Articles Posted in Civil Protection Order

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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.

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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.

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Washington civil protection order attorneys understand that domestic violence can be a complex issue that reaches beyond the couple. Children may become involved by witnessing the violence or by being threatened.  Washington law allows a person to petition for a protection order on behalf of himself or herself, or on behalf of minor family or household members.

empty cribA Washington Court of Appeals, however, recently held that a mother could not obtain a protection order on behalf of her child when the child was not “present” for the violence and did not have fear of imminent harm, bodily injury, or assault.  The Washington Supreme Court disagreed.

In this case, the mother petitioned for a domestic violence protection order against her son’s father on behalf of herself and her children following a history of domestic violence.  According to the Washington Supreme Court opinion, the man had repeatedly physically and emotionally assaulted his son’s mother.  He pushed her to the ground while she was pregnant, had tried to smother her with a pillow, pulled a knife on her, threatened to kidnap their son, and threatened to do something horrible to her daughters.  He also threatened to kill her, her children, and himself.

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Domestic violence violation of a protection order is generally a gross misdemeanor under Washington law, but it can be a class C felony if a violation of the order is also an assault or if the defendant has at least two prior convictions for violating a protection order.  RCW 26.50.110.  The Washington Supreme Court considered whether a jury has to reach a unanimous decision as to which of these alternatives forms the basis of the verdict in a recent case.

surveillance cameraAt the time of the incident, there was a no-contact order prohibiting the defendant from contacting his former partner.  When the defendant’s former partner learned that he was at a nearby bus, she went there to address some items she had to return to him.  She testified that the defendant got angry and struck her twice.  She then ran to a gas station, and the defendant followed her.  The store clerk testified that the defendant followed the woman around the store for several minutes.  The defendant left the store when the clerk called the police.

The jury was instructed that there were five elements that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  One of those elements was that either the defendant’s conduct was an assault, or the defendant had been convicted of violating a court order twice previously.  The court instructed that these were alternative elements, and the jury did not have to be unanimous as to which of the two alternatives had been proved, as long as each juror found that one of the alternatives was proved.  The defendant did not object to the instruction or to the prosecutor’s discussion of the instruction in the closing argument.

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Under Washington law, “unlawful harassment” is “a knowing and willful course of conduct” directed toward a particular person that “seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental” to that person.  To be unlawful harassment, the conduct cannot serve a legitimate or lawful purpose.  Furthermore, the course of conduct must be the type of conduct that would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress, and it must actually cause distress to the person seeking the protection order.  RCW 10.14.020. Although communications are included in the “course of conduct,” constitutionally protected speech is not.

Trail SignA Washington appeals court considered whether a woman’s actions were protected by the First Amendment in a recent unpublished case.  The woman appealed a civil anti-harassment protection order on the grounds that it was based on constitutionally protected speech.  She also argued that the oral findings of the trial court had not been supported by substantial evidence.

In his testimony in support of the petition, the appellant’s former romantic partner testified the appellant had contacted his female acquaintance and pointed her to a website containing a post, partly written by the appellant, that described his alleged history of affairs. He also testified that she called him an “impulsive alcoholic, with a violent streak.”

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