

Responding deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office noted in reports that our client appeared intoxicated and they could smell alcohol emanating from him. They also noted, however, that the grandmother didn’t have any visible injuries.

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McCausland successfully defends father against assault charge

Attorney Hannah McCausland won an assault trial Oct. 20 in Clark County District Court, successfully arguing to the jury that her client exercised “reasonable parental discipline,” in slapping his son on the face. Her client said he panicked when his 2½-year-old son ran across a parking lot toward a busy intersection.

Under state law, physical discipline of a child “is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.” The law also says that the “age, size and condition of the child and the location of the injury shall be considered when determining whether the bodily harm is reasonable or moderate.”

McCausland’s client was arrested after witnesses, a mother and her 12-year-old daughter, reported him to police. The witnesses were at a laundromat and saw McCausland’s client outside with his son. The daughter said she saw the dad snatch the boy off the ground and put him in his car seat, but didn’t see what happened before he picked up his son. The daughter got her mother’s attention, and when the mother turned around she saw the dad, who had his back to her, making a motion with his arm as though he was slapping his son.

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Anderson wins acquittal in felony domestic violence case

Attorney Neil Anderson won an acquittal this week in Clark County Superior Court, sparing his client from a mandatory prison sentence that would have been handed down had he been convicted of unlawful imprisonment, a felony.

While the 12-person jury found Anderson’s client not guilty of the felony charge, it was unable to reach an verdict on a charge of misdemeanor assault. 

A deputy prosecutor told Superior Court Judge Bernard Veljacic after the verdicts was read and the jurors had left the courtroom that she’ll likely be asking for a new trial on the assault charge.

Ten of the 12 jurors stayed behind to speak to Anderson and the deputy prosecutor. They said the vote on the assault charge was 11 to 1 in favor of “not guilty.”

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Concerns expressed about federal immigration agents at local courthouses

A front-page article in the Sept. 19 edition of The Columbian, “ICE agents create a chill at courthouse,” was part of a three-day series about the uncertainty facing undocumented immigrants since President Donald Trump took office in January. 

The article said courthouse arrests by immigration enforcement officers “have elicited harsh criticism from attorneys and judges who argue that the practice interferes with the criminal justice system.”

The article included an example of a defendant in a felony domestic violence case who was picked up by ICE agents at the Clark County Courthouse.  We’ve had clients, who have no prior criminal history and who are charged with misdemeanors, been picked up by ICE agents at the courthouse this year.

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Prosecutor dismisses case day of trial, makes defendant pay jury costs

Well, this sucked.

A Vancouver assistant city attorney dismissed a charge of fourth-degree assault domestic violence Friday, the day of trial, after realizing what he should have known had he been properly prepared (that his victim was lying). Because our client was ready to assert his constitutional right to a jury trial, however, he got stuck with the $350 jury tab.

The alleged victim had been saying she was so drunk the night of the incident that she blacked out and doesn’t remember what happened. She spoke with the assistant city attorney and attorney Jeff Barrar this morning, prior to trial, and reiterated that she doesn’t recall much of what happened. She did remember biting our client on the face.

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Can't spell Whitney without "W"

Attorney Whitney Hawke won not-guilty verdicts this week for a client charged with two counts of violating a domestic violence no-contact order.

Hawke’s client and the alleged victim in the case share custody of a child.  Hawke’s client lives near where her child’s father works, and in April she was pulled over by a Vancouver police officer because her vehicle had one headlight burnt out. The officer ran checks on people in the vehicle and discovered there was a no-contact order prohibiting the driver from being with the passenger. He arrested Hawke’s client for violating the order.

Two months later, a different Vancouver police officer stopped Hawke’s client, this time for failing to wear her seat belt. Again, her child’s father was in the car, and again she was arrested for violating the order. The child’s father had asked a judge to lift the order after the first arrest, but his request was denied.

At the Sept. 13 trial in Clark County District Court, a deputy prosecutor from the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center called the two VPD officers to testify. She did not call the alleged victim to the witness stand.

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Father acquitted of assaulting adult son

Attorney Jeff Barrar won a not-guilty verdict on Sept. 8 for a father accused of assaulting his adult son.

The father was charged with fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a year in jail. On June 9, the man’s wife called 911 and reported that her husband was drunk and belligerent and saying mean things to the family so she wanted him to go to the “drunk tank” for the night.

Asked specifically by the emergency dispatcher whether her husband had assaulted anyone, she said no. She later mentioned that her son punched her husband in the face, and once the dispatcher started questioning her about that, she said her son had to throw the punch because his dad “chest-bumped” him.

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Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders