In recent years the Washington State Legislature has passed aggressive new laws aimed at lengthening prison sentences for those convicted of offenses that are labeled as Domestic Violence (DV). As a prosecutor I handled hundreds of DV cases and tried some of the most serious DV offenses that can be committed in Washington including Assault, Rape, and Murder. Now, as a defense attorney, I draw on that experience to tackle the unique legal and factual issues presented in DV cases and to formulate strategies to successfully defend those who have been charged with a DV offense.
While the term “Domestic Violence” historically applied to romantic relationships, over the years it has been greatly expanded and now applies to almost any two people who have a preexisting relationship, a child in common, are family members, or who share a residence. In addition, prosecutors have the option of adding “aggravating factors” to felony DV charges that permit them to ask for, and the judge to impose, much lengthier sentences for those convicted of DV offenses. What’s more, recent legislation will require the sentencing judge to impose much longer sentences on charges when the person convicted has a prior misdemeanor DV conviction. As a result, a person who has been convicted of his first, non-violent DV felony offense may be facing years in prison. To make matters worse, prosecutors can, and often do, pursue DV charges against an accused even when the alleged victim does not want charges pursued or admits to fabricating the allegations that led to charges being filed.
During my time with the King County Prosecutor’s Office I handled literally hundreds of felony Domestic Violence offenses. Because of my experience handling sexual assault and violent offenses, I was generally assigned the most serious DV offenses including Assault, Strangulation, Rape, and Murder. In fact, I was the first prosecutor in the office to successfully prosecute a defendant for multiple sexual assaults of a victim during the same incident. What’s more, I did this twice in a year. These convictions resulted in some of the most severe DV sentences that have been obtained in King County.
As a defense attorney, it is that wealth of experience that allows me to find and exploit the complex legal and factual issues that are so unique to DV cases. In other words, because I tried so many DV cases as a prosecutor I have a unique, insider view of how the prosecution views these cases and the strategies it will use to prove them at trial. I know how best to negotiate these cases and, at trial, how to approach all kinds of factual scenarios and legal issues in order to provide the best defense for those who have been charged with a DV offense.
State v. Tinh Lam- In October 2005 an elderly Vietnamese woman was found dead in her apartment after having been strangled and bludgeoned to death with a hammer. With little to go on I worked alongside detectives from the Seattle Police Department, forensic scientists with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, and medical examiners from King County to narrow the focus to the victim’s boyfriend, Mr. Lam. After a lengthy trial Mr.Lam was convicted of premeditated first degree murder based almost entirely on forensic evidence that included forensic video analysis, fingerprint, blood spatter, and DNA evidence.