Washington Law Review


In State v. Shipp the Washington Supreme Court interpreted the meaning of "knowledge" as used in Washington's criminal culpability statute. Defendants in three different trials were convicted of crimes requiring proof of knowledge. In each case the trial court gave jury instructions directing the jury "to find that a person has knowledge if it finds that 'he has information which would lead a reasonable person in the same situation to believe that [the relevant] facts exist.'" The issue in Shipp was whether these instructions, which were taken almost verbatim from the statute, were correct. This note argues that, contrary to the view expressed by the Shipp majority, the statutory definition of criminal knowledge, RCW § 9A.08.010(l)(b), can be interpreted reasonably in only one way: The jury must find that a defendant had knowledge of the fact in question if it finds that a reasonable person in the same situation possessing the same information would have had such knowledge. In other words, for the purposes of the Washington criminal code, this note argues that the term "knowledge" has been redefined by the Washington Legislature to embrace not only actual knowledge, but constructive knowledge as well. This interpretation of the statute can withstand an attack on constitutional grounds. Further, although it does yield a substantial inconsistency within the statute, this interpretation is directed by well-established rules of statutory construction.

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