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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.”

The 911 caller didn’t know the name of the woman with the shovel at a neighbor’s home, but several of our attorneys would have recognized her as a frequent client. She’s medically frail, tends to drink too much and get into situations where police are called.

In the latest incident, the responding Vancouver police officer noted that when he contacted the “elderly female” he could “smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath.” The owner of the home arrived and said the woman was her mother, whom she had evicted because her drinking had gotten out of control. The officer asked the woman’s daughter if she noticed any new damage to her home, and she said yes, the wood framing on a set of French doors had been peeled away. The mother admitted to the officer that she did it. She was arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail.

Her criminal history includes convictions for criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and bail jump. Rather than just plead her out, attorney Jeff Barrar was going to force the prosecution to prove its case. Barrar ended up having two trials set on the same day, so attorney Hannah McCausland took this case to a bench trial. The prosecution couldn't prove its case because the daughter didn’t show up to testify. An assistant city attorney – a different one from the one who refused to dismiss the case earlier – dismissed the malicious mischief and the bail jump charges.

McCausland asked her client if she would have any place to go after she’s released from custody, then learned there was a silver lining to the woman spending so much time in jail. A custody officer from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office told McCausland that housing for the woman had been prearranged.

Clark County Jail Chief Ric Bishop said Friday that they didn’t want to release the woman and risk her going to her daughter’s house, where she would be in violation of a no-contact order. He said they made plans for the woman to be taken by ambulance to a hospital, and then placed in an adult care facility as part of the jail’s offender re-entry program. 

Tags: criminal law, Clark County, malicious mischief

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