Sunday, February 8, 2009

Washington Case Law Update

By: Dena Alo-Colbeck

Division One Court of Appeals:

State v. Releford: The Court held that the State may establish factual comparability for the purposes of establishing that an out of state conviction is comparable to a Washington felony by producing certified copies of the foriegn charging documents and evidence that the defendant pled guilty to those charges, provided that the law of the state where the guilty plea was entered, at the time of the plea, provided that such a plea constituted an admission of the facts alleged in the charging documents. The Court affirmed the finding that Mr. Releford's Oklahoma burglary convictions were comparable to Washington burglary convictions based upon the certified copies of the guilty plea produced by the State, and held that the State did not have to re-prove the Oklahoma charges against Mr. Releford when the law in Oklahoma provided that the guilty plea was an admission by Mr. Releford to the facts alleged to support the burglary charges. The Court further affirmed Mr. Releford's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, finding factually incorrect Mr. Releford's contention that the antique replica firearm in his possession still needed several pieces to be operable, instead finding that the firearm actually only needed ammunition, and that under Washington law a weapon does not cease to be a firearm for the purposes of a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm simply because it is unloaded. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

State v. Wagner-Bennett: The Court found sufficient facts supporting probable cause for Ms. Wagner-Bennett's arrest for theft of a casino ticket when the facts showed that the owner of the cash ticket had left the ticket sitting on top of the machine she had been using for just a few minutes to take care of a cut finger and, when she returned, found Ms. Wagner-Bennett cashing out the remainder of the machine with the ticket left on the machine nowhere in sight and when confronted about the ticket that its owner had left on the machine, Ms. Wagner-Bennett walked away to the other side of the casino. The court found it was possible that Ms. Wagner-Bennett's conduct had been the innocent claiming of property she thought to be abandoned, but it was more likely that she had intended to steal the ticket and the cash in the machine, and that the facts supported a reasonable inference of intent to steal. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

Division Two Court of Appeals:

State v. Draxinger: The Court found that the trial court properly included Mr. Draxinger's four prior DUIs in calculating his offender score after he was convicted of felony DUI, irrespective of the fact that those four priors had already ben used to raise his current DUI to a felony. The Court found that although the prior offenses became elements of the current offense, they could still be utilized in calcluating an offender score. The court further found that the sentencing statute was not ambiguous and was consistent. A copy of the decision may be found online at:

Division Three Court of Appeals:

State v. Doughty: The Court upheld a Spokane District Court opinion finding that there was sufficient reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop of Mr. Doughty based on an officer's observation of him going into a house thought to be a drug house based on complaints from the neightbors at 3:20 a.m. and staying for just two minutes. The court noted as an aside that Mr. Doughty did not challenge the finding of fact that the house was a drug house, despite a lack of reliable information provided by the State to support that designation, and that the designation of the house as a drug house, coupled with Mr. Doughty's actions, were enough to give the officer reasonable suspicion of criminal activity such that he could legally seize Mr. Doughty. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

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