Blog

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

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