Category Archives: Uncategorized

Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Highest Level On Record

U.S. drug overdose deaths hit record 107,000 last year

According to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses in the United States were deadlier than ever in 2021.

Nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and about two-thirds of those deaths involved fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. Overdose deaths have been on the rise for years in the US, but surged amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. Annual deaths were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019, CDC data shows.

The spike in overdose deaths in the second year of the pandemic wasn’t as quite as dramatic as in the first year: Overdose deaths were up about 15% between 2020 and 2021, compared with a 30% jump between 2019 and 2020. But the change is still stark. In 2021, about 14,000 more people died of overdose deaths in than in 2020, the CDC data shows.

“This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S.” ~Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The pandemic accelerated trends that were already heading in the wrong direction, and experts say that reversing course will require concentrated efforts — and it will take time, both strategically and ideologically.

Treatment for drug abuse was lacking even before the pandemic. In 2019, more than 20 million people ages 12 and older reported having a substance abuse disorder, only 10% of whom reported receiving care, according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation cites evidence that access and utilization of these services has gotten even worse during the pandemic.

The illicit drug supply in the US has also seen a “massive shift” over the past two decades. Increasing use of synthetic drugs caught the attention of experts before Covid-19 hit, but the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem. With international travel limited, synthetics that are easier to manufacture and more concentrated were likely more efficient to smuggle across borders, Volkow said.

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, psychostimulants such as methamphetamine, and cocaine all increased between 2020 and 2021, according to the new CDC data. Deaths involving natural or semi-synthetic drugs, such as prescription drugs, fell slightly from the year prior.

My opinion? This is a devastating milestone in the history of the overdose epidemic in America. When we report numbers, we must remember that each number represents an individual, their families, and their communities. Compounding the issue is the fact that the WA Supreme Court struck down Washington felony drug possession law. In the wake of the Blake decision on February 25, people can no longer be arrested for simple drug possession in Washington state.

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

WA State Patrol Lacks Diversity, Seeks Active Recruitment of Minority Officers

Police Officers Explain Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Matters | Rasmussen University

King5 journalist PJ Randhawa reports that diversity in the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been lacking for years. A new state law is putting pressure on the agency to attract and retain cadets of color.

WSP data shows the majority of state troopers are white men. Department of Justice and state data found diversity in the state patrol has declined. Compared with 2003, the patrol now employs fewer Black, Asian and Native American troopers.

A new state law looks to change the narrative. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that puts pressure on WSP to attract and retain cadets of color. The measure will cost the state patrol $1.3 million. It includes the commission of an independent study into retention and recruitment efforts in addition to setting agency benchmarks and providing legislative oversight of WSP’s progress.

THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC AND BEGINS AT RECRUITING

A 2021 state study into WSP’s retention and recruitment practices showed cadets of color were failing the agency’s psychological evaluation at a higher rate than their white counterparts. And there’s a lot at stake – if you flunk the psychological evaluation, you’re out.

According to data compiled in the report, 36% of white candidates didn’t pass WSP’s psychological evaluation compared to 44% of Latinx candidates, 67% of Asian candidates and 60% of Black candidates who didn’t pass the psychological examination.

Dr. Daniel Clark, WSP’s longtime psychologist, was the man responsible for administering the tests. Clark faced criticism from lawmakers after that 2021 state report showed candidates of color were rejected from the patrol at high rates. The report found, “Every focus group and multiple key executives reported concerns of bias in the psychological evaluation process.”

Clark kept his job. He’s been reassigned at the state patrol and now deals with counseling and training.

THE WSP’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY

Last year, WSP announced they had signed onto the 30×30 pledge, a nationwide effort within police departments to increase representation in all ranks and promote gender equity. According to the WSP, “The ultimate goal of the 30×30 Initiative is to reach 30 percent of women in police recruit classes by 2030 and to ensure policing agencies are truly representative of the jurisdiction the agency serves. While 30×30 focuses on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender.”

According to a statement provided by WSP, high vacancy rates across all law enforcement agencies have increased competition for candidates of color. They say they continue to modify their hiring and training practices to eliminate any unintended barriers for candidates of color.

My opinion? I agree with recent studies showing that diversity in law enforcement may improve policing. Compared to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers made far fewer stops and arrests — and used force less often — especially against Black civilians. Also, female officers used less force than their male counterparts. Apparently, de-escalation tactics and a decrease in unnecessary pullovers benefits everyone.

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.

Fleeing a Crime Scene

Savannah Police Sing To Their Suspect When They Catch Him | Police humor, Savannah chat, Men in uniform

Are Washington’s new search and seizure laws allowing suspects to flee crime scenes?

According to journalist , police may regain authority to use force to stop people fleeing crime scenes. The newly proposed HB 2037 allows police to use physical force if people flee from these brief investigative detentions.

HB 2037 arrives after HB 1310 was recently enacted to regulate use-of-force tactics by police. HB 1310 forbids police officers from using force to detain someone unless they have enough evidence to arrest them. Before last year’s reforms, police could use force, including handcuffs, to detain someone briefly while they sought out more evidence.

Law enforcement officials say HB 1310 prevents them from investigating a crime scene before people scatter. However, defenders of HB 1310 say people might run from police out of fear, not guilt, and racial bias could play a role in their detention.

Radil reports that Angelina Smalls is the sister of Bennie Branch, who was killed by Tacoma police in 2019. She spoke against the new bill at the legislature this week.

“Because Bennie fled, under HB 2037, police would have authority to use force to stop him . . . I think House Bill 2037 is an invitation for abuse by police officers. Legislators should be protecting communities from needless violence, not creating more opportunities for police to harm people.” ~Angelina Smalls

DeRay McKesson, co-founder of the national police reform group Campaign Zero, also spoke against the bill. He said physical force still turns into deadly force too easily, and police can track down the person when they have more evidence.

Democrats who helped pass the police reform laws say they’ve been traveling the state, hearing from law enforcement, victims of crime and affected families.

Please review my Search and Seizure Legal Guide for more information on this topic. And 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.

Car Crash Deaths Have Surged During COVID-19 Pandemic.

Traveling during the winter holiday? Limit your COVID-19 risk with this scientific guide.

Excellent article in the Los Angeles Times by reporters Emily Baumgaertner and Russ Mitchell discussed a tally that shocked experts. In short, there were 38,680 deaths on U.S. roadways last year, the most since 2007. The increase in accidents happened even though pandemic precautions had dramatically reduced driving.

Experts say this driving behavior is likely a reflection of widespread feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. The rise in motor vehicle deaths also lines up with other pandemic-era trends. Alcohol sales have soared, drug overdoses have set new records, and homicides have seen their biggest increase on record.

According to the article, before the pandemic, safety on U.S. roadways had been improving for decades. Even as the number of people on the roads increased and many states raised their speed limits, annual fatalities fell from around 55,000 in 1970 to 36,096 in 2019. Then came the 7.2% rise in 2020, followed by an 18% jump in the first six months of this year, based on preliminary figures from the federal government.

According to the article, for every 100 million miles driven last year, 1.37 people died. This is an increase of 23% rise from 2019. There’s also an increase in deadly accidents involving speeding, illegal substances or a failure to wear a seat belt.

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Assn., chimed in on the subject. He suggested that people’s disregard for themselves and others on the road is part of a national decline in civility that accelerated during the pandemic.

“Anecdotally, we hear from governors’ offices around the country that it’s a symptom and a sign of the overall lack of consideration we’re showing for other citizens, whether it be wearing masks, or not getting vaccinated, or how we drive . . . It’s very aggressive. It’s very selfish.” ~Jonathan Adkins, Executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Assn.

In California, which saw a 5% increase in fatalities last year, Highway Patrol officers issued nearly 28,500 tickets for speeds over 100 mph, almost double the 2019 total. They arrested 232 people for reckless driving — a 150% rise — and are on pace to exceed that this year.

Research based on crash investigations has shown that even a slight speed increase — say, from 50 mph to 56 mph — is enough to increase a driver’s risk of death. Since the start of the pandemic, a larger share of accident victims — including those who survived — have been ejected from their vehicles, typically because they were not wearing seat belts.

The increase in ejections was seen just as lockdowns began last year. Men have accounted for a disproportionate share. Making the roads even more dangerous is rising drug and alcohol use. In one survey, over 7% of adults said they were more likely to drive while impaired than they were before the pandemic.

Federal researchers who looked at accidents in which drivers were killed or seriously injured found that the proportion who tested positive for opioids nearly doubled after the pandemic began. Marijuana use also rose considerably.

Finally, more drivers are distracted. Researchers used GPS and other data to determine that drivers used their phones more frequently after the pandemic began, and that the problem only worsened over time.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a driving crime. Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangerment, Eluding and DUI are typical examples of crimes involving motor vehicles. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Expert Witnesses on Domestic Violence & Recanting Victims

Domestic Violence Organization, SAFE House, provides personal & legal  advocacy for victims of domestic abuse – Domestic Violence Shelter Serving  Las Vegas & Henderson, NV Families | SAFE House

In State v. Harris, the WA Court of Appeals held that expert testimony in DV cases is not required to accompany evidence of a prior assault. However, a court may allow expert testimony on general characteristics or conduct typically exhibited by survivors of domestic violence.

BACKGROUND FACTS

The defendant Mr. Harris and the victim Ms. Bohannan have had a long romantic relationship. Bohannan has two young children, the youngest of which is the biological child of Harris. Due to prior domestic violence, there was a no-contact order prohibiting Harris from contacting Bohannan directly or indirectly, or coming within 300 feet of her residence. Bohannan was against the existence of the no-contact order.

On June 28, 2020, Harris went to Bohannan’s Everett apartment. Bohannan’s neighbor called police after hearing thumping and screams for help. Police arrived shortly afterward. Bohannan eventually allowed the officers inside, where they noticed what appeared to be fingerprints on her neck. A later body check revealed red marks on Bohannan’s arms and body. Bohannan said that Harris assaulted her, but did not want the statement in writing or photos of her injuries.

Shortly thereafter, Harris was arrested nearby the residence. While incarcerated, Harris had repeated telephone and video-call contact with Bohannan. The jail system that monitors calls captured the communications.

Harris was charged with three counts of Violation of a No-Contact Order. Prior to trial, the State introduced Harris’s prior conviction for assaulting Bohannan under Evidence Rule ER 404(b). Admitting the evidence was done to assist the jury in evaluating her credibility. Harris moved to exclude this prior conviction. The court denied Harris’ motions to exclude.

The jury found Harris guilty as charged. He appealed on arguments that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of a prior assault.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals began with an in-depth discussion of ER 404(b). It said this evidence rule prohibits a court from “admitting evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts . . . to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.” Additionally, evidence of a defendant’s prior assault of a victim is generally inadmissible if the defendant assaults the victim on a later occasion.

However, the Court of Appeals also said that evidence may become admissible for reasons such as assisting the jury in judging the credibility of a recanting victim. Before admitting ER 404(b) evidence, a trial court must (1) identify the purpose for which the evidence is sought to be introduced, (2) determine whether the evidence is relevant to prove an element of the crime charged, and (3) weigh the probative value against its prejudicial effect.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals reasoned the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Harris’s prior assault of Bohannan.

“The trial court determined that the State could prove the assault by a preponderance of evidence,” said the Court of Appeals. “The court also identified the purpose of introducing the prior assault—to challenge Bohannan’s credibility. Finally, the court properly balanced the probative versus prejudicial value of introducing the prior assault, and delivered a limiting instruction to the jury. These actions do not rise to an abuse of discretion.”

Next, the Court of Appeals reasoned that expert witnesses may testify on general characteristics or conduct typically exhibited by survivors of domestic violence. However, such testimony must not state that a specific victim witness exhibits the responses or characteristics of a crime victim or state the expert’s opinion of the victim’s credibility.

“Based on our review of Washington precedent, we decline to adopt a requirement that expert testimony must accompany evidence of prior assault to assist assessment of witness credibility. We do not, however, expressly prohibit such expert witness testimony. Rather, it is within the purview of the trial court to assess the proposed introduction of expert testimony and its adherence to requisite evidentiary rules.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

With that, the WA Court of Appeals upheld Harris’s conviction.

My opinion? This case captures how the State may use expert testimony from a witness trained in DV-related issues. If qualified, the expert provides information on how DV affects a victim’s perceptions and actions. Testimony may be introduced at any stage in the process, including grand jury hearings, plea negotiations, trials, sentencing, and clemency or parole hearings.

The most widely accepted use of DV experts is in traditional self-defense cases when a victim of DV victim injures or kills the abuser. DV experts are also used to explain why a victim commits a crime under orders from an abuser. They can discuss why a DV victim fails to report an abuser’s crimes, or does not prevent or intervene in the abuse of their children. Experts are often needed to explain why victims do not report, change their stories, recant testimony, or assist in the prosecution of perpetrators.

In my trial experience, expert witnesses may testify on general characteristics or conduct typically exhibited by survivors of domestic violence. However, such testimony must not state that a specific victim witness exhibits the responses or characteristics of a crime victim or state the expert’s opinion of the victim’s credibility.

Please read Defending Against DV Charges and contact my office if you, a friend or family member face DV charges or any other crimes. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

LGBTQ Training for Police

No Cops at Pride”: How the Criminal Justice System Harms LGBTQ People | Urban Institute

Great article in NBC News by reporter Finbarr Toesland says police departments across the U.S. are mandating LGBTQ training. Some departments are doing so voluntarily, while others are being required to do so following lawsuits.

According to Toesland, there’s growing reports of police allegedly using excessive force against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. There have also been numerous incidents in which LGBTQ individuals said members of law enforcement made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to news reports, lawsuits and academic studies.

These incidents — along with the historically fraught relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community — have led a growing number of police departments across the country to introduce LGBTQ awareness and cultural competency training for their officers. With trainings found from Washington, D.C., to Palo Alto, California, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; rather, departments are crafting programs that take into consideration their specific communities.

Toesland explains that throughout much of modern U.S. history, police officers were bound to enforce explicitly anti-gay laws. They ranged from local measures outlawing men from “impersonating a female” to the widespread criminalization of same-sex sexual activity. In fact, it wasn’t until the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas that gay sex was decriminalized throughout the country.

THE REPORTS, SURVEYS & STUDIES

  • A 2015 report highlights the numerous surveys, court cases and academic studies that document the alleged discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people by law enforcement.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found 58 percent of trans respondents who said they interacted with police in the previous year alleged they had been harassed by law enforcement. The survey also found 57 percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable contacting police for help.
  • A study published in June in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found 43 percent of Black sexual minority men experienced police discrimination in the past year. This unequal treatment had a range of negative effects on this community, including high levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Another study published by the Williams Institute in May that found lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people are six times more likely than the general public to be stopped by police (data about transgender individuals were not available in the datasets analyzed).

THE NEED FOR TRAINING

Toesland explains that a number of law enforcement departments have proactively decided to add LGBTQ programs to their arsenal of training courses. In fact, the largest local police departments in the U.S. —  New York CityChicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington, D.C. — all offer some form of LGBTQ training.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington — the sixth largest local police department in the U.S. — has been offering LGBTQ training since 2000, though it expanded its curriculum in 2015. Sgt. Nicole Brown, who has been a supervisor for the department’s LGBT liaison unit for the past three years, said her department was the first in the nation to offer such training.

California became the first state to introduce mandatory training on sexual orientation and gender identity for incoming police officers, after former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2504 into law in late 2018. The bill requires new recruits to undertake training in five unique areas, including understanding the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and how these aspects of identity intersect with race, culture and religion, as well as learning appropriate terminology around sexual orientation and gender identity.

My opinion? The increase in LGBTQ-specific police training is a positive step forward. Not only can training help the LGBTQ community, but it can help police departments do their job better, especially those that are really invested in community policing. These trainings can really help get to a place where LGBTQ communities feel comfortable working with law enforcement, and actually enable police to do their jobs better and more safely.

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

Offender Score Post-Blake


Comment | Where is the Literature of Dissent?

In State v. Markovich, the WA Court of Appeals held that an out-of-state conviction for drug possession may not be included in the calculation of an offender score. There is no longer a comparable Washington offense after State v. Blake declared Washington’s strict liability simple possession statute to be unconstitutional.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In the early morning hours of July 13, 2017, police officers broke down the door of an apartment in Everett while executing a search warrant. The defendant Mr. Markovich was sitting on a couch in the front room of the apartment. Officers noticed digital scales, loaded and unloaded syringes, baggies, burnt aluminum foil, and a small stack of cash near the couch. Markovich was handcuffed and led outside the apartment. He had a small “baggie” containing a white substance in his pocket. The substance was later determined to be less than a gram of methamphetamine.

In the bedroom, officers also discovered a black fabric bag containing a larger quality of methamphetamine, heroin, and related drug paraphernalia. Markovich was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and Heroin With Intent to Deliver or Manufacture.

At trial, Markovich was convicted as charged. The court imposed a high-end standard range sentence of 108 months in prison followed by 12 months of community custody. Markovich appealed on numerous grounds.

While this appeal was pending, the Washington Supreme Court decided State v. Blake, holding that Washington’s drug possession statute, RCW 69.50.4013(1), violated the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions and was void. 197 Wn.2d at 186. Markovich filed a motion for resentencing in superior court, arguing that he was entitled to resentencing in light of Blake because his two prior out-of-state convictions for drug possession were included in the calculation of his offender score.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

On this issue, the Court of Appeals reasoned that a prior conviction based on a constitutionally invalid statute may not be considered when calculating an offender score.

“A sentence that is based upon an incorrect offender score is a fundamental defect that inherently results in a miscarriage of justice,” said the Court, quoting In re Pers. Restraint of Goodwin. The Court emphasized that the remedy for such a defect is resentencing under the correct offender score:

“In Blake, the Supreme Court declared Washington’s strict liability drug possession statute unconstitutional and void. Because penalties imposed under the invalid statute are void, defendants who were sentenced based on an offender score that included prior convictions under this unconstitutional statute are entitled to resentencing.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

Consequently, although the Court agreed with Markovich on this issue and re-sentenced his accordingly, it nevertheless denied his remaining claims on appeal.

My opinion? Good decision, overall. Our Court’s are dutifully re-calculating offender scores in the wake of the Blake decision. However, this opinion dealt only with convictions from other states.  A specific statute, RCW 9.94A.525(3) treats federal convictions for crimes for which there is no clearly comparable offense under Washington law as a class C felony equivalent in the offender score.  Federal simple drug possession felonies should, therefore, continue to be included in the offender score.

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.

COVID-19 Outbreak At Jail

Justicia fights for COVID-19 protections for people who are incarcerated - Furman News

Reporter David Rasbach from the Bellingham Herald reports the Whatcom County Jail in downtown Bellingham has seen a COVID-19 outbreak the past few days. The present outbreak has spread to 10 corrections deputies and one person housed at the jail.

Rasbach reports that since late in 2020, all corrections deputies at the jail have been tested for COVID weekly. One of the deputies tested positive on Saturday, Aug. 14.

“Over the following three days, additional corrections deputies tested positive during their weekly screening,” said Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deb Slater. “We began working with the Whatcom County Health Department to track down the source of the infection.

Apparently, several corrections deputies contracted COVID while booking an individual who was uncooperative. This individual refused to answer any health-related questions or take a rapid COVID-19 test and demonstrated uncontrolled behavior during the booking process.

The sheriff’s office’s Corrections Bureau has since increased its rapid testing of deputies to daily, and additional personal protective equipment protocols have been put in place, according to Slater.

In January, the Work Center had an outbreak that affected 37 people, leading to some of the testing protocols now in place at the jail.

My opinion? A jail sentence should not become a death sentence. And yet our jails and prisons are filled with people with preexisting medical conditions that put them a heightened risk for complications from COVID-19. Our jails and prisons house large numbers of people with chronic diseases and complex medical needs who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, jails cut their populations by as much as 30%, helping to protect many of these people. But states and counties abandoned their efforts to keep jail populations low as the pandemic wore on.

Please review my Legal Guide titled Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are jailed and charged with a crime during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the best step toward justice. Nowadays, it may save your life.

Trial Security

Courtroom Security: The Hidden Side of The Criminal Trial - Lee Lofland

In State v. Bejar, the WA Court of Appeals held it was not prejudicial to the defendant’s case for jurors to go through enhanced courtroom security screening on a jury trial involving a gang murder.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Mr. Bejar, Jr. was charged with murder in the first degree with a firearm enhancement and unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree. The shooting involved a gang war in South King County that was instigated by gang members disrespecting each other over social media. Mr. Bejar was the alleged shooter, and a member of the South Side Locos gang. The victim was a member of the the United Lokotes gang.

At trial, the judge ordered secondary screening strictly for any courtroom observers.

“There’s been allegations of witnesses being assaulted as a result of this ongoing gang war, and in particular Facebook posts that I read provided here refer to different people as being snitches,” said the trial judge. Consequently, he issued the following secondary screening rules:

  1. Persons entering the courtroom may be subjected to secondary screening, including use of a magnetometer, handheld metal detector, and pat down searches. Persons who fail to comply with screening requirements will not be permitted access to the courtroom.
  2. Except as specifically authorized in this document or by separate order of the Court, no cell phones, cameras, or other electronic devices capable of audio or video recording, or component parts of such devices, will be permitted in the courtroom. Persons entering the courtroom may be required to leave such devices with security personnel . . .

The jury convicted Bejar of all crimes as charged. He appealed on arguments that requiring jurors to go through secondary screening was inherently prejudicial.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals began by saying that the presumption of innocence is a basic component of a fair trial under our system of justice. In order to preserve a defendant’s presumption of innocence before a jury, the defendant is entitled to the physical indicia. This  includes the right of the defendant to be brought before the court with the appearance, dignity, and self-respect of a free and innocent individual.

“Measures which single out a defendant as a particularly dangerous or guilty person threaten his constitutional right to a fair trial,” said the Court of Appeals. “Such measures threaten a defendant’s right to a fair trial because they erode his presumption of innocence; these types of courtroom practices are inherently prejudicial.”

That said, the Court also reasoned that the average juror takes for granted security screenings in courthouses and other similar government buildings. The court emphasized that jurors are used to passing through security screening, including metal detectors and pat down searches, when entering government buildings or government-controlled spaces within buildings, including airports and other transportation hubs, federal buildings, and courts.

“The fact that there was a secondary screening outside the courtroom in the hallway for cell phones did not suggest particular official concern or alarm; it was not an invasive search or conducted by guards with unusual weaponry or armed presence.” ~WA Court of Appeals

Furthermore, reasoned the Court, the secondary screening allowed for a wide range of inferences, including that such screening was designed to guard against disruptions emanating from outside the courtroom.

“The jurors only had to pass through the secondary screening on the first day of trial,” said the Court.  “On all subsequent days, jurors were allowed to bypass the secondary screening with their juror badges. These factors all served to minimize any potential prejudice to the defendants.”

With that, the Court of Appeals ruled that the secondary screening of the jurors on the first day of trial was not inherently prejudicial.

“These secondary security measures did not single out a defendant as a particularly dangerous or guilty person or threaten his constitutional right to a fair trial. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in adopting such measures.” ~WA Court of Appeals

With that, the Court of Appeals affirmed Bejas’ conviction.

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.

Cell Site Location Info

Find Your Nearest Cell Tower in Five Minutes or Less: 2021 Edition
In State v. Denham, the WA Supreme Court held there was a sufficient nexus between the defendant’s seized phone records and the suspected criminal activity to support the issuance of a search warrant.
BACKGROUND FACTS
A valuable diamond was stolen from a jewelry store. Within days, the Defendant Mr.  Denham sold that diamond. Police suspected Denham committed the burglary and got a warrant for his cell phone records. Cell site location information included in those phone records placed Denham’s phone near the jewelry store around the time of the burglary.
Mr. Denham was charged and ultimately convicted with second degree burglary and first degree trafficking in stolen property. At Denham’s bench trial, The trial judge cited the
fact that Denham had made phone calls that were routed through the cell tower in
the parking lot of the jewelry store around the time of the burglary. Ultimately, the trial judge found Denham guilty as charged.
Mr Denham appealed his case to the WA Court of Appeals. He challenged the admissibility of the search warrant and the evidence it produced. His argument was that the warrant based on generalizations and did not establish that evidence of wrongdoing would likely be found in his phone records. The WA Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Denham. The State, however, filed its own appeal. And Mr. Denham’s was heard in the WA Supreme Court.
COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS
The WA Supreme Court began by discussing the admissibility of cell phone records.
“Our constitutions protect individual privacy against state intrusion,” said Justice Gonzalez, who authored the opinion.  He said that under the U.S. Constitution and WA State Constitution, police must have either the authority of a warrant or a well-established exception to the warrant requirement to lawfully intrude into an individual’s private affairs.
“This constitutional protection extends to cell phone location information held by cell phone companies,” said Justice Gonzalez.  He acknowledged that time-stamped data contained in cell phones provides an intimate window into a person’s life, revealing not only his particular movements, but through them his familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.
Next, Justice Gonzalez described how a search warrant should be issued only if it shows probable cause that the defendant is involved in criminal activity and that evidence of the criminal activity will be found in the place to be searched. “There must be a nexus between criminal activity and the item to be seized and between that item and the place to be searched,” he said. “The warrant must also describe with particularity the place to be searched and the things to be seized.”
With that, Justice Gonzalez reasoned that the search warrant affidavits were proper:
“These affidavits present reasonable grounds to believe that the phones associated with the phone numbers belonged to Denham based on Denham’s own use of the numbers with his probation officers and with various businesses, that Denham had the phones around the time of the burglary because of specific facts suggesting he had the phones days before and after the date in question, that Denham burgled the store, and that Denham trafficked distinctive pieces stolen from the store. They also allege that Denham had both phones at the time of the burglary and used one to arrange the sale of the diamond that was the basis of the trafficking charge.
Taken together, this is sufficient to raise a reasonable inference that evidence of burglary would be found in the cell site location information . . . The fact that there are some generalizations in the inferential chain does not defeat the reasonableness of the inference.” ~Justice Gonzalez, WA Supreme Court
Justice Gonzalez concluded by holding that the search warrant contained sufficient detail to conclude that evidence of a crime would more likely than not be found in the cell site location information in telephone company records of Denham’s cell phones.
Accordingly, the WA Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed Denham’s convictions.

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.