Display With Intent to Intimidate. The Spokane area Law Office of Mark Knapp PLLC handles many kinds of criminal defense cases. Many present issues of self-defense. The ability to claim self-defense depends on whether there is an imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm. The issue of self-defense often arises when a weapon is displayed during a road rage incident or some altercation.
The Washington State Legislature enacted RCW 9.41.270, the Display With Intent to Intimidate law, in 1969. The statute prohibits display of a weapon in “a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.”
Warrants Alarm. The legislature apparently included the language pertaining to display that “warrants alarm for the safety of other persons” in order to discourage further displays of armed force at the state capitol. Lawyers have challenged that language for being vague and arbitrary. In the 1994 case of STATE V. SPENCER, the Washington courts upheld a conviction under RCW 9.41.270 when a man with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder and a loaded magazine walked through a residential area just North of Federal Way with his head down avoiding eye contact.
The Spencer court held that Spencer had unlawfully displayed his weapon. The Washington State Court of Appeals seemed to know display warranting alarm when they saw it but provided very little guidance as to what objective criteria indicate when alarm is warranted. Time, place and circumstances are important and such cases are very fact specific.
Call 911 Immediately. Self-defense issues often arise when an armed citizen displays a weapon. Situations where a vehicular assault occurs during a road range incident can be particularly difficult because law enforcement and prosecutors responding to a 911 call often presume that the party that made the 911 call is innocent. Thus, anytime you display a weapon, immediate contact with law enforcement becomes necessary. It will often be one person’s word against another because many times the witnesses will be gone by the time law enforcement arrives. It is important not to do anything to provoke aggression on the part of the other party. Any acts of an aggressive nature will cause a defendant to lose the mantle of innocence which is critical to success in any self-defense situation.
Deadly Force. Justification for use of deadly force often includes disparity of force. The suggestion that two or more unarmed attackers may only intend to hurt their intended victim implies that armed citizens have some way of anticipating how far things will during an encounter. One punch can knock someone down and cause death. Therefore, an armed citizen confronted by one unarmed attacker might be entitled to display a weapon in order to stop unlawful contact. On the other hand, actually pointing the weapon at an unarmed attacker becomes an assault and may lead to a conviction without the required deadly force. RCW 9.41.270 provides immunity from a charge of Display With Intent to Intimidate while in your home, fixed place of business or while resisting unlawful force. The level of unlawful force permitted will depend on whether a jury decides that it was reasonable under the circumstances to use deadly force.
Look at the Totality of the Circumstances. Thus, everything depends on the time, location and other factors which can be interpreted very fluidly in most self-defense situations. Women and those with medical issues that might endanger a person’s life if he fights back are entitled to deploy armed force even against one unarmed attacker and, depending on the facts, may be justified in stopping an unlawful assault by shooting the attacker. This can also apply where the attacker is known to possess skills that make him a deadly weapon with his bare hands, e.g., a professional fighter, karate expert or individual known to have specialized military combat skills.
We just obtained an acquittal in a Whatcom County self-defense shooting case. On November 14, 2022, Judge Freeman found Kamuran Chabuk not guilty of 2nd Degree Assault