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

Client found not guilty violating no-contact order

Whitney Hawke recently successfully defended a client against charges he twice violated a no-contact order by calling his girlfriend from jail.

Violation of a no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail; a conviction for the crime can also preclude people from legally possessing firearms.

The March 24 trial in Clark County District Court appeared to be a slam-dunk case for the prosecution.

A Vancouver police detective assigned to the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center wrote in his probable cause declaration that he was listening to recordings of phone calls made by inmates at the Clark County Jail as part of his daily duties when he heard a call between an inmate and who he assumed was the inmate’s girlfriend. He knew there was a no-contact order, and he checked a discovered a second call between the inmate and the woman. The calls were made from the inmate’s assigned account to a residence where he had been living with his girlfriend.

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Woman acquitted of assaulting ex-husband

Attorney Katie Kauffman won a not-guilty verdict for a client accused of assaulting her ex-husband.

Gregger Highberg, the newest attorney at our firm, gained experience by assisting Kauffman during the March 23 trial in Clark County District Court.

Kauffman’s client has no criminal history. She was arrested in December after her she called 911 to report that her ex-husband was getting violent. The client has full custody of their son and daughter; she filed for divorce after her husband pleaded guilty in 2011 to child molestation in the third degree and was sentenced to prison. (The victim in that case was a young teenage girl, not one of the couple’s children.)

In December, she went to her ex’s apartment because he had told her he had some presents for their son. Then he refused to give them to her. She called 911 twice. The first time, she told the dispatcher that she was trying to pick up her son’s belongings and her son’s father wouldn’t give them to her. The second call, she clearly sounded panicked and said her ex is getting violent and that she tried to push him away from her and he told her she would be going to jail because he had scratches on his arm.

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Felony assault charges dismissed; mother hopeful she'll regain custody of daughter

This morning, attorney Katie Kauffman called a client with the best possible news: Her criminal case is being dismissed. A deputy prosecuting attorney acknowledged to Kauffman she did not have sufficient evidence to prove the client abused her infant daughter. The charges will be formally dismissed in court March 21. 

It was more than two years ago, in January 2015, when the client took her then-1-month-old baby daughter to the emergency room because her left leg was badly swollen. The baby was diagnosed with a broken leg. A doctor at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center didn’t believe the injury was consistent with the client’s story of what happened. Vancouver police officers responded and referred the case to the Children’s Justice Center – a multiagency office that includes attorneys from the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office -- and Child Protective Services.

The client, who has no criminal history, was charged with second-degree assault of a child, a felony that carries a sentence of at least 31 months (2 1/2 years) in prison.  The charges were filed the same month she brought her child to the hospital; it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to wait months to receive more evidence before making such a serious decision.  The client, a young mother who lives with her grandparents, lost custody of her daughter, who went into foster care. In the past two years, the client has only been allowed to see her daughter once a week during supervised two-hours-long visits.

The case was scheduled for trial this month.

Understandably, Kauffman’s client burst into tears this morning and asked if this means she gets to bring her child home. Kauffman explained that will be up to the judge overseeing the dependency case, but since that case has been tracking the criminal case, it’s likely she will regain custody.

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Client found not guilty of assault in DV case

Washington has a mandatory domestic violence arrest law, meaning law enforcement officers don’t have discretion. If they have probable cause to believe that a crime may have occurred, they must make an arrest.

From that point, it’s difficult to get prosecutors to dismiss the case – even when the evidence is incredibly weak.

For example, jurors on March 8 needed only 30 minutes before they unanimously voted to acquit one of attorney Allison Widney’s clients in Clark County District Court.

Her client had been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault domestic violence and one count fourth degree assault non-domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

He was accused of assaulting the mother of his three children and her mother.

The prosecution’s case was weak to start with, but an assistant city attorney from the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center took it to trial even with the knowledge one of the alleged victims wasn’t going to show up to testify.

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Mother acquitted of assaulting adult daughter

A Vancouver mother was found not guilty this week in Clark County District Court of assaulting her adult daughter. Attorneys Katie Kauffman and Ross Meyers successfully argued that the mother acted in self-defense.

The panel of six jurors deliberated approximately 90 minutes on Feb. 9 before unanimously voting to acquit.

The daughter and her three children had been living with her mother last fall when she called 911 to report that she’d been assaulted. When police officers responded, our client was asked whether she’d been assaulted too and she only said, “That’s my daughter.”

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Prosecutor's case implodes after alleged victim recants

Attorney Hannah McCausland won a not-guilty verdict last week for a client, but she said she didn’t really have to do much other than wait while the prosecution’s case imploded.

Her client was arrested for harassment after his girlfriend accused him of threatening her, but at trial on Feb. 3 in Clark County District Court she said she lied to police officers because she was upset he wanted to take their newborn baby to his mother’s house. After officers explained to her that the baby’s father was within his rights to take the baby to his mother’s house, she accused him of making threats so officers would arrest him.

McCausland’s client denied making the threats, but he was arrested and charged with harassment, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail. 

For a person to be charged with harassment, the victim has to be in reasonable fear the threat would be carried out. The girlfriend told police her boyfriend had previously assaulted her and she was scared he’d do it again. She also wrote out those allegations in a statement that she signed under penalty of perjury.

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Another win for attorney Whitney Hawke

Attorney Whitney Hawke successfully defended a client this week against accusations he assaulted his girlfriend.

A jury deliberated 35 minutes on Wednesday in Clark County District Court before unanimously voting to acquit Hawke’s client, who testified that the argument was only verbal and not physical.

While the alleged victim claimed her boyfriend ripped off two of her fake fingernails and pulled her hair, an independent witness told jurors she saw the couple arguing but backed up the defendant’s story that he never touched his girlfriend.

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Did a Clark County prosecutor overstep his bounds? Maybe, says the Court of Appeals

The Washington Court of Appeals this month cleared the way for the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to be sued for false arrest and false imprisonment.

The ruling reversed Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson, who last year tossed a family’s lawsuit against Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik on the grounds that the prosecutor’s office had absolute immunity from liability stemming from a 2014 arrest of a mother for attempted murder. (The criminal charge was subsequently dismissed, and the family, represented by attorney Roger Bennett, sued the county.)

The Court of Appeals based its reversal on a “dispute of material fact as to whether the prosecutor’s office was acting within the scope of its normal prosecutorial function,” according to the Jan. 17 decision.

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Multiple felonies reduced to single misdemeanor

Attorney Katie Kauffman’s client was facing 10 years to life in prison if convicted on the felony domestic violence charges leveled against him earlier this year: first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, stalking and felony violation of a no-contact order.

The most serious charge was first-degree kidnapping. A conviction requires the defendant to go before the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board at the end of a court-ordered prison term, and the board members can decide to keep the person in prison for life.

Instead, Kauffman’s client was released this week from the Clark County Jail.

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No defense necessary

Occasionally you can win just by going to trial and forcing the state to prove its case – no defense necessary.

That’s what happened Wednesday to attorney Neil Anderson, who got his client’s misdemeanor domestic violence assault and harassment charges dismissed with prejudice (meaning charges can’t be refiled) because the prosecution was unable to get a witness to show up to testify.

A Clark County District Court judge granted the dismissal after refusing an assistant city attorney’s request to extend the trial to a second day. The prosecutor needed a Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) employee to lay the proper foundation to introduce a 911 call into evidence, but nobody from the agency was available. 

Anderson had a strong defense. His client’s stepson called 911 and said his stepfather and threatened to kill him and his new puppy. The stepson also said he believes that his stepfather had hit his mother, but he couldn’t be sure because he was in his bedroom and his stepfather and mother were arguing in the kitchen.

However, the stepson recanted during a pre-trial defense interview. He said he made up the allegations because he was tired of hearing his stepfather yell at his mother.

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