Blog

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

Homeless client gets criminal charges dismissed, gains housing

Criminal charges were dismissed Friday against a woman in her early 70s with a host of medical issues after the alleged victim in the case -- the woman’s daughter --  failed to appear for trial in Clark County District Court.

An assistant city attorney from the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center should have known the victim, who has a criminal history, wasn’t going to appear for trial, but he refused to dismiss the case. While awaiting her Sept. 8 trial our hearing-impaired and mobility-impaired client was housed in the medical unit of the Clark County Jail for 54 days.

At the cost of $83.02 a day, her stay cost taxpayers approximately $4,500.

The woman was charged with malicious mischief in the third-degree domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor. She was released the day following her June 1 arrest, then picked up in July on a warrant and held without bail for missing a court hearing and failing to submit urine samples or take monitored doses of Antabuse.

On June 1, she was described to a 911 dispatcher as “a little old lady” who was “banging on the door of the residence with a shovel.”

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Lawhon wins acquittal in negligent driving case

Attorney Andrew Lawhon won a trial in Clark County District Court this week for a client charged with negligent driving in the first degree.

In November, his client was driving on Northeast 117th Street in Salmon Creek in the middle of the night when she lost control of her vehicle on a curve and hit a fence. She knocked on the door and spoke to the homeowner, who has lived at the residence for 50 years.

The homeowner testified at the Aug. 31 trial that there have been many such accidents in that same spot, and when she heard the noise she knew immediately what had happened and got up and called 911.

A responding deputy with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office noted that the driver “had a mild odor” of intoxicants, but the homeowner testified she didn’t smell any alcohol on the driver and the driver didn’t appear to be impaired.

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Kauffman slaps down charge of violation of a no-contact order

A jury deliberated about 45 minutes Wednesday before handing attorney Katie Kauffman another victory in Clark County District Court.

Her client in the Aug. 30 trial was charged with violation of a no-contact order, which can be a difficult charge to defend because it boils down to two questions: Was there a valid court order? Was the person found with the protected party?

In this case, however, the client’s ex-girlfriend testified that she and her ex-boyfriend both thought the order had been lifted and that was enough for the jury to acquit Kauffman's client. 

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Felony trial abruptly ends with dismissal

Attorney Hannah McCausland won a dismissal this week for a client charged with prescription forgery after a pharmacist testified her client was not the person who came in and gave her a fake prescription, bringing the trial to an abrupt end.

The client had been charged with forged prescription for a controlled substance, a class C felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Trial was Aug. 28 in Clark County Superior Court.

McCausland asked for an “offer of proof,” which is done outside the presence of the jury, to make sure the pharmacist had the right person. The pharmacist said yes, that she had selected her client’s photograph from among the six mug shots shown to her by a detective with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Upon seeing McCausland’s client in court, however, she could say definitively that he was not the person who came into the pharmacy.

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Priest wins acquittal in assault trial

Attorney Roger Priest won an acquittal this week in Clark County District Court for a client charged with assaulting his former brother-in-law.

Priest’s client had been temporarily living with his former brother-in-law. He was asked to move out, and he agreed to leave April 1. On March 30, his former brother-in-law confronted him over buying groceries, saying he shouldn’t be buying them if he’s moving out in two days. The client said he only bought a container of coffee creamer.

During the Aug. 24 trial the alleged victim told the jury that the defendant pushed him, and then went to his bedroom. He said he followed him and told him to move out immediately. He said then the defendant “jumped him” and punched him in the head. The alleged victim’s fiancée broke up the fight, and the alleged victim grabbed a baseball bat. He said the defendant went after his fiancée, but he threatened him with the bat and called police.

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Work group to study indigent defense proposal

Proposed changes to how Clark County structures felony indigent defense services have been put on hold indefinitely, and a work group will study the issue, councilors agreed this week.

In July, attorneys who contract with the county to represent indigent defendants were told that the county was going to be hiring two defense attorneys who, along with the current indigent defense coordinator, would handle approximately 14 percent of the felony cases.

The county council had yet to discuss the proposal, however, and during a subsequent work session, councilors expressed concerns.

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Council in no rush to make decision on indigent defense proposal

The Clark County Council heard more details Wednesday about a proposal to hire two defense attorneys to help with the felony indigent caseload, but didn’t reach any type of agreement.

Chairman Marc Boldt said they will continue the conversation during their Aug. 23 board time meeting.

Indigent Defense Manager Ann Christian and Bob Stevens, the county's director of general services, have proposed hiring two staff defense attorneys who, with Indigent Defense Coordinator Angela Colaiuta, would do felony work. They would have one part-time legal assistant. Stevens said Wednesday that Colaiuta would only spend a quarter of her time handling cases, and together the three attorneys would account for 14 percent of the felony caseload. 

Wednesday’s work session was scheduled after councilors appeared to be caught off-guard by the original request and wanted more information, even after an initial discussion. About a dozen attorneys who have contracts with the county showed up to the work session, and the few who spoke -- Jeff Sowder, Heather Carroll and Therese Lavallee -- assured the councilors that, contrary to what they’ve been told by Christian and Stevens, there are plenty of attorneys willing to do the work.

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Boss won a trial

Attorney Jeffrey Barrar recently won a trial in Clark County District Court.

A jury needed only about 15 minutes to deliberate before unanimously voting to acquit Barrar’s client of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

About three months ago, Barrar’s client’s girlfriend called 911 and told a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend, who was arrested and had to spend the weekend in the Clark County Jail before he could see a judge and be released pending trial.

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Kauffman wins another "not guilty" verdict

Attorney Katie Kauffman won an acquittal this week for a client and the stakes were extra high, as a criminal conviction could have created immigration problems for her client. 

A jury deliberated about 30 minutes on Aug. 3 at the end of a daylong trial in Clark County District Court. 

Kauffman's client was charged with assault in the fourth degree domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. It's also an offense for which a person can be deported, and would have precluded her client from becoming a U.S. citizen. 

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Council schedules work session to discuss creating public defender's office

Update: At the request of county staff, the work session has been set over one week, to 1 p.m. Aug. 16 in conference room 698 at the Public Service Center.

The Clark County Council has scheduled a work session to further explore the idea of creating a small public defender's office. 

The session, which is open to the public, will be 1 p.m. Aug. 9 in conference room 698 at the Public Service Center. Councilors don't typically take public testimony at work sessions. Instead, it's a time for them to ask questions of staff members. 

Defense attorneys who have contracts with the county to represent people who qualify for court-appointed counsel were initially told July 12 that the council was expected to approve the proposal and it would be effective Sept. 1. The issue hadn't yet been discussed with the council, however, and during a July 19 meeting the five members of the board said they wanted a work session and hear more about the proposal before advancing it to a public hearing and putting it to a vote. 

The Columbian recently had an article on the proposal, and Chairman Marc Boldt said he and other councilors are wary of creating new staff positions.

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