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A Washington criminal conviction can have significant and lasting consequences. Convictions may result in greater sentences for subsequent offenses, the loss of firearm rights, and the loss of voting rights.  In some circumstances, some rights may be restored.  In a recent case, a man who had lost his firearm rights following a felony conviction was denied restoration based on a prior misdemeanor possession conviction.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the petitioner was convicted of misdemeanor possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana under former RCW 69.50.401(e), a strict liability offense, in 2003.  The following year, he pleaded guilty to felony manufacturing methamphetamine. The judgment and sentence stated the maximum penalty was 10 years and did not list his prior conviction.  The petitioner lost the right to use or possess firearms as a result of the 2004 felony conviction.

The petitioner sought restoration of his firearm rights in 2020.  The state argued he was not eligible for restoration because the maximum sentence should have been 20 years instead of the state 10 years.  The state argued the 2003 conviction automatically triggered the doubling provision of RCW 69.50.408. RCW 69.50.408 allows the doubling of a sentence for a conviction under Chapter 69.50, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, if the defendant had a prior conviction under Chapter 69.50 or a federal or another state’s law related to narcotics, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, or hallucinogenic drugs.

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In a Washington divorce, a party who claims an asset is separate property must show it qualifies as separate property by clear and convincing evidence. If separate property becomes commingled with community property to the extent it is impossible to distinguish it, then it becomes community property.  In a recent case, a husband challenged the trial court’s distribution of property, arguing the certain assets could not be sufficiently traced to retain their separate character.

The parties were married for nearly 32 years when they separated in January 2018. They owned nine rental properties.  The wife argued she made the down payments for three of the properties from her inheritance from her father’s death.  She claimed she had a traceable separate property interest in those properties.

Her inheritance had been deposited into a joint savings account where community funds had been deposited.  The funds in the account were sometimes used for community expenses.  The wife testified the account was used infrequently so the inheritance “was kind of kept separate in there.” She testified she had wanted to keep her inheritance as separate property, but was concerned putting it in a separate account would look like she was not trying to work things out after a recent reconciliation.

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Community supervision and probation are often preferable to confinement, but some people can find it difficult to comply with their times at times. Additionally, the requirements for the state to prove a violation of such terms do not require the same level of proof as would be required for new Washington criminal charges.  In a recent case, a juvenile challenged the constitutionality of RCW 13.40.200 because of the burden of proof it requires for violations.

The juvenile offender was 13 years old when she pleaded guilty to fourth degree assault. She was sentenced to 3 days of confinement, 12 months of community supervision, and 16 hours of community service. She violated the community supervision conditions multiple times.

After four violation hearings and 61 days of additional confinement, she contested allegations she had failed to go to school and follow rules and curfew. She moved to challenge the constitutionality of RCW 13.40.200. RCW 13.40.200 sets forth the procedure and punishment for a juvenile offender’s failure to comply with an order for community supervision. She argued section (2) of the statute violates due process because it requires the juvenile to disprove the willfulness of the violation.  She also argued section 3 allows for the imposition of confinement based on a preponderance standard until the maximum adult sentence.  She argued the state should prove all elements of a willful violation beyond a reasonable doubt once the offender’s confinement exceeds the standard range.

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Students involved in a Washington Title IX case often wish to remain anonymous.  Title IX lawsuits are often brought under pseudonyms such as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.” In some cases, however, a court may not allow a plaintiff to proceed with the lawsuit anonymously.

A Michigan federal court has reportedly dismissed a student’s Title IX case against his university because it was filed anonymously.  According to the court, the university suspended the plaintiff from its football team after he was accused of sexual assault by another student.  He sued the university, alleging it violated his Title IX rights.

The plaintiff filed the suit as “John Doe” and sought the court’s permission to proceed anonymously.

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In some Washington drug cases, a court may impose alternative sentencing if doing so is in the defendant’s and community’s best interests. Defendants may be eligible for a drug offender sentencing alternative (“DOSA”) if they meet certain conditions under RCW 9.94A.660(1). One of the conditions is that the defendant may not have received a DOSA “more than once in the prior ten years. . .” RCW 9.94A.660(1)(g).   If the high end of the standard sentence range for the offense is greater than one year, the court may order prison-based DOSA, in which the defendant serves half of the standard range sentence in prison and the other half in the community with treatment. RCW 9.94A.662(2). The court may revoke the DOSA sentence if the defendant does not comply with its requirements. RCW 9.94A.660(2).

In a recent case, a defendant appealed his sentence after the sentencing court found him ineligible for a DOSA. In 2016, the defendant received separate DOSA sentences resulting from guilty verdicts in two separate trials, but the sentences were made to run concurrently. He completed the DOSA for those charges in June 2020.

On June 17 of the same year, the defendant was arrested following a reported burglary at a store.  The police did not find the stolen merchandise in the defendant’s vehicle, but did find less than half a gram of methamphetamine in his pocket.

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Many people consider their pets to be part of the family, but the law often treats pets as personal property.  In a recent case, a husband challenged court-ordered visitation with the dogs awarded to him in his divorce decree.

The parties, who had been married for about 27 years, had two dogs at the time of the divorce. They referred to the dogs as “[t]he babies” and regularly texted about them. When the wife moved out into a motor home, the dogs remained in the marital home with the husband.  The wife visited them several times a week.

The husband petitioned for legal separation at the end of August, 2018. In her answer, the wife asked the court to dissolve the marriage and requested at least 10 hours per week visitation with the dogs and the right of first refusal for their care.  She also asked that the parties split costs for the dogs. The commissioner’s temporary orders only ordered the wife to pay half of the dogs’ grooming and veterinary bills, but otherwise did not address the dogs.  She kept visiting them several times per week.

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A suspension or other sanctions imposed by a university as the result of a Title IX accusation can have severe consequences for the accused student.  In some cases, it may be possible to prevent such sanctions, or at least delay them. An Indiana court recently issued a temporary restraining order against a university restraining it from suspending a male student or imposing other sanctions or restrictions against him following a Title IX complaint and investigation.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged a large number of procedural errors in the university’s handling of a Title IX complaint against him, including violations of Title IX regulations and the university’s own policies and procedures.  His complaint included allegations of issues in the investigation, hearing, and the appeal process. He alleged the university did not disclose the details of the complaint against him or produce copies of certain evidence. The plaintiff also alleged the university hired individuals from an outside company with a conflict of interest to act as decision-makers, while the university’s policy defined “Decision-Makers” as “members of the three-person panel of trained faculty, staff, and/or administrative officials . . . .”

The plaintiff also alleged the complainant was allowed to testify at the hearing about alleged sexual assaults by the plaintiff against others, alleged rape by the plaintiff, and alleged nonconsensual sexual interactions between the plaintiff and others. The plaintiff alleged the decision-makers did not stop the irrelevant testimony and in fact the Hearing Officer asked questions related to those topics.  The plaintiff alleged the Hearing Officer asked questions that were prohibited by the university’s policy and applicable regulations. The plaintiff also alleged the hearing Officer relied on the complainant’s and her roommate’s testimony about photos that were not in evidence.  His lawsuit also identified numerous alleged issues with how the university processed his appeal.

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The Washington legislature recently passed legislation that makes significant changes to Washington civil protection order law. The legislation expressed an intent to clarify and simplify civil protection laws, in part to provide greater access to protection orders and the related court processes.  To further this goal, the new legislation consolidates the six types of civil protection orders into one chapter of the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”).  The laws relating to the different types of orders were previously scattered in multiple chapters of the RCW.

The new legislation also requires the administrative office of the courts to review the different approaches to jurisdiction for the different types of protection orders and evaluate “whether jurisdiction should be harmonized, modified, or consolidated. . . .”  This review is to be done through the state supreme court’s gender and justice commission with support from the state women’s commission.

The new laws also require the administrative office of the courts to develop a single form that may be used for five of the types of civil protection orders, excluding only extreme risk protection orders. Courts will be required to allow petitions to be submitted electronically. Superior courts must meet this requirement by January 1, 2021 and all courts of limited jurisdiction must do so by January 1, 2026. Courts must also implement electronic tracking of the case by the petitioner and respondent within that same timeframe.

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A court must appoint a guardian ad litem when a party to an action is incapacitated and does not have a guardian.  RCW 4.08.060.  In In re Marriage of Gannon, the Washington Supreme Court held that a guardian or guardian ad litem may pursue a Washington divorce on behalf of an incompetent ward if it is in the ward’s best interests, noting that never allowing divorce to be pursued on behalf of the incompetent spouse would allow the competent spouse “absolute, final control over the marriage” and such a result was “not equitable.”  The trial court must hold a hearing to determine whether dissolution is in the ward’s best interest.

In a recent unpublished case, an appeals court considered whether the trial court properly granted a divorce.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties married in 1989.  The husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. The parties started having arguments, including a physical altercation in 2016. The wife testified that she told the husband she was afraid he would kill her if she stayed with him. A neighbor testified the husband came to his house and said he could not go home because he was afraid he would be killed.  The neighbor testified the husband asked him to call the police.  The police arrested the wife.

The husband’s children tried to obtain a vulnerable adult protection order, but were unsuccessful. The wife requested a Guardian Ad Litem for her husband, stating she wanted to maintain their finances and control over his healthcare decisions.  The husband signed a durable power of attorney for healthcare and durable power of finances. He stated he wanted a divorce.

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Juvenile cases are sometimes transferred to adult criminal court.  The requirements regarding a court holding a hearing on the issue of declining jurisdiction are set forth in RCW 13.40.110.  An appeals court recently considered whether Washington juvenile court jurisdiction could be waived for any type of case, or if the court’s authority was limited to the types of cases identified in the statute as eligible for a decline hearing.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, a 17-year-old juvenile was charged with two counts of a gross misdemeanor, fourth degree assault.  He moved to have the case moved to adult criminal court, partly to have a jury trial and an opportunity to vacate his convictions.  He argued a juvenile court may decline jurisdiction over a criminal case if the juvenile intelligently makes an express waiver pursuant to RCW 13.40.140(10). RCW 13.40.140(10) provides that any waiver of a juvenile’s rights must be “express” and “intelligently made.” The state argued that a juvenile court is only permitted to decline jurisdiction in cases in which a decline hearing is required.

The court granted the request and the state requested discretionary review.

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