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

Highberg wins assault trial

Attorney Gregger Highberg won a not-guilty verdict in Clark County District Court for a client accused of assaulting a roommate.

The May 24 verdict meant his 25-year-old client not only avoided a conviction for misdemeanor assault, but was able to accept a job offer that had been pending the outcome of her case.

At the time of her arrest, the client had been renting one floor of a three-floor townhome from the alleged victim and his wife. The alleged victim’s wife called 911 at approximately 11 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2020, and said her husband had been in an argument with their roommate and he was bleeding from his face.

Deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Highberg’s client, the alleged victim and his wife. They learned the alleged victim and his wife had been drinking all day, and our client had joined them in the evening. At some point Highberg’s client and the alleged victim started arguing; the client told deputies the alleged victim called her a racial slur and demanded she leave.

She said the alleged victim swung at her twice, missing both times, and in self-defense she picked up a bottle of Jameson Whiskey and threw it in his direction. She said she did not mean to hit him, but the bottle connected with his head, causing a laceration described as between one and two inches long. It ended up requiring five staples and he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Had Highberg’s client been convicted, the alleged victim could have asked to be reimbursed the cost of his medical bills.

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As District Court trials resume, Liss wins quick acquittal

Trials in Clark County District Court resumed this month after being on hold due to the pandemic, and attorney Stephen Liss wasted little time picking up a not-guilty verdict.

A jury needed only 15 minutes to deliberate after hearing the evidence in the March 10 trial.

Liss’ client was accused of domestic violence assault against his adult son. The client, 48, was arrested in November after his wife called 911 to report he had locked her out of the house and she had called their son, 29, to come over and help her get into the residence.

The wife, who did not show up to testify at trial, told the 911 dispatcher she wanted deputies to come because she said her son was “trying to detain” his father. When asked by the dispatcher if anyone had been assaulted she said no.

Arriving deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office found the father and son in the backyard. The father was on the ground and his son was sitting on top of him.

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State Supreme Court finds strict liability drug law unconstitutional

Washington lost the distinction of having one of the strictest drug laws in the nation on Thursday, when the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 decision, the state’s high court said the state’s strict liability law for felony drug possession went beyond the state’s policing power.

The ruling, State V. Blake, was in a case out of Spokane County. A defendant arrested for a non-drug crime was searched at the county jail, and a corrections officer found a small baggie of methamphetamine in a coin pocket of her jeans. At trial, she used a “those weren’t my pants” defense. Her attorney said it was a case of unwitting possession. The defendant testified a friend had given her the jeans two days prior to her arrest, and had bought them at a secondhand store.

Prosecutors did not prove that the defendant had known the drugs were in her pocket.

Under state law, possession of a controlled substance is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. A person found guilty can also be ordered to pay a substantial fine and, as a convicted felon, lose rights and opportunities, the court noted.

“This case presents an issue of first impression for the court,” wrote Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud in the majority opinion. “Does this strict liability drug possession statute with these substantial penalties for such innocent, passive conduct exceed the legislature’s police power? The due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions, along with controlling decisions of this court and the United States Supreme Court, compel us to conclude that the answer is yes – this exceeds the State’s police power.”

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Charge dismissed against protester

Attorney Daniel Mellen, who was appointed last year to represent one of the protesters arrested in downtown Vancouver, successfully argued earlier this month for the criminal charge to be dismissed.

His client, along with several other protesters, were arrested on Oct. 30 and charged with failure to disperse, a misdemeanor.

As reported at the time, the protests were in response to the fatal police shooting of Kevin E. Peterson, Jr.

In a pre-trial motion, Mellen argued the charge should be dismissed because prosecutors have insufficient evidence to prove a crime had been committed.

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Virtual court tips and links

For the foreseeable future, court appearances will be virtual. Here are some helpful tips and links:

1. For court appearances, you will need to download a free app, Zoom, either on your phone or computer. To download it, go here

2. If your case is being heard in Clark County District Court, on the day of your appearance find your name on the daily roster and click the meeting ID number, which is on the far right of the screen.

If you have a District Court hearing and you do not have a device on which you can download Zoom, you can call 1-888-788-0099 and enter your meeting ID number.

3. If your case is being heard in Clark County Superior Court, on the day of your appearance find your docket.  If you need to call in, use the phone number, meeting ID and password listed on the docket. 

4. Another useful, free app is Adobe Fill & Sign, which allows you to sign documents. There are different versions for different devices. Learn more about it here


Spencer wins DV assault trial

Attorney Marina Spencer won a not-guilty verdict Oct. 14 for a client accused of assaulting the mother of his child.

A jury deliberated an hour in Clark County District Court before unanimously deciding to acquit her client.

Fourth-degree assault domestic violence carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

As Spencer told jurors during closing arguments, the woman made the allegation when she was frustrated things weren't going her way in family law court. 

At the time of the alleged assault, the client’s ex-girlfriend had been trying for months to get the parenting plan amended in Superior Court.

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Lawhon wins DV assault trial

Attorney Andrew Lawhon won a trial this week in Clark County District Court for a client accused of domestic violence assault.

To hear the alleged victim’s 911 call, the case seemed solid for the prosecution: The woman sounded as if she was hyperventilating as she hysterically cried for help.

But hearing the whole story, as Lawhon told jurors during closing arguments of the Sept. 24 trial, recalled the idiom, “there’s no use in crying over spilled milk.”

In this case, swap cold coffee for milk.

Yes, the woman called 911 because her husband spilled cold coffee on her. He maintained it was an accident when he gestured with a cup in his hand.

The six-member jury deliberated approximately 30 minutes before returning the not-guilty verdict.

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Liss wins acquittal on reckless endangerment charge

Attorney Stephen Liss won a partial victory this month for a client charged with endangering her child by driving after drinking and getting into an accident.

On Sept. 16, a jury in Clark County District Court found his client not guilty of reckless endangerment following a one-day trial.

The jurors said they could not reach a unanimous decision on a charge of DUI. Jurors did convict the client of hit-and-run, one of the three misdemeanor charges she faced.

The acquittal on reckless endangerment was a key victory, as the client’s arrest on that charge led to a fight to keep custody of her daughter.

The charges stemmed from an incident on March 31, 2019, when the client was driving and rear-ended a truck that had been stopped at a light waiting to make a left turn. The client’s car slid under the truck’s bumper and sustained more damage than the truck.

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COVID-19 update

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 -

Our office remains closed to the public until further notice. If you need to speak to an attorney, please call our office at 360-906-7234. You may also find your attorney's email address if you click on the "clients" heading. Some of our attorneys are working from home but are available by email. 

Clark County Superior Court has issued this emergency order that details significant changes to the courts on pages 3-5. (UPDATE - This March 18, 2020 revised order has a more extensive list of canceled Superior Court dockets.) 

For information about Clark County District Court, read this announcment, which reads, in part, "All out of custody criminal dockets are cancelled. All trials are continued until after April 30, 2020. Defendants will receive notice of their rescheduled court date by mail."

Again, if you have any questions please call our office. 

Thank you,

Barrar Law



COVID-19 closures


Monday, March 16, 2020

Our office is closed to the public until further notice.

If you need to speak to your attorney, please call our office at 360-906-7234. 

Both Clark County District Court and Superior Court have been canceling some dockets. Please check the District Court and Superior Court websites for the latest information.  

If your court date has been canceled, your attorney will let you know when it is rescheduled. Please make sure your attorney has your current contact information. 

Again, please call our office with any questions. 

Thank you,

Barrar Law


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