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Washington self-defense is an affirmative defense. A person may lawfully use force when they are about to be injured to prevent or try to prevent an offense against their person, when the force used is not more than necessary.  RCW 9A.16.020(3).  Force is necessary when there does not appear to be a reasonably effective alternative and the force used is reasonable to the lawful purpose.  RCW 9A.16.010(1).  A juvenile recently appealed his adjudication of guilt of second degree assault, claiming the state failed to disprove he acted in self-defense.

The appeals court’s unpublished opinion stated the juvenile got into a verbal altercation at school with another juvenile, identified by the appeals court’s opinion, as “J.S.” The juvenile called the other student a homophobic slur.  J.S. filed an incident report at the office.

They had a second altercation in the courtyard later that day.  The juvenile again called the other student a homophobic slur.  The other student advanced toward the juvenile.  The juvenile tried to walk away.  The juvenile started recording on his phone. The juvenile extended his arm as the other student approached, and the other student slapped him.  They both went to the ground. The other student was on top and started hitting the juvenile. The other student did not have or threaten to use a weapon, but the juvenile pulled a knife from his pocket and stabbed the other student six times in eight seconds.  The juvenile had not responded by pushing or hitting back, but just stabbed the other student.  The two did not really know each other and had not spoken before the altercations.

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To convict a defendant in a Washington criminal case, the state must prove every element of the crime, including any knowledge intent element.  In a recent unpublished case, a defendant challenged whether the state had sufficiently proven he had the requisite knowledge to support a first degree possession of stolen property conviction.

The sheriff’s office got a search warrant for the defendant’s vehicle and a deputy later stopped him.  They took the defendant into custody and his car was impounded.  On the lanyard with the vehicle key was a key to a storage unit.  Deputies obtained a warrant for that storage unit to search for stolen property.  They found a John Deere GPS device and antenna with a market value between $11,000 to $11,500.

The defendant was charged with possession of stolen property in the first degree and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree, but the state dropped the trafficking charge before trial.

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When a court enters a Washington child support order, it begins by determining the standard calculation according to RCW 26.19.020.  The standard calculation is the presumptive amount owed.  The court then allocates the child support between the parent’s based on their respective share of the combined monthly net income. The trial court may deviate from the standard calculation based on various factors, including income, expenses and debt, and the residential schedule.  In a recent case, a father challenged a court order, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for deviation.

The mother had been a stay-at-home mother during the marriage but got a job after the separation.  The father’s gross monthly income was about $9,353.37 and the mother’s was about $3,120.

The mother petitioned for divorce. The parties subsequently signed a CR 2A agreement including a parenting plan that gave the parents equal residential time.  The father would be responsible for childcare while the mother was at work during her residential time.  Remaining issues would be decided by trial by affidavit.

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Title IX allegations can have consequences even if the student is not found responsible of sexual misconduct.  In a recent case, a student sued his college after being excluded from a sports team following an allegation of sexual assault that did not result in a formal Title IX complaint or investigation.

The plaintiff was a senior student and team captain of a sports team at a Pennsylvania college. According to the court’s opinion, co-captains of the team reported a rumor the plaintiff sexually assaulted a female student to the coach.  The coach reported the allegations to the college’s Title IX office.  He also recommended the plaintiff step away from the team during the investigation, and the plaintiff sent an email to the team that day.

The alleged victim informed the Title IX office she did not intend to make a formal complaint.  The Title IX Office decided not move forward with a formal investigation and notified the plaintiff.

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Violation of a Washington civil protection order can result in serious criminal charges.  A woman recently challenged her conviction for stalking and sentence for convictions for violation of a protection order, stalking, and malicious mischief.

The defendant was in a romantic relationship with a man for several years.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, she made a number of allegations against him and his ex-wife after the relationship soured.  The ex-boyfriend sought a protection order shortly after they broke up in 2015.

He testified the protection order did not stop her from continuing to harass him and his children.  He said she kept making false allegations related to pornography.  He obtained another protection order in July 2017 and a third in August 2018.

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An award of spousal maintenance in Washington may generally only be modified if the party seeking modification can show a substantial change of circumstances.  RCW 26.09.170(1). Under Washington case law, the change must not have been within the parties’ contemplation when the decree was entered.  A former wife recently challenged a trial court’s denial of modification of her spousal maintenance.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the parties entered into a separation agreement that required the husband to pay $4,000 per month and 40% of his annual bonus as spousal maintenance for seven years, starting February 1, 2014. The terms of the agreement were incorporated into a decree of legal separation, which was ultimately converted into a decree of dissolution.

By the terms of the agreement, the payments would end in January 2021.  The ex-wife moved to modify the decree in December 2020.  She alleged health issues had prevented her from working in her profession as an art teacher since spring of 2019.  She also alleged the ex-husband’s salary had substantially increased since the separation.

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During a Washington criminal sentencing proceeding, an offender generally cannot challenge the constitutional validity of a previous conviction.  If, however, a conviction that is “constitutionally invalid on its face,” the court cannot consider it during sentencing.  A Washington appeals court recently considered whether a defendant’s prior conviction was facially invalid under the merger doctrine.

The merger doctrine applies when the state has to prove the occurrence of an act that is defined as a separate crime to prove a particular degree of the charged crime. In such circumstances, the crimes “merge.” The merger doctrine does not apply if the legislature intended to allow multiple punishments.

If the legislature did not clearly intend to allow multiple punishment for the same act under different laws, the court determines its intent through application of the same evidence test, merger, and the independent purpose test.

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A California school district recently sought to have Title IX and related claims against it dismissed.  The plaintiff was a high school student who filed suit through his guardian ad litem against the school district, several individually named administrators and athletics personnel, and unnamed “Doe” defendants.  The defendants filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and asked the court to strike the plaintiff’s request for punitive damages.

In reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion, the court considers whether the plaintiff has stated a legally sufficient claim.  The court’s review is therefore limited to the complaint.

According to the court’s order, a student recorded a Snapchat video of the plaintiff and his girlfriend in a classroom.  The school administrators claimed this video showed the pair engaged in a sexual act, but the plaintiff denied that there had been any sexual activity.  A vice principal interviewed other students who said there had been sexual activity and subsequently suspended the plaintiff for three days on December 19.

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Two bills in the Washington legislature propose significant changes to Washington’s impaired driving laws.  SB 5002 proposes to lower the legal limit for a driver’s alcohol concentration. SB 5032 would extend the felony DUI lookback period and create a sentencing alternative for certain impaired driving convictions.

If passed, SB 5002 would lower the legal alcohol concentration from .08 to .05.  The change would apply to the DUI statute at RCW 46.61.502 and to the physical control statute at RCW 46.61.504.  According to SB 5002, there were 540 fatal crashes in Washington in 2021, killing more than 600 people. The bill states that there was a 31.3% increase in crashes resulting from an impaired driver between 2020 and 2021.  The bill points to a Utah law that lowered the legal alcohol concentration limit from .08 to .05 and a subsequent 19.89% drop in fatal crashes and an 18.3% drop in the fatality rate.  The bill estimates such a change in Washington would result in an 11.1% decrease in alcohol-related fatalities and between 538 and 1,790 lives saved annually.

If SB 5032 passes, a person could be convicted of felony DUI or felony physical control instead of a gross misdemeanor if they have three or more previous convictions within the past 10 years.  The current law has a lookback period of 15 years.  Similar bills proposing to expand the lookback period over the past few years have failed.

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A Washington juvenile record may be sealed if certain circumstances are met.  The court schedules an administrative sealing hearing at the disposition hearing, if the juvenile is eligible.  The hearing is to occur after the last of the following: the juvenile’s 18th birthday, the anticipated end of the juvenile’s probation, and the juvenile’s anticipated release from confinement or completion of parole.  Certain offenses, including “most serious offenses,” certain drug offenses, and certain sex offenses, are not eligible for a sealing hearing.  The court is to seal the record if it finds at the time of the hearing that the juvenile is no longer on supervision for the case and has fully paid restitution to the person named in the order, excluding any restitution owed to an entity providing insurance or health care coverage.  If the court finds the juvenile is still on supervision, then it is to continue the hearing within 30 days after the anticipated completion of the supervision. If the court finds the juvenile is not still on supervision for the case but has failed to fully pay restitution to the person named in the order, the court is to deny sealing the record and issue an order that specifies the restitution that is unpaid to the person and directs the juvenile on how to pursue sealing the record.  RCW 13.50.260.  The state recently appealed the sealing of a juvenile record, arguing the juvenile had failed to fully pay restitution.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the juvenile pleaded guilty to second degree malicious mischief and agreed to pay restitution.  The court ordered him to pay $1,233.17 in restitution and set a date for a hearing to seal the record.

The state argued at that hearing that the juvenile failed to fully pay restitution so the record could not be sealed pursuant to RCW 13.50.260(1)(d).  The juvenile court still sealed the record, finding the juvenile was eligible for the record to be sealed because he had “paid in full the amount of restitution owing,” but also that “the remaining amount of restitution . . . is $613.17.”

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