Monthly Archives: December 2014

State v. Goggin: Implied Consent Warnings for Blood Test & Crawford Issues

In State v. Goggin, Division II of the Court of Appeals held that when a blood test is collected pursuant to a search warrant, the officer is not required to advise the defendant that the defendant has a right to additional tests. Also, proof of the defendant’s prior DUI conviction from Idaho was admissible; and the admission did not violate the confrontation clause. 

Mr. Goggin was arrestd for DUI. After taking Mr. Goggin in for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, Officer Marcus read Mr. Goggin his implied consent warnings, including his right to have additional tests performed by a person of his own choosing. Mr. Goggin indicated he understood his rights and signed the implied consent form. Officer Marcus obtained a search warrant to draw a sample of Mr. Goggin’s blood. It was taken about three hours after his arrest and without any further independent-testing advisement. 

Mr. Goggin was charged with Felony DUI because he allegedly had four prior DUI convictions.

At trial, Goggin moved to suppress the results of the blood test based on the officer’s failure to advise him of his right to an additional test after obtaining the warrant. The trial court said, “This was a blood draw authorized by a search warrant. The trooper did not have to advise the defendant of the right to additional tests.” Later, Goggin was found guilty. He appealed.

During cross-examination, defense counsel asked Trooper Marcus whether he re-read the implied consent warnings to Mr. Goggin after obtaining the search warrant:

Defense counsel: Did you at any time advise him as part of any warnings related to the blood test that he could get an additional blood test?

Trooper Marcus: That was in part of the implied consent warnings for breath. It states in there that you have the right to additional tests administered by a qualified person of your own choosing.

Defense counsel: You have separate warnings for blood; do you not?

Trooper Marcus: We do, but implied consent wamings for blood weren’t read in this case.

Later in trial, the Prosecutor admitted evidence of the defendant’s prior DUI from Idaho. Although no witnesses actually testified that Mr. Goggin actually had a prior DUI from IDaho, the prosecutor successfully admitted into evidence the Judgment and Sentence conviction data from the Idaho court. Mr. Goggin tried dismissing the case based on the State’s failure to produce a witness from Idaho who could provide evidence that he had been arrested in Idaho. The court denied the motion, finding sufficient circumstantial evidence to go to the jury. The jury found Mr. Goggin guilty of felony OUI. He appealed.

The Court of Appeals held that the arresting officer was not required to advise Mr. Goggin of the right to additional tests because the blood draw was authorized by a search warrant, not the implied consent statute. The Court reasoned that City of Seattle v. Robert St. Johnand  RCW 46:20.308(1) allows officers to “obtain a search warrant for blood alcohol tests regardless of the implied consent statute.” In St. John, the motorcyclist refused to take the voluntary test; but, the evidence that the motorcyclist was driving under the influence constituted sufficient probable cause to justify a warrant. Similarly here, the search warrant and subsequent blood alcohol test were the result of evidence showing Mr. Goggin was driving under the influence. Thus, the State was not required to re-advise Mr. Goggin of his right to additional tests after issuance of the search warrant.

The Court also held that Goggin’s consitutional right to confront a witness under Crawford v. Washington were not violated when the State failed to produce a witness who could testify about Goggin’s prior DUI from Idaho. Here, the State met its burden of proving Mr. Goggin was the same Joseph Goggin convicted of the 2009 DUI in Idaho by submitting Mr. Goggin’s 2007 to 2011 Washington State Identification card. This photographic identification card included Mr. Goggin’s height and weight, hair and eye color, and his address. This information matched the identifying information in the 2009 Idaho judgment and sentence. The identification card was issued in 2007 and was valid until 2011; thus, it corresponded with the date of the Idaho conviction. Accordingly, the State provided sufficient evidence of this fourth DUI to support the conviction for felony DUI.

Also, Mr. Goggin’s Idaho judgment and sentence was inherently trustworthy. It was not created in anticipation of litigation or to prove a fact at trial; therefore, it was not necessary to cross-examine the clerk who certified the document. A certified record not prepared for use in a criminal proceeding but created for the administration of an entity’s affairs is not testimonial evidence under Crawford v. Washington. Accordingly, the admission of the Idaho judgment and sentence did not violate Mr. Goggin’s confrontation rights.

The Court of Appeals upheld Mr. Goggin’s conviction.

State v. Witherrite: Ferrier Warnings Do Not Apply to Car Searches

Interesting. In State v. Witherrite, the Court of Appeals decided that law enforcement officers need not give Ferrier warnings for car searches because an automobile should not be treated in the same manner as a home.

A deputy sheriff stopped Ms. Witherrite for a traffic violation and had her perform field sobriety tests. The deputy then received permission to search Ms. Witherrite’s car after advising her that at any time she could stop or limit the scope ofthe search. The deputy did not tell her that she had the right to refuse consent.

The vehicle search turned up marijuana, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. The prosecutor ultimately charged the associated crimes for each of those items. She moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that her consent was invalid due to the absence of the warnings required by State v. Ferrier, 136 Wn.2d 103,960 P.2d 927 (1998). The trial court disagreed, concluding that Ferrier did not extend to vehicles and that Ms. Witherrite had consented to the search. The court found her guilty as charged. Ms. Witherrite timely appealed.

The issuel presented on appeal was whether the Court would extend Ferrier warnings to vehicle searches.

Some background on Ferrier is necessary. In Ferrier, the Washington Supreme Court faced a situation where officers wanted to get inside a house to see if they could smell growing marijuana which they suspected was present on the basis of an unsupported tip. The officers did not tell the occupant that she had the ability to refuse consent. After being invited into the home, the officers asked for consent to search the residence. A detective explained that this “knock and talk” procedure was used in order to avoid seeking a search warrant. The defendant consented to the search and was convicted of the charges.

The Washington Supreme Court reversed the conviction, ruling that because the woman had a heightened right of privacy in her home. Under article I, section 7 of the WA Constitution, officers could not enter a home to seek voluntary consent to search the dwelling without first informing her that she did not need to consent to the entry. The court’s analysis repeatedly emphasized the heightened protection given the home under our constitution. The court then adopted the following rule:

When police officers conduct a knock and talk for the purpose of obtaining consent to search a home, and thereby avoid the necessity of obtaining a warrant, they must, prior to entering the home, inform the person from whom consent is sought that he or she may lawfully refuse to consent to the search and that they can revoke, at any time, the consent that they give, and can limit the scope of the consent to certain areas of the home.

Despite the above rule, the WA Court of Appeals in this case decided Ferrier warnings are NOT applicable outside of the home because the Washington Supreme Court has long distinguished houses from vehicles in the search and seizure context.

One particularly instructive case the court examined was State v. Vrieling, 144 Wn.2d 489,28 P.3d 762 (2000). There, a deputy sheriff stopped a motor home and arrested the driver, Ms. Vrieling. A search of the motor home was conducted incident to the arrest. The question before the court was whether the then-existing vehicle search doctrine applied to the search of the motor home, which is essentially a house-like vehicle. The court ultimately concluded that when a motor home is used as a vehicle, the vehicle search doctrine applied and apparently, Ferrier warnings do not.

The treatment of the home as most deserving of heightened protection under the WA constitution led the court to conclude that Ferrier warnings need not be given prior to obtaining consent to search a vehicle.

My opinion? Sad as it seems, this opinion makes sense. There certainly are differences between a car and a home. Simply put, homes have more privacy protections than cars.

State v. Fedoruk: Ineffective Assistance AND Prosecutorial Misconduct

In State v. Fedoruk, Division II overturned the conviction of a defendant charged with Murder in the Second Degree. The court ruled (1) Mr. Fedoruk received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to timely pursue a mental health defense and did not object to alleged prosecutorial misconduct; and (2) the prosecutor committed flagrant and ill-intentioned misconduct in closing argument by undermining the presumption of innocence, encouraging the jury to decide the case on grounds other than reasoned evaluation of the evidence, expressing personal opinions as to Fedoruk’ s guilt, and presenting evidence not admitted at trial.

Mr. Fedoruk was charged with Murder in the Second Degree of a relative named Ischenko, whom Fedoruk had accused of raping a family member.

Apparently, Mr. Fedoruk had a long history of serious mental illness. He suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident at the age of 18, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was twice admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Doctors have prescribed numerous psychotropic and antipsychotic medications, but Fedoruk had a history of poor compliance with the medication regimens.

During a 2007 competency evaluation, doctors at Western State Hospital diagnosed Fedoruk with bipolar disorder, most recent episode manic, with psychotic features. Fedoruk underwent another mental health evaluation after the State charged him with Robbery, Assault, Theft, and Criminal Trespass in 2008, and a court ultimately found Fedoruk not guilty by reason of insanity.

Despite the above background of mental health issues, Fedoruk’ s defense counsel stated at a pretrial hearing that “the Defense has no intention of putting forward an affirmative defense of diminished capacity or arguing that … Fedoruk was incapable of forming intent at the time.” And although defense counsel later requested a 60-day continuance to pursue an Insanity defense, the trial judge denied the motion and ruled defense counsel failed to lay the foundation for the defense, and that diligence was not shown.

Fedoruk’s case proceeded to trial. At trial, the medical examiner testified that Ischenko died from blunt force trauma, and possibly also strangulation. A crime laboratory analyst testified that the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) profile obtained from bloodstains on Fedoruk’ s clothing matched Ischenko’ s. DNA from numerous bloodstains at the end of the driveway also matched Ischenko’ s profile, as did DNA in blood obtained from under Fedoruk’ s fingernails.

The trial proceeded to Closing Argument. The Prosecutor had a lengthy closing argument on PowerPoint. Among other improper statement, the Prosecutor concluded the presentation by showing a large image of Ischenko’ s body in a ravine under the heading “Murder 2.” On the final PowerPoint slide, under an enlarged ” Murder 2″ heading, the word “GUILTY” flashes, written with all capitals in a 96 -point red font. As these words and images appeared on the screen, the prosecutor delivered the following summation:

Serhiy Ishchenko. He’ s a brother. He was an uncle. He was a father. He was a tidy man, a hard worker and considerate. He was beaten to death, stomped to death, strangled to death. His body was left in a ravine and he was left for dead by the Defendant. Murder two. The Defendant is guilty, guilty, guilty. Thank you.

Fedoruk’s attorney did not object to any portion of the State’ s closing argument, or to the PowerPoint presentation.

First, the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether Fedoruk received ineffective assistance of counsel. It launched  into an in-depth analysis of State v. A.N.J., which is a recent case regarding ineffective assistance of counsel by defense attorneys. The court reasoned that pursuant to State v. A.N.J., the extensive history of Fedoruk’s mental illness, all of which was available to the defense from the beginning of the case, indicates that the decision to not seek an expert to evaluate Fedoruk until it was too late fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. “With that, Fedoruk was prejudiced by the failure to investigate a mental health defense. Accordingly, Fedoruk received ineffective assistance of counsel, and we reverse his conviction.”

Second, the Court addressed the issue of whether the Prosecutor’s closing argument was improper. To prevail on a prosecutorial misconduct claim, a defendant must show that the Prosecutor’ s conduct was both improper and prejudicial. To establish prejudice, the defendant must show a substantial likelihood that the misconduct affected the jury verdict. Additionally, a Prosecutor who throws the prestige of her public office and the expression of her own belief of guilt into the scales against the accused deprives the defendant of the constitutional right to a fair trial. Finally, a Prosecutor enjoys wide latitude to argue reasonable inferences from the evidence,but must seek convictions based only on probative evidence and sound reason.

The court also reasoned that a prosecutor should not use arguments calculated to inflame the passions or prejudices of the jury. Although a Prosecutor may point out a lack of evidentiary support for the defendant’ s theory of the case or  state that certain testimony is not denied, the general rule is that the State cannot comment on the lack of defense evidence because the defense has no duty to present evidence.

Here, the Court concluded that the Prosecutor’s closing argument was improper. First, the Prosecutor did not couch her assertions of guilt in terms of the evidence in the case, and she reinforced those assertions with inflammatory images. The Prosecutor conveyed to the jury her personal opinion that Fedoruk was guilty. This argument was improper.

Second, the Prosecutor asked the jury to infer guilt from the intuition of other witnesses who testified. Indeed, this served as the theme of her prepared remarks during closing argument. Therefore, this argument was improper. Finally, the prosecutor improperly commented on the lack of defense evidence by arguing that because Fedoruk did not present contrary evidence, Fedoruk agreed with the State’ s position. This, also, was improper. In sum, the court found the Prosecutor’s conduct was improper,  reversed the defendant’s conviction and remanded for a new trial.

My opinion? Although my heart goes out to the victim’s family, I’m happy with the Court of Appeals decision. Prosecutorial misconduct violates a defendant’s rights to a fair trial. It creates prejudices against the defendant which overwhelm a juror’s clear and rational thinking. And ultimately, it’s unnecessary. If a Prosecutor’s case is strong, then there is no need for misconduct. And the Court of Appeals said it best at the end of the opinion:

In legal doctrines, some distinctions seem cut with a jeweller’ s eye. Others seem more a work of watercolor, with one shade blurred into another. Although the line between zealous advocacy and improper argument may seem drawn in part in watercolor, the conduct at issue here fell outside its blurred zones. The prosecutor’ s actions described above constituted misconduct.

Exactly.

State v. Quaale: WA Supreme Court Upholds WA Court of Appeals & Grants Mistrial Due To Trooper’s Opinion Testimony

Excellent opinion from the WA Supreme Court. In State v. Quaale, the WA Supreme Court decided that a Washington State Trooper’s opinion testimony regarding the defendant’s sobriety violated the defendant’s rights at trial.

Trooper Stone pulled the defendant Ryan Quaale over for Eluding and DUI. Trooper Stone then performed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test) on Quaale.

Some explanation of the HGN test is necessary. The HGN test is a routinely used field sobriety test in which the administrator tells the subject to follow a pen or fingertip with his or her eyes as the administrator moves the stimulus from side to side. After consuming alcohol, a person will have difficulty smoothly following the stimulus; the person’s eyes will jerk or bounce as they move from side to side. “Nystagmus” is this very involuntary oscillation of the eyeballs – the jerking – which results from the body’s attempt to maintain orientation and balance. HGN is the inability of the eyes to maintain visual fixation as they turn from side to side or move from center focus to the point of maximum deviation at the side.

Here, Trooper Stone testified that in his opinion, the HGN test is very important to determining impairment because, unlike the walk the line test, which a person can practice, the HGN test measures an involuntary reflex. Trooper Stone did not perform any other sobriety tests on Quaale in the field.

During the HGN test, Trooper Stone observed Quaale’s eyes bounce and have difficulty tracking the stimulus. Trooper Stone placed Quaale under arrest for DUI, Reckless Driving, and Attempting to Elude. At the station, Trooper Stone informed Quaale of the implied consent warnings for a breath test. Quaale refused to take the test. Quaale was charged with Attempting to Elude a police vehicle and with Felony DUI. The DUI was charged as a felony because Quaale had been previously convicted of Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence. RCW 46.61.502(6)(b)(i).

Quaale was tried twice. At the first trial, the jury convicted him of attempting to elude but could not agree on a verdict for the DUI charge. During a second trial on the DUI charge, the State concluded its direct examination of Trooper Stone with the following questions:

Q. In this case, based on the HGN test alone, did you form an opinion based on your training and experience as to whether or not Mr. Quaale’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired? [Defendant’s objection that the question goes to the ultimate issue is overruled]
Q …. Did you form an opinion?
A. Absolutely. There was no doubt he was impaired.

The WA Supremes reasoned that Trooper Stone’s testimony that he had “no doubt” the defendant was impaired was an improper opinion on the defendant’s guilt and therefore inadmissible. Trooper Stone based his opinion solely on a HGN test, which can indicate physical signs consistent with alcohol consumption. The test, however, cannot establish impairment by itself, and testimony to the contrary violates the limitations imposed by the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Baity.

An explanation of State v. Baity is necessary. In Baity, the WA Supreme Court considered whether drug recognition protocol employed by police officers to detect behavior associated with certain drugs constituted novel scientific evidence generally accepted in the scientific community, satisfying the Frye test for admissibility of expert testimony.  Police officers trained to use this protocol are often referred to as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs).

DREs use a 12-step procedure to classify behavioral patterns associated with seven categories of drugs. Officers employ the HGN test as one ofthe 12 steps. In Baity, the Court analyzed whether the HGN test satisfied Frye when used for drug detection. The Court held that it did. It reasoned that the underlying scientific basis of the test-an intoxicated person will exhibit nystagmus was undisputed. The Court also noted that officers perform the test in the same way whether the officer tests for alcohol or drug impairment and that the officer also looks for the same result: involuntary jerking in the driver’s eyes. Thus, the Court’s analysis of the HGN test in the DUI drug detection context, as discussed in Baity, applies equally to the DUI alcohol detection context in this case.

Although the Baity Court heard testimony on the HGN test admissible as evidence that a person was intoxicated on drugs, the Court also placed limits on that testimony because the HGN test merely shows physical signs consistent with ingestion of intoxicants. The Court said that an officer may not testify in a manner that casts an “aura of scientific certainty to the testimony.” The officer also cannot predict the specific level of  drugs present in a suspect.  Furthermore, the Baity court held that a DRE officer, properly qualified, could express an opinion that a suspect’s behavior and physical attributes are consistent or inconsistent with those behaviors and physical signs associated with certain categories of drugs.

With that background, the Quaale Court reasoned that the Trooper’s testimony that Quaale was “impaired” parroted the legal standard contained in the jury instruction definition for “under the influence.” The word “impair” means to “diminish in quantity, value, excellence, or strength.” WEBSTER’S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY 1131 (2002). Thus, the trooper concluded that alcohol diminished Quaale in such an appreciable degree that the HGN test could detect Quaale’s impairment. Because the Trooper’s inadmissible testimony went to the ultimate factual issue-the core issue of Quaale’s impairment to drive-the testimony amounted to an improper opinion on guilt.

 

With that, the WA Supremes affirmed the Court of Appeals, reversed the judgment and sentence, and remanded Mr. Quaale’s case for a new trial.

Great decision.

State v. Espey: Prosecutor’s Improper Comments During Trial Reverses Defendant’s Convictions

Good opinion. The Court of Appeals ruled that a Prosecutor’s improper comments during a jury trial required reversal of the defendant’s convictions.

State v. Espey: https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/D2%2043737-6-II%20Part%20Published%20Opinion.pdf

 

Mr. Espey was charged with Robbery First Degree, Burglary First Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm First Degree, Possession of a Stolen Firearm and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance. He had three separate jury trials. During closing argument at the second trial, the prosecutor argued the jury should consider Espey’s statement to police in light of the time he had spent consulting with attorneys prior to making the statement. The prosecutor said the following:

“Where I suggest you start is, start with his own recorded statement that he gave to the police. Keep in mind that he had been on the run for approximately six weeks. Keep in mind that he had already consulted with two attorneys, Chip Mosley and Gary Clower. He had lots of time to figure out what story he was going to tell the police.

If you have ever dealt with somebody who is a good liar, they have a pattern. What they do is this: admit everything you can’t admit without getting into trouble and only deny the stuff that you have to . . . You heard Tom Espey’s story in there. ‘I’m not guilty of robbery because i personally didn’t take anything. I’m free. Okay, I did everything else, but guess what? You can’t touch me.’ And he is wrong. He is wrong because he doesn’t understand what it means to be an accomplice. He doesn’t understand what accomplice liability means.”

Defense counsel did not object to these highly inflammatory and prejudicial statements. The jury convicted Espey of 3 of the 5 felonies.

In overturning the convictions, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the Prosecutor’s comments were so flagrant and ill-intentioned that no curative instruction could have stopped their prejudicial effect from swaying the jury. Therefore, defense counsel’s failure to object at trial did not waive the issue.

The court further reasoned that a defendant has a right to counsel under the state and federal constitutions under the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and article 1, subsection 22 of the Washington Constitution. Under these laws, several courts have held that a prosecutor violates these rights by using “an accused’s decision to meet with counsel, even shortly after the incident giving rise to a criminal indictment,” to imply guilt or suggest that the defendant hired an attorney to concoct an alibi. No prosecutor may employ language which denigrates the right of a criminal defendant to retain counsel of his choice, or otherwise limits the fundamentaldue process right of an accused to present a vigorous defense.

Finally, the court reasoned that the Prosecutor strikes at the core of the 6th Amendment right to counsel when it seeks to create an inference of guilt out of a defendant’s decision to meet with defense counsel. “That is precisely what the state did here and reversal is required as a result. The State thereby improperly commented on and penalized Espey’ s exercise of the right to counsel, a right guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.”

The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions.

My opinion? Great decision.

State v. Miller: Judge Eliminates Prospective Juror Who Overheard Pretrial Motions

The WA Court of Appeals decided that the pretrial dismissal of a potential juror who wandered into the courtroom and heard the attorneys arguing pretrial motions did NOT violate public trial right or defendant’s right to be present.

https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/D2%2044837-8-II%20%20Published%20Opinion.pdf

The defendant was charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder and Murder in the First Degree. Before  jury selection, a juror from the jury pool entered the courtroom while pretrial issues were discussed between the attorneys and the judge. The trial court dismissed the juror from participating in the defendant’s trial before beginning voir dire.

At any rate, the defendant was found guilty of the charges. He appeals his conviction on the grounds that dismissing the potential juror from the jury pool violated his right to a public trial and his right to be present at critical trial stages.

The Court of Appeals decided ( 1) the trial court’ s pre -voir dire dismissal of the prospective juror did not violate Miller’ s public trial right, and 2) even if dismissal of the prospective juror during a recess violated Miller’ s right to be present at critical trial stages, the violation was harmless error.

The court reasoned that the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article 1, section 22 of the WA Constitution guarantees the right to a public trial.  In general, this right requires that certain proceedings be held in open court uless a “Bone-Club” analysis set forth in State v. Bone-Club, 128 Wn.2d 254 (1995) supports closure of the courtroom.

The threshold determination when addressing an alleged violation of the public trial right is whether the proceeding at issue even implicates the right. Not every interaction between the court, counsel, and defendants will implicate the right to a public trial or constitute a closure if closed to the public.

Here, the Court reasoned that the trial court’s dismissal of the juror did not occur during voir dire itself, and therefore did not fall within the “categoryof proceedings that our Supreme Court has already acknowledged implicates a defendant’s public trial right.”  Finally, the Court held that even if Miller’ s right to be present was violated, this violation was harmless error.

 My opinion? Good decision. I’ll take a wild guess and assume the attorneys were arguing Motions in Limine when the potential juror wandered into court and listened. Motions in Limine are a very critical phase in the jury trial process, and happen before jury selection actually begins. Among other things, motions in limine practice allow attorneys to establish the rules of engagement (what you can and can’t say during trial). More important, they address whether certain controversial evidence is going to be suppressed from the jury; and/or the manner/purpose for which said evidence is going to be admitted (if it is).

Worst-case scenario, a potential juror who overhears a conversation about Motions in Limine take place between the attorneys and judges can inform the jury about all the evidence which the jury doesn’t know about — all the evidence which was suppressed, scrubbed up; deemed irrelevant; prejudicial, cumulative, distracting, etc. Watching attorneys practice Motions in Limine is like watching a butcher making sausage. It gets to the ugly, brutal and bloody aspects of the case; some of which are purposefully sealed away from the eyes and ears of the jury. Besides, jurors are only supposed to judge cases with the facts they know about and the law as it applies. Again, good decision.

State v. Jardinez: Parole Officer Conducts Overbroad Search of Defendant’s iPod

Good decision.

A community corrections officer’s (CCO) review of video on a parolee’s iPod Nano violated the parolee’s constitutional rights because the CCO did not have a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the iPod Nano contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the parolee’s conditions of release.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/313085.pub.pdf

The defendant Felipe Jardinez was an parole for Drive-By Shooting and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Second Degree. He served prison time followed by 18 months of community supervision. The conditions of community custody included requirements to report to his CCO, refrain from possessing controlled substances and refrain from possessing firearms.

On November 3,2011, Felipe lardinez missed a scheduled meeting with his CCO. The CCO called Jardinez. The two scheduled to meet the next day. During the appointment, Martinez asked Jardinez to submit to a urinalysis test. Jardinez admitted that the test would show marijuana use.

The CCO instructed Jardinez to empty his pockets. Jardinez placed an iPod Nano onto a desk. The CCO was interested in the iPod because parolees occasionally take pictures of themselves with other gang members or “doing something they shouldn’t be doing.” When the CCO handled the iPod, Jardinez appeared nervous. Nevertheless, the CCO lacked facts that the iPod video player would show evidence of a crime or violation of the conditions of the defendant’s community custody.

The CCO accessed the iPod. He found a video recorded earlier that morning. The CCO played the video. It showed  Jardinez pumping a shotgun in his bedroom. Jardinez was arrested. Police searched his home and found the shotgun seen in Jardinez’s iPod video.

Jardinez was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm First Degree. Jardinez moved to suppress the evidence obtained through the CCO’s search of his iPod, and all evidence seized as a result of law enforcement officers searching his home as the spoiled fruit of the unlawful viewing of the video on his iPod.

The trial court granted Felipe Jardinez’s motion to suppress. The court concluded that a warrantless search of the iPod would be justified only if the CCO had a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the device contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the defendant’s conditions of community custody. The case went up on appeal.

At issue was whether the CCO had legal authority to search the content of Jardinez’s iPod when the CCO did not expect the search to yield evidence related to either of the known parole violations, Jardinez’s failure to appear, or his marijuana use.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that unless an exception is present, a warrantless search is impermissible under both article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A trial court may suppress evidence seized from an illegal search under the Exclusionary Rule or the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine.

The Court further reasoned that Washington law recognizes that probationers and parolees have a diminished right of privacy that permits a warrantless search based on probable cause. Parolees and probationers have diminished privacy rights because they are persons whom a court has sentenced to confinement but who are serving their time outside the prison walls. Therefore, the State may supervise and scrutinize a probationer or parolee closely.  Nevertheless, this diminished expectation of privacy is constitutionally permissible only to the extent necessitated by the legitimate demands of the operation of the parole process.

RCW 9.94A.631 provides exceptions to the warrant requirement. RCW 9.94A.631(1) reads:

If an offender violates any condition or requirement of a sentence, a community corrections officer may arrest or cause the arrest of the offender without a warrant, pending a determination by the court or by the department. If there is reasonable cause to believe that an offender has violated a condition or requirement of the sentence, a community corrections officer may require an offender to submit to a search and seizure of the offender’s person, residence, automobile, or other personal property.

Also, the Court based its decision principally upon the Sentencing Guidelines Commission’s comment about RCW 9.94A.631(1). The Commission wrote as its official comment behind the statute:

The Commission intends that Community Corrections Officers exercise their arrest powers sparingly, with due consideration for the seriousness of the violation alleged and the impact of confinement on jail population. Violations may be charged by the Community Corrections Officer upon notice of violation and summons, without arrest. The search and seizure authorized by this section should relate to the violation which the Community Corrections Officer believes to have occurred.

Based on the court’s reading of the statute and its counterpart comment, it found RCW 9.94A.631 did not authorize the CCO’s warrantless search of the contents of Jardinez’s iPod. It affirmed the trial court’s suppression of the evidence of Felipe Jardinez’s unlawful possession of a firearm.

My opinion? Good decision. I’ve posted similar blogs stating that CCO’s and probation officers exercise too much power over defendants. This certainly is one of those cases.

State v. Gunderson: Court Decides Prior “Bad Acts” of Domestic Violence Are Inadmissible

Good opinion. In State v. Gunderson, the Court of Appeals decided a trial judge improperly allowed evidence of the defendant’s “prior bad acts” of domestic violence under Evidence Rule (ER) 404(b) at the defendant’s jury trial.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/892971.pdf

Here, the State charged defendant Daniel Scott Gunderson with Domestic Violence Felony Violation of a Court Order for a September 2010 altercation between himself and Christina Moore, his ex-girlfriend. At trial, Ms. Moore testified that no assault occurred. Although she made no prior statements about the incident, let alone an inconsistent statement, the State sought to introduce evidence of a 911 Call to police and also Gunderson’s prior domestic violence against Ms. Moore to impeach her credibility and show that she was a “recanting” domestic violence victim who was unduly influenced by the defendant. The trial judge admitted this evidence over Gunderson’s ER 404(b) objection. Gunderson argued that the trial court should have excluded evidence of his prior bad acts under ER 404(b).

Some background is necessary. Under ER 404(b), evidence of a defendant’s “Prior Bad Acts” is inadmissible for the purpose of proving a person’s character and showing that the person acted in conformity with that character. The same evidence may, however, be admissible for any other purpose, depending on its relevance and the balancing of its probative value and danger of unfair prejudice.

For evidence of prior bad acts to be admissible, a trial judge must ( 1) find by a preponderance of the evidence that the misconduct occurred, (2) identify the purpose for which the evidence is sought to be introduced, (3) determine whether the evidence is relevant to prove an element of the crime charged, and (4) weigh the probative value against the prejudicial effect.

Here, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the probative value of the prior DV evidence was outweighed by its significant prejudicial effect. It stated the following:

“Much like in cases involving sexual crimes, courts must be careful and methodical in weighing the probative value against the prejudicial effect of prior acts in domestic violence cases because the risk of unfair prejudice is very high. To guard against this heightened prejudicial effect, we confine the admissibility of prior acts of domestic violence to cases where the State has established their overriding probative value, such as to explain a witness’s otherwise inexplicable recantation or conflicting account of events. Otherwise, the jury may well put too great a weight on a past conviction and use the evidence for an improper purpose.”

The Court of Appeals further reasoned that the trial court’s error was not harmless, and that it is reasonably probable that the admission of the two domestic violence convictions materially affected the outcome of the trial. Consequently, and given the above analysis the Court of Appeals revered the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case to a new trial.

My opinion? This decision was very reasonable, even-handed opinion which was effectively based on the law. The logic makes sense. Because the victim did not make conflicting statements and did not recant and the State did not articulate some other compelling justification, the probative value of this evidence is limited in comparison to its significant prejudicial effect. Not only was it manifestly unreasonable for the trial court to admit this evidence, it was also reasonably probable that the jury would have reached a different outcome. Good opinion.

State v. Button: Public Shaming Sentence Struck

VERY interesting opinion from the WA Court of Appeals says that a “shaming” sentence for a defendant convicted of is unlawful. More specifically, the Sentencing Reform Act does NOT support a sentencing court’s requirement that a defendant convicted of Theft First Degree must stand on a street corner holding a sign that states, “I stole from kids. Charlotte Button.” 

          

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/D2%2044036-9-II%20%20Order%20Publishing%20Opinion.pdf

The defendant Charlotte Button was convicted for First Degree Theft for embezzling funds from a high school club. The trial court sentenced her to two months in jail and imposed an additional conditionwhich intended to “send a message to the community.” The court explained the sentencing condition: “Before you begin your jail time, you are going to spend 40 hours standing at the corner of Wishkah and Broadway with a sign that says, ‘I Stole Money From Kida. Charlotte Burton.’ You’re going to do it two hours at a time twice a day from 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning and 4:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon.” Along with the “public shaming condition, the judge also imposed 60 days jail.

Ms. Button appealed the “public shaming” portion of her sentence on the grounds that it violated her Constitutional Rights under the First Amendment and 8th Amendment of the Constitution. In other words, her Free Speech rights were violated and the judge’s sentence was arguably Cruel & Unusual Punishment.

The Court of Appeals decided that although Washington’s Sentencing Refor Act allows a number of sentencing alternatives – including drug treatment for drug offenders and sexual deviance treatment for sex offenders – “public shaming” is not a designated sentencing alternative. “Nor does any other Sentencing Reform Act provision independently authorize the sign-holding condition, which clearly requires Button to affirmatively engage in some conduct. Thus, there is no statutory authority allowing the imposition of a sign-holding condition in the first instance.”

The Court did not address Ms. Button’s Constitutional arguments.

My opinion? Good decision. It’s well-grounded in statory authority (and lack thereof). Sure, the defendant’s actions leading to the conviction were bad. Nevertheless, she paid her debt to society by serving a significant amount of jail (60 days). And I’m sure the court imposed restitution and court fines, as well. Good decision.

Washington State Patrol Upgrades its DUI Breath-Test Machines

The Washington State Patrol is replacing its old breath-test machines (BAC Machines) with sleek, fast, new $9,500 devices that are used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024952858_wspbreathalyzerxml.html

While both BAC machines can measure the alcohol in a person’s system by analyzing a breath sample, the much smaller and sleeker replacement features a touch screen and Microsoft Windows software and can process information faster.

The State Patrol will place 83 of the new Dräger Alcotest 9510 machines in police and sheriff’s stations, jails and State Patrol divisions in northeast and southeast Washington before enough are available to use statewide. The machines will be used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and San Juan County’s present BAC machines shall be replaced by the newer models.

Like the old devices, the new one measures alcohol in the lungs by analyzing exhaled breath. However, the new machines utilize a dry gas standard instead of a liquid solution to verify that the instrument is working properly. For years, liquid solutions have had to be mixed locally by scientists, monitored for temperature, and checked regularly by technicians. The Dräger’s dry gas contains a known concentration of alcohol, allowing the instrument to verify that a suspect’s breath alcohol is being measured accurately and reliably, the State Patrol says.

Only troopers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers certified in the Alcotest will be allowed to use the machines.

My opinion? Competent defense attorneys should investigate whether the police officers who arrest our clients for DUI and later operate these machines on our clients are, in fact, certified to operate these machines. If they’re not, then perhaps the BAC result can be suppressed.