Washington Court of Appeals Reviews Conviction of No-Contact Order Violation

The Washington Court of Appeals recently reviewed a defendant’s conviction for violating a no-contact order, evaluating whether evidence should have been suppressed. In State v. Burks (Wash. Ct. App. Nov. 3, 2015), the police officer conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle for speeding. The police officer obtained the driver’s information and entered it into a search, which indicated that the driver was a protected party in a no-contact order. The police officer noticed that the description of the respondent in the no-contact order matched the defendant, who was riding as a passenger in the driver’s vehicle. The officer requested identification from the defendant, which he did not have on him. The police officer returned to the computer in his vehicle and located a photograph of the respondent in the no-contact order, which matched the defendant. The officer then arrested the defendant for violating the no-contact order.

The defendant was charged with one count of a felony violation of a court order with a special allegation of domestic violence. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the traffic stop, arguing that it was an illegal invasion of privacy pursuant to the Washington Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the police officer had a reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant was violating the no-contact order, there was an independent reason to request the defendant’s identification, and the traffic stop was lawful. The trial court convicted the defendant as charged, and the defendant appealed on the basis that the trial court erred in allowing the evidence of the traffic stop.

Generally, warrantless searches and seizures are considered unreasonable per se. In Washington, an officer in a traffic stop may not request identification from a passenger for investigatory purposes without an independent reason to justify the request. Such a basis may exist if the police officer has an “articulable suspicion” of criminal activity. If not, the passenger is unconstitutionally detained when the officer asked for identification, and any evidence obtained from the stop may be suppressed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the extended traffic stop was unlawful because the police officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity. The appeals court disagreed, finding that the police officer reasonably suspected a violation of the no-contact order in light of the circumstances, since the description in the no-contact order matched the defendant. And, although the defendant gave the officer a false name and did not provide identification, the photograph search later conducted matched the defendant. Therefore, the court held that the police officer had an independent basis to detain the defendant and request his identification.  As a result, the conviction was affirmed.

If you have been arrested on charges involving domestic violence, you have the right to seek advice from an attorney, who may also advocate on your behalf in any legal proceedings. At Blair & Kim, PLLC, our skilled criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to the defense of those facing Washington criminal charges. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office at (206) 622-6562 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Washington Court Considers Admissibility of Prior Acts of Domestic Violence in Criminal Jury Trial, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published November 24, 2015

Modifying or Terminating a Protection Order in your Family Law Case, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published March 16, 2015

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