Published on:

The Washington Constitution protects people from unlawful searches and seizures.  Article 1, section 7 has been interpreted by Washington courts to prohibit police from requesting identification of a passenger unless there is an independent basis for the request.  An independent basis exists if the officer can identify specific and articulable facts that, when taken with rational inferences, justify the request.  Washington criminal defense attorneys know that an unlawful search or seizure can occur in any kind of case, including a violation of a protection order.

gas stationIn a recent case, a Washington appeals court considered whether an officer had an independent basis to ask the identity of a passenger when the driver was protected by a no-contact order.  The defendant’s arrest arose from an incident in which an officer stopped a vehicle for expired registration and failure to transfer title.  A man got out of the vehicle before the officer approached.  The officer learned that the driver of the vehicle had several warrants.  He also learned she was the protected party in a domestic violence no-contact order.  The officer determined the description of the restrained party matched the passenger who had gotten out of the vehicle.  He found that the passenger was in the portable outdoor restroom of a nearby gas station.  The door to the restroom indicated it was unlocked and unoccupied.  He knocked and opened the door, finding the passenger inside.

The passenger gave the officer a name and date of birth that did not match the restrained party.  They then returned to the patrol vehicle, where the officer saw pictures of the man bearing the name given and the restrained party.  The officer determined that the passenger was the restrained party and arrested him for a violation of the no-contact order.

Continue reading

Published on:

The court must distribute the assets in a divorce if the couple does not reach an agreement as to distribution.  Certain property may be considered separate property.  In Washington, an asset is separate property if it is either acquired before the marriage, acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance, or acquired during the marriage with the traceable proceeds of separate property.  If property is acquired during the marriage, it is presumed to be community property.  Washington divorce attorneys know, however, that separate property may become community property in certain circumstances.

accounting-calculatorA Washington appeals court considered whether certain assets were separate or community property in a recent divorce case.  The husband appealed the distribution of property.

Both parties had worked and begun funding retirement prior to their marriage.  The husband had worked for the same employer for 20 years prior to the marriage, and he contributed to a 401(k) during that time.  He continued to work for the company and contribute to the 401(k) for two years after the marriage.  The company subsequently merged with another organization, and the husband lost his job.

Continue reading

Published on:

Personal injury cases are subject to a statute of limitations, and if the injured person does not bring a lawsuit prior to its expiration, he or she will be time-barred from doing so.  Washington car accident attorneys know that Washington law is a little more complicated than other states on this issue.  In Washington, the lawsuit is deemed commenced at the earlier of filing the complaint or serving a defendant with a summons.  Once one of these actions is achieved, the statute of limitations tolls for 90 days to allow the plaintiff to complete the other action.  If a defendant is not served within 90 days from the filing of the complaint, the action is deemed not to have commenced for the purposes of tolling the statute of limitations.  Likewise, if the plaintiff first served the defendant and does not file a complaint within 90 days, the lawsuit is deemed not to have commenced.  RCW 4.16.170.  Thus, in Washington, filing the complaint and serving a defendant are equally important in regard to the statute of limitations.  Even if the plaintiff files the complaint within the applicable period, the case may still be time-barred if he or she does not achieve service within 90 days of filing the complaint.

mailboxesA Washington appeals court recently considered whether a lawsuit had been timely commenced when the defendant argued the plaintiff had only served an improper defendant within the 90-day window.  The plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident with the defendant driver.  He filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver and the Washington company he alleged was the defendant driver’s employer.  The plaintiff served the employer.  He subsequently amended his complaint to add a Georgia company, which he also alleged to be the defendant driver’s employer.

The plaintiff attempted to serve the defendant driver by mail and through the Secretary of State, pursuant to the nonresident motorist statute.  The defendant driver ultimately filed an answer, denying the paragraph that alleged the named entity was his employer.  The defendant driver then filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the claim was barred by the statute of limitations because the plaintiff had failed to serve any proper defendant before the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations or within the 90-day tolling period after he filed his complaint.  The defendant driver argued that his employer was actually an Indiana corporation that had never been named in the lawsuit or served.

Published on:

A jury must base its decision on the evidence before the court and may not consider evidence outside the record.  While courts do their best to ensure that juries are properly instructed and not exposed to outside information, jurors still sometimes consider extrinsic information in robbery and other theft cases.  When this happens, a Washington robbery defense attorney may seek a new trial for his or her client.

SignSuch was the case recently, when a jury was exposed to a video that had not been admitted into evidence at trial.  The defendant was charged with second-degree robbery of a restaurant.  Police apprehended him at the end of an alley about five blocks away shortly after the robbery.  There were shoe prints in the alley matching the defendant’s shoes.  He had a roll of pennies on him and just a few dollars more than what had been taken.  The robber’s shirt was found in a garbage can along the alley.  The employee, however, did not think the defendant was the robber.

There were three videos from inside the store and another that captured the parking lot.  The outside video also showed the robber walking out of the building in the general direction of the alley.  All four videos were put onto a DVD admitted as a prosecution exhibit.  However, just the videos inside the store were admitted at trial.  The prosecution did not have a witness to establish a foundation for the exterior video, so it was withdrawn after the defense objected.  The existence of the exterior video came out at trial when the defense asked an officer about not having watched it.

Published on:

The modification of a Washington parenting plan over the other parent’s objection can be difficult.  In fact, there is a presumption against it.  Washington child custody attorneys know that Washington courts have recognized that children have a strong interest in finality in their living arrangements.  Courts will not disturb the residential arrangements in a parenting plan over a parent’s objection unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances, and the modification is in the child’s best interest.  The court must deny a motion to modify unless it finds adequate cause to hear the motion.

boxA recent case explored the issue of adequate cause.  The father petitioned to modify the parenting plan.  He and his former wife had two children together.  In the parenting plan, the mother was designated as the residential parent, and the father was given residential time with the kids on alternating weekends, winter breaks, mid-winter breaks, and spring breaks.  He was also given residential time during half of the holidays.

The parents cooperated on parenting after the divorce, spending holidays together.  The mother began a relationship with another man in 2012, and the father remarried.

Continue reading

Published on:

Washington defendants are entitled to a unanimous jury verdict.  Washington criminal defense attorneys know, however, that this general rule can become complicated when there are multiple acts underlying the charges.  If multiple acts could each form the basis of a charge, and the state presents evidence of each, either the state must elect which act is the basis of the charge, or the jury must be instructed on unanimity.  If the multiple acts are all part of a continuing course of conduct, there is no requirement for an election or instruction.  Additionally, multiple acts may be presented as alternative means of committing the crime.  If there is sufficient evidence to support each means, express unanimity is not required.  A Washington appeals court recently addressed these issues in a case in which a man was charged with residential burglary after allegedly violating a no-contact order and assaulting his wife.

handcuffsThe defendant was charged with three counts of felony violation of a court order, along with two assault charges, residential burglary, and third-degree malicious mischief.  The charges stemmed from allegations that the defendant violated a no-contact order and assaulted his wife, sister, and mother. The defendant and his wife were separated, and she had obtained a no-contact order that prohibited him from coming within 1,000 feet of her or her home.  The defendant had several misdemeanor convictions for violating the order.

The defendant’s wife testified that he came to her home twice in April 2015, but he left when she called the police.  He came back in July 2015 and came in through the back door.  She testified that he was intoxicated and called her names.  She also testified that he kicked her, threw her on the couch, and struck her.  The defendant’s parents and sister lived with his wife.  The defendant started to leave when his sister told him she was calling the police.  She grabbed his shirt to stop him, and he bit her hand until she kicked him.  He pushed his mother to the ground and stepped on her chest as he left.

Published on:

Under Washington law, a driver intending to turn left at an intersection must yield to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard.  This rule seems fairly straightforward and suggests that the vehicle turning left will usually be at fault in an accident in an intersection.  Seattle car accident attorneys know, however, that the law is not that simple, and the facts of a particular accident may mean that the driver of the vehicle turning left is not liable for the accident.

traffic lightA recent case illustrates how the driver turning left is not always found to be at fault.  In this case, the plaintiff was on a motorcycle in the curbside lane traveling south.  This lane was a right-turn-only lane for vehicles other than buses.  There were a total of three southbound lanes.

The defendant was traveling north.  When the defendant reached the intersection, there was traffic in the two southbound through lanes, but they had left a gap for vehicles to turn left.  The defendant entered the intersection to make her left turn.  As she was making the turn, she saw the plaintiff in the curb lane.  She stopped in front of the southbound through lanes, before reaching the curb lane.

Continue reading

Published on:

Drug possession, manufacture, or sale that occurs in certain public places carries enhanced penalties under Washington law. Prison time or fines may be as much as double as what is otherwise allowed. Under RCW 69.50.435, locations that can result in sentencing enhancements include schools, school buses, public parks, certain public housing projects, public transit vehicles and public transit vehicle stop shelters, and certain civic centers and the surrounding areas.  Seattle drug crime attorneys understand the importance of location in drug cases.  Additionally, the statute allows for an enhancement if the offense occurs within a specified distance from school grounds or a school bus route stop.

school busA defendant recently challenged a jury’s verdict related to an enhancement.  He argued the state had not sufficiently proved that the location fell within the statutory definition for the enhancement.

A police officer found methamphetamine and paraphernalia in the defendant’s vehicle following a routine traffic stop.  The defendant was charged with possession with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school bus route stop. A school district employee testified a school bus route stop was located within 1,000 feet from the location where the officer first saw the defendant’s vehicle.  He also testified that a school bus carrying preschool students used that stop.

Continue reading

Published on:

teddy bearWashington child custody rules do not favor modifying parenting plans to decrease visitation.  A court may, however, modify a parenting plan if it finds, based on information that occurred after the decree or that was unknown to the court at the time, that there has been a substantial change that makes a modification necessary to serve the child’s best interests.  RCW 26.09.260.  Additionally, restrictions or limitations may be appropriate when certain circumstances are present.  A court may, for example, preclude or limit a provision in the parenting plan if the parent’s involvement is not in the child’s best interest, and one or more specified factors are present.  Those factors include neglect, long-term impairment, and withholding access to the child from the other parent.  Additionally, one of the listed factors is essentially any other factor the court finds to be adverse to the child’s best interests.  RCW 26.09.194.  Even when a court does place limitations or restrictions on visitation, it may put something in place to allow the parent to work toward resuming regular visitation.  This process may include working with a counselor or therapist to ensure that resumption of the visitation is in the child’s best interest.

A mother recently challenged a court’s restriction on her visitation on a number of grounds, including the engagement of a counselor to make recommendations on reinstating visitation.  The previous parenting plan ordered the daughter to reside with her father and visit her mother every other weekend.

The mother petitioned for increased visitation when she married several years later.  The father petitioned to decrease her visitation, alleging physical and emotional abuse of the daughter, domestic violence in the mother’s home, and abusive use of conflict.  The trial court granted the father’s petition and suspended the mother’s visitation for 45 days.

Continue reading

Published on:

In Washington, a domestic violence protection order restraining a parent from contacting his or her children is generally limited to one year, RCW 26.50.060, but Washington civil protection order attorneys know that there are exceptions to this limitation.  One such exception is when the order is issued under Chapter 26.09, RCW, Dissolution Proceedings – Legal Separation.  This issue was before a Washington court of appeals in a recent case.

planeThe wife was an American citizen who married an Egyptian citizen in Egypt.  The couple had a son together.   The wife stated her husband frequently abused her physically, verbally, and emotionally.  She stated he controlled what she wore and sometimes confined her and the child to the apartment.  She stated he hit her in front of the child.  The husband disputed the allegations but admitted to slapping her at least one time.

The husband became angry with his wife, took the child’s passport, and told his wife she had to leave Egypt within three days without her son.  The wife went to the U.S. Embassy and obtained an emergency passport for the son and assistance in leaving Egypt safely with her son.

Continue reading