• Jeffrey D. Barrar P.S. | Vancouver Defenders

    Jeffrey D. Barrar P.S. | Vancouver Defenders

  • Jeffrey D. Barrar P.S. | Vancouver Defenders

    Jeffrey D. Barrar P.S. | Vancouver Defenders

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Jeffrey D. Barrar P.S. has grown to become the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington. The firm has public contracts to represent indigent defendants in felony and misdemeanor cases and also represents privately retained clients.

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New on the Barrar Law blog...

Anderson, Mellen win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Daniel Mellen were successful this week in getting a client acquitted of felony domestic violence charges in Clark County Superior Court.

Their client was found not guilty on June 14 of second-degree assault, a class B felony, and harassment, a class C felony. If convicted he faced a minimum of one year in prison.

The jury did find him guilty of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a misdemeanor charge the defense attorneys convinced the judge should be given as an option for jurors to consider. The client will be sentenced next month. With credit for the time he spent in the Clark County Jail after his arrest, it’s unlikely he will receive additional jail time.

The client, 24, was accused of choking his girlfriend and threatening to kill her in 2019, when he was 21. His girlfriend, who was 19 at the time, told Vancouver police officers that she and her boyfriend were arguing and he was trying to provoke her by tapping her on the forehead and calling her names. She said she took a swing at him, and he grabbed her wrist and told her to stop. She said they did stop arguing and she left the room, but when she returned he grabbed her, threw her on the bed, straddled her and put his hands around her neck and started to squeeze. She said while he was squeezing her neck he threatened to kill her. She said two roommates came in and separated the couple.

When the client’s ex-girlfriend testified this week, however, she did not mention the threat, which had been the basis for the felony harassment charge. After she finished testifying Anderson asked the judge, outside the presence of the jury, for a directed verdict on the harassment charge since the state failed to introduce any evidence. The judge granted Anderson’s request.

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Anderson, Spencer win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Marina Spencer won an acquittal March 9 in Clark County Superior Court for a client charged with trying to strangle his girlfriend.

A 12-member jury deliberated an hour before returning a “not guilty” verdict on two charges of domestic violence.

The client was charged with assault in the second degree, a felony, and assault in the fourth degree, a gross misdemeanor. Had he been convicted he would have received a minimum sentence of three months in jail, and a maximum sentence of nine months in jail.

The client, 41, has no criminal history.

On Nov. 27, 2020, he called 911 and told the dispatcher that his girlfriend had hit him during an argument and he needed her to leave the house. The alleged victim called 911 after he called. She told the dispatcher, after a few minutes, her boyfriend grabbed her hand and neck.

Responding officers from the Vancouver Police Department arrested our client after speaking to his girlfriend, who claimed her boyfriend had grabbed her around her neck and tightened his grip during an argument about money. She said she had not been able to breathe for 30 seconds, and had been scared. She was crying when she spoke to officers.

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Askanas wins District Court trial

Attorney Isabelle Askanas won a trial June 2 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with physical control, a gross misdemeanor.

A conviction for physical control carries the same penalty as a DUI, including a mandatory minimum two-day jail sentence.

Her client was cited by a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy about 3 a.m. on May 10, 2020. Her client had been on the way home from a friend’s house when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a curb, ending up in the middle of the road with a flat tire.

A responding officer said when he contacted Askanas’ client he was slurring his speech, had bloodshot watery eyes and smelled of intoxicants.

The client agreed to perform field sobriety tests and had difficulty keeping his balance, an officer wrote in his report. The client refused to take a preliminary breath test, admitted to drinking three or four beers earlier in the evening and told an officer, “I shouldn’t have drove drunk.”

Those facts were all heard by the jury during the one-day trial.

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Cognata successfully argues against post-conviction GPS monitoring

Attorney Amber Cognata recently convinced a Clark County District Court commissioner to reconsider ordering an indigent client to pay for post-conviction GPS monitoring.

Commissioner Todd George initially granted a Vancouver assistant city attorney’s request for the GPS monitoring during a Jan. 31 sentencing hearing, but said his order would not go into effect until Cognata had a chance to argue it.  Cognata’s client had pled guilty to one count of harassment and one count of violating a civil antiharassment protection order, both gross misdemeanors.

At the time of the plea, her client had served 34 days in jail. The city prosecutor did not ask for additional jail time even though gross misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail.

In her subsequent motion contesting the judge’s decision, Cognata wrote that the GPS monitoring authorized by state lawmakers was meant for pre-trial monitoring and not to be imposed as part of a sentence.

The pre-trial GPS monitoring was part of the Tiffany Hill act. Defendants pay for the monitoring and domestic violence victims are notified if their alleged abusers come within a certain distance.

In Clark County, the service is provided by 2 Watch Monitoring. Defendants pay a $100 setup fee and $20 a day, Cognata wrote. Imposing GPS monitoring for six months would cost her client approximately $3,700 while a year would cost approximately $7,200.

For clients such as hers, who are given court-appointed attorneys because a judge finds they cannot afford to hire one, paying thousands of dollars for post-plea monitoring would often be impossible, Cognata wrote.

“There is no statutory authority to impose GPS monitoring post-plea,” Cognata wrote. “The agreed upon sentence was an offer for credit for time served, which totaled 34 days in jail. GPS monitoring was not a condition imposed in lieu of earned release time or imposed as part of his sentence, but instead an additional condition of his sentence. The protected parties in this case received the benefit of GPS monitoring while (her client) was out of custody and his charge was pending. Now that he has served his sentence, he should not continue to be monitored for the entirety of his two-year probation. Post-plea, the victims in this matter will still be protected through anti-harassment orders and a no-contact order.”

If her client was ordered to pay for monitoring and unable to afford it, he would likely be penalized for violating probation and be sent back to jail. “This kind of outcome was not the intent of the legislature when this bill was created,” Cognata wrote.   

The assistant city attorney argued the court has broad discretion to impose conditions of probation, and that includes conditions meant to prevent the future commission of crimes.

During a Feb. 10 hearing Commissioner George found that the client’s indigency was good reason not to order monitoring and removed it as a condition of probation.  

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