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COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

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WA Supreme Court: To Survive Knapstad Motion on Intimidation, Need SOME Evidence on Purpose to Intimidate

State v. Montano

Montano decided it was a great idea to, after his arrest, taunt the police officer by threatening to kick his ass in several different ways. This reminds me of an old joke from Richard Jeni. Why would you intimidate a police officer. He has a stick...and a gun...and a radio to call more people with sticks and guns.

Anyhow, back to the case at hand. Montano was charged with intimidation of a public servant. Montano brought a Knapstad motion. I don't know criminal procedure, but from what I've garnered, a Knapstad motion is essentially a criminal defendant's form of a motion for summary judgment.

Anger alone isn't enough to bring you within the intimidation statute. This seems reasonable. A lot of people are ticked off when they get arrested. Heck, Mel Gibson seems to be ticked off all the time regardless of whether he's being arrested. He's also taken to being a master of disguise:

It also has to be more than just threats:

The Burke court's reasoning applies to the facts of Montano's case. Before his arrest, Montano struggled violently with the police officers who were attempting to subdue him.  From his initial refusal to provide identification to his final thrashings that resulted in two tasings, Montano grew increasingly enraged and violent. After being subdued physically, he resorted to lashing out verbally, hurling threats and insults at the officers.  As in Burke, this behavior amply demonstrates Montano's anger at the situation and at the police officers. However, there is simply no evidence to suggest that Montano engaged in this behavior, or made his threats, for the purpose of influencing the police officers' actions. Instead, the evidence shows a man who was angry at being detained and who expressed that anger toward the police officers.  In the absence of some evidence suggesting an attempt to influence, the State has failed to make a prima facie showing that Montano attempted to influence either officer's official action.

The threshold showing required for a prima facie case (and thus to survive a Knapstad motion to dismiss) is lower than that required for a conviction. Nonetheless, the State must provide at least some evidence supporting each element of the crime charged to merit consideration by a jury.  Here, under the facts alleged by the State, no evidence exists that Montano intended to influence a public servant. The evidence arguably shows that Montano resisted arrest, and charging him with that crime is appropriate.  But the State cannot bring an intimidation charge any time a defendant insults or threatens a public servant. Though such behavior is certainly reprehensible, it does not rise to the level of intimidation. The legislature held the same view, as evident by its inclusion in the statute the requirement that the defendant must threaten with the "attempt[] to influence a public servant's . . . official action."  RCW 9A.76.180(1). Therefore, some evidence is required to link the defendant's behavior to an official action that the defendant wishes to influence.

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