What is a Knapstad Motion?

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One of my classes at TCC this quarter is Criminal Procedures for Paralegals. It is absolutely fascinating, and I really value the time and effort our professor puts into our lectures and reading material. Somehow he makes it feel more or less like a real class, which is hard to do with an online course, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m learning about our national and state legal systems.

Our last assignment involved writing a memo to a supervising attorney on filing a Knapstad Motion for a case. We were to use the IRAC format and argue in favor of dismissal pursuant to State v. Knapstad.

What does this even mean?

Well, State v. Knapstad is a Washington state case involving Douglas W. Knapstad, who was charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana). However, this wasn’t a straightforward case. The evidence they had against Knapstad was pretty limited, and the trial court dismissed his case due to insufficiency of evidence.

The case went all the way to the Washington Supreme Court, who affirmed that the trial court was correct in their decision to dismiss due to insufficiency of evidence. Basically, the court said, if “there are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt,” the defendant should file a motion to dismiss.

Now, what’s so special about this? A defendant can file a motion to dismiss after opening statements, right? That’s true, but the Knapstad case establishes precedent for filing a motion to dismiss before the case gets to trial. More specifically, a Knapstad motion is resolved during an omnibus hearing.

What does this mean for clients?

Well, if it looks like the facts of the case do not support a conviction, even if interpreted in a manner “most favorable to the State,” then a Knapstad motion can be filed. Getting a case resolved via a Knapstad motion has the potential to save clients a lot of time and resources, since they don’t have to wait until a trial begins to file a motion to dismiss.

So how do you write one?

When writing a Knapstad motion, you have to have all of the facts in front of you. Often this comes in the form of a police report. Then you have to look at the wording of the criminal offense your client is charged with and ask yourself if they match up. If they don’t, you probably have a pretty good argument for a Knapstad motion.

If the facts of the case don’t match up with the requirements to convict, a Knapstad motion could save you, your client, and the courts a lot of time and resources.

Fall 2020 at TCC!

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After months of trying to decide where I’d like my professional life to go, I decided to pursue my interest in law and the American legal system by becoming a paralegal. Tacoma Community College offers one of the only ABA-approved paralegal programs in the area, so I’m extremely lucky that I ended up moving to Tacoma last April.

Because of concerns surrounding Covid-19, classes are all online this quarter. My lectures take place over Zoom and so far everything is going really well. Currently I’m fascinated with criminal procedure and ethics for paralegals. There’s so much to learn!

I just finished writing my first 3.6 motion memo, and I loved it! Case law is so fascinating that I had to stop myself from reading more cases than I needed to cite for the motion.