Keystone Cops were stars of early American cinema, featuring in dozens of comedies between 1912 and the Great Depression. They were known for their unique brand of physical comedy and for their poor brand of police work.
This post does not mean to imply that the police officer involved is a Keystone Cop. If anything, the officer involved showed great restraint in ensuring that a difficult situation did not become a tragic one.
On the other hand, it is easy to see a similar scene up on the big screen in black and white, forcing laughter from a captivated audience.
The defendant is stopped for speeding and crossing the center line. After some investigation, the trooper arrests him for DUI. And then, well, all heck breaks loose.
The trooper drops his handcuffs as the defendant pulls himself away. As the trooper realizes that his tazer is not charged, the defendant flees. The trooper pursues and tackles him, but the frequency on his radio is changed in the process. He cannot call for backup. A scrum ensues, during which the defendant squeezes the trooper's genitals, eliciting a loud scream. A passing motorist then stops to assist the trooper and helps him handcuff the defendant, who is charged with third degree assault, DUI, and making a false statement.
At trial, the defendant asked for a lesser included offense charge of fourth degree assault. The trial court denied this request. A discussion of the doctrine of less included offenses is the reason that this story is appropriate to discuss on a legal blog.
In Washington, instructions for lesser included offenses are appropriate when there is a factual basis, presented via the evidence, to believe that only the inferior or lessor crime was committed.
The defendant was charged with third degree assault, which requires proof that the defendant assaulted a police officer during the performance of their official duties. He requested an instruction for fourth degree assault, which merely requires that one person assault another. Because there was no evidence presented that the trooper was not an officer acting in his official capacity, the lesser included charge was inappropriate.
Although unpublished and not precedent, the case is a good read and can be found here.
Lesser included offenses can be a godsend to criminal defendants. They can be the difference between prison time and jail time, jail time and probation, or a felony and a misdemeanor. And they can sometimes take us closer to the truth when the prosecutor exceeds the power of their office and overcharges someone.
An experienced attorney will ensure that, if a lesser included charge is appropriate, the correct evidence is presented to the court. His experience can be the difference between prison, jail, or probation. If you have been charged with a DUI, domestic violence, or another criminal charge, do not hesitate to call us at the Law Offices of Kevin Trombold for a free consultation.