Sanctions Improper When Attorney Has a High Caseload

State v. Graham, No. 97329-6 (December 19, 2019), Washington Supreme Court.

Brief: The Court of Appeals abused its discretion by sanctioning defense counsel when he requested an extension of time in order to fulfill his duty of effective representation, because counsel was prompt in communicating the constraints placed on him by his current caseload and explaining why another extension was necessary, and the record did not show any malfeasance or lack of diligence on counsel’s part or any lapse in his representation.

Translation: A defense attorney should not be sanctioned for moving too slowly when s/he is simply overburdened by a high caseload. The more cases an attorney has, the less s/he is able to provide constitutionally effective representation. Sanctioning an attorney in this position unconstitutionally discourages effective representation.

Child Discipline Defense Requires Factor Analysis

Ugolini v. Ugolini, No. 36156-0 (December 17, 2019), Washington Court of Appeals, Division Three.

Brief: Remand was required because the father argued he used lawful force when disciplining the child, the court failed to enter findings whether the discipline exceeded that allowed under RCW 9A.16.100, and the court abused its discretion by not analyzing the appropriate factors and concluding that any physical discipline by a parent constituted domestic violence.

Translation: A man was convicted for abusing his child, but a law permits a limited defense. The court must analyze certain factors to grant/deny the defense. The man raised the defense; the court denied his defense without analyzing the factors. The case was sent back down to the lower court to look at the factors properly.

US Supreme Court Declines to Review Constitutionality of Camping Ordinances

Land of the free, unless you’re poor. A group of Boise residents challenged a law prohibiting camping in public, arguing that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment when it is used as the basis for criminal penalties against homeless people who are sleeping outside because they cannot find space in a shelter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed, holding that the city cannot impose criminal penalties on homeless residents “for lacking the means to live out the universal and unavoidable consequences of being human.”

The 9th Circuit opinion went on: “As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

The United States Supreme Court declined to accept the City’s appeal. This was the right decision. The Court likely would have voted overwhelmingly to affirm the 9th Circuit decision. To criminalize the mere presence in a public space seems ridiculous; we’re not talking about trespassing on private property. In addition, this decision will save taxpayer money where less resources will be allocated toward prosecuting and jailing homeless populations. Hopefully, those resources can be reallocated toward longer-term, more sustainable progress, such as mental health or substance abuse treatment, job training, housing subsidies, etc. The difficulty, of course, is that there is no political will for these services. It’s much easier for a politician to sell criminalization as a prospective solution.

Criminalizing homelessness is not a solution, it’s a temporary band aid on an issue that’s not going away. Homelessness is a systemic, multifactoral issue with no easy quick-fix solution.

Defendant Not Required to Prove Consent Doesn’t Mean that the State Must Prove It

State v. Knapp, No. 35901-8 (December 10, 2019), Washington Court of Appeals, Division Three.

Brief: The defendant’s conviction for second degree rape by forcible compulsion was proper under RCW 9A.44.050(1)(a) because there was no error in refusing to give his proposed instruction on consent since the trial court correctly instructed the jury that evidence of consent could be taken into consideration in determining whether the defendant used forcible compulsion to have sexual intercourse. The defendant’s proposed instruction was an incorrect statement of the law because prior caselaw did not hold that the burden to prove an absence of consent shifted to the State; instead, it held that the burden to prove consent could not be placed on the defendant.

Translation: The Defendant is not required to prove consent. However, this is not the same thing as saying that the State is required to prove consent. Therefore, the court’s refusal to instruct the jury that the State must prove consent was proper.

Courts Can Limit Expert Testimony and a Single Act Can Violate Multiple Laws

State v. Arndt, No. 95396-1 (December 5, 2019), Washington Supreme Court.

Brief: The trial court’s rulings limiting the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness did not violate her Sixth Amendment right to present a defense and were well within the court’s discretion. The defendant’s convictions of both first degree aggravated murder and first degree arson did not violate double jeopardy protections, because when two crimes have separate purposes and effects, multiple punishments are allowed.

Translation: A court has a lot of power to limit an expert witness’s testimony without violating the 6th amendment. A single act can violate two laws when they have distinct reasons and effects.

Police Must Have a Good Reason to Tow a Car

State v. Villela, No. 96183-2 (October 17, 2019), Washington Supreme Court.

Brief: Since the officer did not make the judgment that it was reasonable under the circumstances and there are no reasonable alternatives, the impound was unlawful under Wash. Const. art. I, § 7, and the trial court properly suppressed the fruits of the seizure. RCW 46.55.360, under which officers are required to impound a vehicle any time they arrest its driver for driving under the influence, regardless of whether the vehicle is safely off the roadway or whether another person is able to safely drive it away, violates Wash. Const. art. I, § 7 because it requires what the constitution allows only under limited circumstances.

Translation: When arresting someone for DUI, officers cannot tow the car without specific reasons why the tow is necessary (e.g., the car is blocking the road or no sober person is available to take the car).