Category Archives: Bail Jumping

Blake Case & Bail Jumping

HOW PROSECUTORS USE BAIL JUMPING CHARGES TO COERCE GUILTY PLEAS

Ever since the WA Supreme Court decided State v. Blake – which held Unlawful Possession  of Controlled Substance charges and convictions unconstitutional – I’m inundated with questions from defendants on what that means. Can other charges filed alongside the drug charge get dismissed? Are Bail Jumping charges dismissible, too?

Fortunately,  the WA Court of Appeals decided the issue and answered these questions. In State v. Stacy, the Court of APpeals found that the invalidation of the defendant’s  conviction for a Drug Possession charge does not affect the validity of his Bail Jumping convictions.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Here, Mr. Stacy seeks relief from personal restraint imposed following his 2019 plea of guilty to one count of Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substances (UPCS) and two counts of Bail Jumping, committed while charged with UPCS. He argues that under State v. Blake, which held UPCS charges and convictions unconstitutional, he is entitled to have all convictions vacated.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals’ decision is captured in two sentences below:

“The State concedes that under Blake, Stacy is entitled to have his conviction for unlawful possession of controlled substances vacated. But the invalidation of his conviction for unlawful possession of controlled substances does not affect the validity of the bail jumping convictions. State v. Downing, 122 Wn. App. 185, 193, 93 P.2d 900 (2004).” ~WA Court of Appeals

In other words, Mr. Stacy’s Bail Jumping conviction was upheld despite the fact his UPCS – were later found unconstitutional. The Court’s usage of State v. Downing was notable.

In Downing, the WA Court of Appeals upheld the defendant’s Bail Jumping charges even though his underlying Unlawful Issuance of Bank Check charges were dismissed. It reasoned that although no Washington cases addressed whether the charge underlying an allegation of Bail Jumping must be valid, the State is not required to prove that a defendant was detained under a constitutionally valid conviction.

With that, the Court of Appeals in Mr. Stacy’s case dismissed his UPCS convictions and upheld his Bail Jump convictions.

Please read my guide on Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Access Devices

How to Spot a Forged Check | SQN Banking Systems

In State v. Arno, the WA Court of Appeals Division III held that a paper check presented to a bank is excluded from the definition of an “access device.” Such a paper check will not support a conviction for Second Degree Possession of Stolen Property.

BACKGROUND FACTS

The defendant Mr. Ibrahim Arno brought a forged check for $1,000 to a Wells Fargo Bank in May 2018. He was charged with Forgery and Possession of Stolen Property. While his charges were pending, Mr. Arno missed a court date. He was later charged with Bail Jumping.

The case proceeded to trial. The check was nominally written and bore a signature from the victim Mr. Pinnow. He testified that a box of checks had been stolen from his house in 2017 and that the check in question was one of those that had been stolen. He denied writing the check, and the signature on the check did not match the bank’s records. The account the check was drawn on had been closed earlier after several of the stolen checks were fraudulently cashed.

Regarding the Bail Jumping Charge, Mr. Arno testified that he received a scheduling order with several dates crossed out and was “confused.”

A jury found Mr. Arno guilty of all charges. He appealed the Possession of Stolen Property conviction because the statutory definition of “access device” specifically excludes paper checks from its definition.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals began by saying a person is guilty of second degree possession of stolen property if he “possesses a stolen access device.” An “Access device” is defined as “any card, plate, code, account number, or other means of account access that can be used . . . to initiate a transfer of funds, other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument.”

“Mr. Arno argues that the statute’s plain language excludes an attempt to transfer
funds by presenting a bad check for payment,” said the Court of Appeals. “We agree. If the exclusion is to mean anything, it clearly applies to the presentation of a paper check at a bank.”

The Court of Appeals rejected the State’s arguments that that it was prosecuting Mr. Arno for possessing an account number, not for presenting a forged check. “The record belies the State’s argument,” said the Court. “In addition, it is clear that the State was not charging Mr. Arno for possessing bank account numbers; it was charging him with possession of a stolen check.”

“We hold that a paper check presented to a bank is excluded from the definition of an access device as ‘a transfer originated solely by paper instrument.’ RCW 9A.56.010(1). Thus, there is insufficient evidence to support Mr. Arno’s conviction for second degree possession of stolen property.” ~ WA Court of Appeals

Nevertheless, the Court of appeals affirmed Mr. Arno’s convictions for forgery and bail jumping.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Support Legislation Ending Felony Charges for Missing a Court Hearing

Image result for jumping bail

Did you know that a person who misses just one court hearing can be charged with Bail Jumping and be convicted of a new felony simply for missing that court hearing?

Fortunately, legislation proposed by WA Representative Mike Pellicciotti could possibly end this travesty.

THE PROBLEM

When the Legislature enacted the “Bail Jumping” statute, the intent wasn’t to criminalize every missed court date or failure to appear (FTA), rather lawmakers wanted to give the courts a tool to deter people charged with serious crimes from fleeing.

The legislature gave discretion to prosecutors to add a felony charge if someone “jumped bail.” Sadly, this prosecutorial discretion is being overused. The charge of “Bail Jumping” has now led to a long list of unintended consequences that disproportionately harm Washington’s low income and most marginalized citizens.

Research shows that most people charged with “Bail Jumping” were not intentionally avoiding court. Many had difficult life circumstances that made it hard or impossible to attend a court hearing on a particular day. They were not fleeing from the court, and they wanted to resolve their cases.

Research also shows that many people who miss court are experiencing difficulties with transportation, childcare, job disruption, homelessness, health problems, mental illness and other challenges related to poverty. Under current “bail jumping” laws, Washington disproportionally and unjustly allows for longer criminal sentences for people who are low-income or experiencing a crisis for the charge of “Bail Jumping” even though that was never the legislature’s intent.

THE SOLUTION

WA HB 2231 is legislation would would amend the current Bail Jump statute in two ways: (1) it makes bail jumping a misdemeanor, and (2) it requires the state to prove that a person received written notice of the court date that the person missed.

Here is a position paper about the bill. It is supported by the WDA, ACLU, WACDL, the Northwest Community Bail Fund and numerous other organizations.  This bill sponsored is by Mike Pellicciotti of the (Democratic Party). He is a member of the Washington House of Representatives, representing District 30-Position 1.

My opinion? This is great legislation.

Please contact my office if you face felony charges which include Bail Jumping. These charges are often used by prosecutors to coercively leverage a plea. Although there are substantive defenses to the charge, those who face barriers getting to court are frequently subject to this coercive manner of resolving cases that results in an unjust and disproportionate number of convictions for the most vulnerable.