Under Washington rules of criminal procedure, a court may dismiss a criminal prosecution due to arbitrary action or governmental misconduct if the accused rights have been prejudiced and his or her right to a fair trial has been materially affected. CrRLJ 8.3(b) and CrR 8.3(b). Washington case law has held that mismanagement may be sufficient and the misconduct does not have to be evil or dishonest. In a recent case, a Washington appeals court considered whether the court’s actions were within the scope of “governmental misconduct” that would support dismissal under CrRLJ 8.3(b).
The court continued the defendant’s arraignment on fourth degree assault and third degree malicious mischief charges after ordering he be provided an interpreter. There were 14 additional pretrial hearings in the next 15 months, but the interpreter failed to appear at 10 of them. The interpreter appeared by phone “ineffectively,” according to the appeals court, twice. Two times the interpreter actually appeared in person. The defendant moved to dismiss the charges pursuant to CrRLJ 8.3(b). After the interpreter failed to appear at yet another hearing, the trial court dismissed the charges with prejudice. The trial court found the failure to provide an interpreter “seriously interfered with” the defendant’s right to representation.
The state appealed, and the superior court affirmed the dismissal. The state then sought discretionary review by the Court of Appeals. The appeals court granted the review to address the issue of whether CrRLJ 8.3(b) can apply to mismanagement by court administration.