Blog

Legal news and analysis from the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington, Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.

Saraceno wins DUI trial

Attorney Nick Saraceno won a not-guilty verdict Feb. 16 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with driving under the influence.

The client was arrested Sept. 2, 2023, after a Washington State Patrol trooper pulled him over for speeding on State Route 500. The trooper wrote in his report he used his radar to clock the client’s vehicle at 78 mph in a 55-mph zone. After he signaled for the client to pull over, the client did and answered the trooper’s questions. The trooper noted that there was a case of beer in the rear passenger seat, and he could smell an odor of intoxicants from the driver. He wrote that when he asked the driver for his registration and insurance, the driver’s movements were “slow and deliberate.” The driver subsequently agreed to do a portable breath test. The result of the PBT was .088, slightly above the legal limit of .08. The client also performed field-sobriety tests. He told the trooper that he’d had a few beers earlier in the evening.

Continue Reading

Shapiro, Swisher win District Court trial

Attorneys Micah Shapiro and Matthew Swisher won a trial Feb. 22 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with domestic violence assault and harassment.  

The charges, both gross misdemeanors, carry a penalty of up to one year in jail. Convictions would have also cost the client his 20-year career.  

Jurors deliberated 15 minutes before returning the not-guilty verdicts.

The client was arrested in September 2023 after he and his ex-girlfriend both called 911.

She told the 911 dispatcher she’d been assaulted and knocked to the ground and threatened. He called later, wondering when the officers were going to arrive and that none of what she had said was true.

Continue Reading

Shapiro wins another DV trial

Micah Shapiro won a trial Jan. 12 in Clark County District Court for a client in a domestic violence case.

Jurors deliberated fewer than 15 minutes before returning a not-guilty verdict for the client, who was charged with malicious mischief in the third degree and harassment, both gross misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail.

His client was arrested in July 2023 after his wife called 911. She told the dispatcher, and responding officers from the Vancouver Police Department, that our client did not live with her and was refusing to leave her home. She also said he had damaged her property and had threatened her by saying, “I’m going to off you.”

A few weeks after his arrest, his wife filed a motion to have the no-contact order lifted. She told a judge that she wanted her husband to come home and that she should never have called 911.

Continue Reading

Boise wins dismissal for client, thanks in part to police body cameras

Marija Boise won a motion Jan. 10 to dismiss charges against her client, a day before the case was set to go to trial in Clark County District Court.

A judge agreed with Boise that prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove their case.

A key to winning her motion was footage from the body cameras that Vancouver police officers started wearing last year. The judge was able to see for herself what Boise’s client did – and didn’t do – during the incident that led to the criminal charge.

Her client was charged last year with obstructing a law enforcement officer, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. The crime is defined as anyone who “willfully hinders, delays or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official power of duties.”

Continue Reading

Shapiro, Cognata win DV trial

Attorneys Micah Shapiro and Amber Cognata won a trial Nov. 30 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with criminal trespass-domestic violence.

A jury deliberated approximately 45 minutes before acquitting the client of the charge, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

The client, a divorced father of four, was arrested in July after his ex-wife called 911 to report that he came into her apartment while trying to pick up the children for a scheduled visit.

According to the ex-couple’s parenting plan, the parent picking up the children should wait outside.

The client was scheduled to pick up his three youngest children, and when he arrived at his ex-wife’s apartment one of the three children said he didn’t want to go. The door to his ex-wife’s apartment was unlocked and the client went in to get his son. He’d been in the apartment before, as his oldest child testified at the trial.

Continue Reading

Haggerty, Saraceno win District Court trial

Attorneys Eliza Haggerty and Nick Saraceno won a trial Oct. 13 in Clark County District Court for a client accused of denting a car door.

The client was charged with malicious mischief in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor.

He was cited in 2021 after the alleged victim called 911 and reported that she saw him intentionally ram the door of his van into the door of her Ford Escape and then drive away. The client and alleged victim lived in the same apartment complex, where the client was employed as a maintenance worker.

A Vancouver police officer photographed two indents on the front passenger side door of the alleged victim’s vehicle and questioned the client, who said he may have accidentally made contact with the Ford Escape because there wasn’t much space between the vehicles. He said he did not cause any damage and refused to exchange his insurance information with the alleged victim.

Continue Reading

Quick acquittal in domestic violence trial

A jury needed only 20 minutes to reach a “not guilty” verdict in a recent domestic violence case in Clark County District Court.

Attorneys Devin Higgins and Amber Cognata won the Oct. 5 trial for a client accused of assaulting her ex-boyfriend. She was charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

A video of the July 17 incident, filmed by the alleged victim’s adult daughter, showed our client and her ex arguing about infidelity. The alleged victim got splashed with water off-camera, and then our client appeared to make a slapping motion toward her ex’s face.

The alleged victim’s daughter called 911. When Clark County Sheriff’s deputies arrived he told them he did not want to be a victim and he did not want his ex-girlfriend to get into trouble. A deputy who viewed the video explained that under the state’s mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence he had no choice but to arrest our client.

At trial, the alleged victim said he was hit in the back of the head. Before he was hit, he said he had been calling his ex a whore, a cheating slut and a bitch. He said he hadn’t wanted law enforcement involved and didn’t tell his daughter to call 911. He also said that before our client showed up at his house he told her he was going to “destroy” her.

Continue Reading

Pitts wins DV trial in District Court

Attorney Taylor Pitts won an acquittal Aug. 24 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with domestic violence assault.

The alleged victim -- the client’s girlfriend and the mother of his two children -- did not show up for the trial. Since she did not show up to testify, the statement she wrote for police officers detailing the assault was not admissible.

The client was arrested April 23 after his 8-year-old stepson called 911 and said his dad had punched his mother. The client got on the phone with the dispatcher and said he’d been trying to leave the residence and his girlfriend wouldn’t let him leave.

Officers from the Vancouver Police Department responded and determined the client was the aggressor in the fight. They photographed the alleged victim’s injuries but did not photograph the client’s injuries. The client was charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Continue Reading

Location, location, location

Neil Anderson and Marina Spencer won a trial in Clark County Superior Court for a client charged with one count of rape of a child in the first degree and two counts of child molestation in the first degree.

The jury returned the unanimous “not guilty” verdict on Aug. 18 after 5 ½ hours of deliberation.

Afterward, jurors said they didn’t even get around to discussing the details of the allegations. They didn’t make it that far because they couldn’t even agree the state had proved what is typically a very easy hurdle for the state to clear: jurisdiction.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office can only prosecute crimes committed in Clark County. During the four-day trial, none of the state’s witnesses identified a location in Clark County where the alleged abuse occurred.

Continue Reading

Mellen, Cognata win assault trial

Attorney Daniel Mellen won a trial Aug. 10 for a client accused of tasing his roommate with a stun gun.

Attorney Amber Cognata assisted Mellen during the one-day trial in Clark County District Court, and her help went beyond jury selection and questioning witnesses. In an effective move, Mellen had Cognata help demonstrate for the jury why the alleged victim’s claims didn’t make any sense.

The alleged victim said Mellen’s client jumped on his back and then tased him while hanging onto him.

That would suggest the injuries should have been higher on his body, Mellen said. And since his client is right-handed, he would have likely tased his roommate around his right shoulder.

But the alleged victim’s wounds were on the lower left part of his torso.

During closing argument, Mellen stood behind Cognata and showed the jury where he would strike her from that position.

His client’s story was that the roommate, who was taller and heavier, tackled him, pinned him to the floor and was punching him when he deployed his stun gun.

Mellen and Cognata got on the ground in the courtroom, facing each other, and Mellen acted out jabbing her with his right hand and the area most accessible, which was her left hip and the left side of her stomach.

The injuries, he told the jury, fit his client’s story better than the alleged victim’s story.

Continue Reading

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders