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State v. Taylor

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

July 18, 2019

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
BRENDAN REIDY TAYLOR, Respondent.

          OWENS, J.

         Brendan Reidy Taylor was charged with felony violation of a no-contact order. Before trial, Taylor offered to stipulate that a domestic violence no-contact order was in place and that he knew of the order. The trial court rejected Taylor's offered stipulation and admitted the no-contact order into evidence at trial. The trial court reasoned that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Old Chief v. United States, [1] which requires a trial court to accept a defendant's offered stipulation to the fact of a prior felony conviction in a felon-in-possession prosecution, did not apply to the admission of a domestic violence no-contact order. The jury convicted Taylor as charged, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Old Chief applied to the admission of the no-contact order and required that the trial court exclude the no-contact order from evidence.

         This case presents an issue of first impression: Does the rationale of Old Chief apply to a defendant's offer to stipulate to a domestic violence no-contact order in a felony violation of a no-contact order prosecution, requiring the trial court to accept the offered stipulation and exclude the order under ER 403? We decline to extend Old Chief to felony violation of a no-contact order prosecutions. The probative value of a domestic violence no-contact order far outweighs any danger of unfair prejudice: a no-contact order provides the specific restrictions imposed on a defendant, is closely related to a felony violation of a no-contact order charge, and is evidence of multiple elements of that offense. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Taylor's no-contact order into evidence, and we reverse and remand to the Court of Appeals.

         FACTS

         Taylor and his girlfriend, Anna, [2] began living together in January 2016. Later that year, Taylor was convicted of a domestic violence offense involving Anna. Following Taylor's conviction, the Kittitas County Superior Court entered a domestic violence no-contact order prohibiting Taylor from contacting Anna, finding that Taylor "represented] a credible threat to [her] physical safety." Pl.'s Ex. 35, at 2. The order also forbid Taylor from coming within 1, 000 feet of Anna's residence and prohibited Taylor from assaulting or causing any bodily injury to Anna.

         Despite the no-contact order, Taylor and Anna resumed living together. On December 25, less than one week after the superior court entered the no-contact order, a neighbor saw that Taylor and Anna were having a verbal altercation in the driveway of their residence. Anna yelled out to the neighbor, stating that Taylor had hit her and asking the neighbor to call 911. Law enforcement responded to Taylor and Anna's residence soon after. When they arrived, law enforcement observed that Anna had bruising on her forehead and arms, a cut on her hand, and a swollen, black eye. Anna reported that Taylor had struck her in the head and face repeatedly.

         The State charged Taylor with felony violation of a no-contact order predicated on his assault of Anna. Prior to trial, Taylor offered to stipulate that there was a no-contact order in place and that he knew of the no-contact order. Taylor also argued that due to his offer to stipulate, the no-contact order should be excluded from evidence at trial. The State refused to join in Taylor's offered stipulation. The trial court rejected Taylor's offer, ruling:

[T]he general rule is the defendant cannot force the state to accept a stipulation. The exception to the general rule is the Old Chief situation, when there's a conviction, which is the thing that needs to be proven by the state. Under that limited circumstance the defendant may force the state to not be able to utilize the underlying ~ conviction via a stipulation.
That's not this situation.

         Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 48. The trial court admitted the no-contact order into evidence at trial. Taylor did not object to the content or form of the no-contact order and did not move to strike any portion of the order. The jury ultimately found Taylor guilty of felony violation of a no-contact order.

         Taylor appealed his conviction. Division Three of the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion under ER 403 by rejecting Taylor's offered stipulation and admitting the no-contact order into evidence. State v. Taylor, 4 Wn.App. 2d 381, 388-89, 421 P.3d 983 (2018). The Court of Appeals determined that the rationale of Old Chief applies to the admission of no-contact orders because a no-contact order is relevant to prove only a defendant's legal status. Id. at 388. The court further reasoned that "the risk of unfair prejudice from admitting the no-contact order substantially outweighed its probative value" because "there was no additional probative value to the no-contact order beyond Taylor's offered stipulation." Id. at 389.

         The State petitioned this court for review, and we granted its petition. State v. Taylor, 192 Wn.2d 1030 (2019). Taylor moved to reverse the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) collection and criminal filing legal financial obligations imposed against him pursuant to this court's decision in State v. Ramirez, 191 Wn.2d 732, 426 P.3d 714 (2018). We denied Taylor's motion without prejudice "to raising the issue at a resentencing hearing in the superior court." Order, State v. Taylor, No. 96325-8, at 1 (Wash. Feb. 20, 2019).

         ISSUE

         Did the trial court abuse its discretion under ER 403 by rejecting Taylor's offered stipulation and admitting a domestic violence no-contact order into evidence in a ...


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