The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled individuals who want to have their gun rights restored after a felony conviction must be crime-free for five years, but it doesn’t have to be the five years immediately before they petition.
The majority in the Dennis v. State Case said that because the Petitioner had been conviction-free for more than five years after completing his last felony sentence, he was entitled to have his gun rights restored despite having committed a misdemeanor two years prior to filing the Petition.
If you have been charged with a crime, cited for a traffic infraction, or need information about your rights, contact Jake McGhie with Althauser Rayan Abbarno, LLP at (360) 754-5844.
Plea bargains are a staple of the American justice system and make up almost 90 percent of criminal cases. Washington residents who have been charged with a crime may be able to negotiate a plea deal to reduce their punishment.
A plea bargain refers to an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor in a criminal case in which the defendant pleads guilty to avoid receiving a harsher sentence. Plea bargains are considered a mutual acknowledgment of the weaknesses and strength of a criminal case and do not imply that the traditional idea of justice has been met. Although the courts smile upon both parties coming to a resolution between themselves, there is a question about who truly benefits from plea bargains.
One justification for using plea bargains is that they help prevent courts from being shut down for being overwhelmed with cases. Prosecutors have heavy caseloads, and using plea bargains to reduce the number of cases they need to try means that more significant cases can be prosecuted. The money and time saved by the defendants who will not have to present a trial defense is another justification for plea bargains.
While these main justifications are beneficial to the defendant, court and prosecutor, they do not provide any benefit to the public or an outcome in which justice has been served. The ethical, constitutional and moral questions about plea deals have resulted in many legal practitioners challenging the plea deal system.
A criminal defense attorney may be able to protect the interests and rights of individuals who have been accused or charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. The attorney might conduct investigations, interview witnesses and review the actions of law enforcement involved with the case to verify the facts of the case and to ensure that a client’s rights were not violated.
Civil rights groups in Washington and around the country have long alleged that African Americans receive disproportionately harsh treatment in the criminal justice system. A report released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Nov. 14 suggests that these claims have merit. The independent agency, which is part of the judicial branch of the federal government, studied the sentences handed down to black and white men convicted of the same crimes between 2012 and 2016. They found that African American males received sentences that were, on average, 19.1 percent longer.
The Demographic Differences in Sentencing study reveals the impact of the landmark 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Booker. The Booker ruling allows federal judges to impose sentences harsher than those prescribed by USSC sentencing guidelines based on admissions made by defendants or facts proved beyond reasonable doubt in court. However, the ruling also allows federal appeals courts to review and modify sentences.
Other statistics dealing with the treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system are just as alarming. The Sentencing Project reports that black men in the United States are six times more likely to spend time behind bars than white men. The nonprofit advocacy group also says that 10 percent of African American men in their 30s are incarcerated in either jail or prison at any given moment.
Criminal defense attorneys may keep figures like these in mind when negotiating plea agreements on behalf of Hispanic or African American clients. If necessary, they may study police reports closely to ensure that the protections guaranteed to suspects by the U.S. Constitution have been respected.
When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain in Washington, the decision is final and it will mean a criminal conviction of some sort. Prosecutors determine the terms of plea deals, and people who lack the means to pay for bail typically accept them because they’ll generally get to go home if the charges are misdemeanors.
When someone can pay the bail, the pressure to accept a plea deal goes down. A defendant with financial resources can obtain release from jail and potentially ask an attorney to review the case. Legal representation might result in a better plea deal than what a prosecutor initially offers.
Race typically intersects with poverty and the nature of the initial plea bargains presented to defendants. A research study that looked at over 30,000 misdemeanor cases across seven years identified significant differences in the treatment of black and white people. Plea bargains offered to white defendants were 74 percent more likely to remove charges that might result in prison sentences. When prosecutors created plea bargains for people with no criminal histories, whites had their charges reduced more frequently than nonwhites.
Any person charged with a crime has the right to retain legal counsel. An attorney could strive to create a criminal defense that protects the person’s rights and challenges a prosecutor’s harsh view of the situation. After an arrest, the representation of an attorney help might convince a judge to offer the option of release on bail. An attorney’s explanation of the charges and potential penalties could help the defendant understand the stakes and make an informed decision about entering a plea. A defense lawyer could also directly engage the prosecutor in negotiations and seek a plea deal with lenient terms.
Residents of Washington possess a legal right to a reasonable level of privacy, which applies to searches by law enforcement. In situations where no expectation of privacy exists, police may conduct searches without a warrant. For example, a stolen weapon in plain view on the hood of a car could be taken by police. This action would not be considered a search.
To enter private areas, police generally need to obtain a search warrant. Law enforcement could obtain a warrant by explaining to a judge that a search will very likely produce evidence of a crime, which is known as probable cause.
Many exemptions, however, allow police to skip the warrant process. Consent from a suspect grants police the legal right to search a property as long as law enforcement personnel use no coercion or trickery to acquire permission. They also have no need for a warrant when they have reasonable fears about their safety or public safety. A police officer who believes that someone is about to destroy evidence can also engage in an immediate search without a warrant. An example of this would be a robber trying to burn stolen money. Police can step in to stop that act and retrieve evidence. Placing a person under arrest automatically allows police to search the person. The majority of searches occur without a warrant.
When authorities make criminal charges against a person, an attorney could investigate options for preparing a criminal defense. An examination of the circumstances that led to searches could yield reasons to question the legitimacy of such actions. An attorney might succeed in forcing the removal of evidence gained through violations of Constitutional rights.
People in Washington who are convicted of an offense may not necessarily have to go to jail. There are a number of alternative sentences that they might receive instead. For example, a person might get a suspended sentence. The suspended sentence may or may not have a condition, such as requiring the completion of a substance abuse program. Probation is similar to a suspended sentence but usually places restrictions on a person’s freedom.
A person might be required to pay something either as a fine or restitution. The former is paid to the state while restitution is paid to the victim of the offense. For example, a person who vandalizes a building might be required to pay restitution to the owner of that building. Another alternative to a sentence or to paying fines is community service.
Time in jail or prison might also be deferred by a process known as deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion. Charges may be dismissed against a person who demonstrates the ability to avoid certain behaviors. Usually, the requirements include probation or counseling in some form. Like the other alternative sentences, this tends to be offered to first-time offenders or to people who have committed minor offenses.
A person who is in need of criminal defense may want to talk to an attorney about some of these alternatives. Incarceration can seriously disrupt a person’s life and may lead to additional complications, such as job loss. A person might also want to enter a plea of not guilty and go to trial. There may be a number of ways to raise doubts about evidence. For example, eyewitness accounts may be unreliable. An attorney might also look into whether a person’s rights were violated during the investigation or when taken into custody.
If you live in Washington and are in the military, you likely understand that the expectations that are placed on you are greater than those that are placed on civilians. If you are charged with and convicted of DUI, the penalties that you will face will be much harsher than those faced by others who are not service members.
Even though your DUI case may be handled in a state court and carry the typical civil penalties, including fines, possible jail time, the loss of your license and others, you may also face discipline within the military itself. The military and your commanding officer may hand down additional penalties for your DUI if you are convicted.
A DUI conviction may risk many things for you in addition to the standard penalties in state court. You may lose your security clearance and your job. You may also risk damage to your reputation, your relationships and your livelihood. It may be important for you to understand how to defend against the charge in both civilian court as well as with the military itself.
Our attorney understands how to defend against DUI cases that are filed against military service members. He knows the risks that are involved in both state court as well as within the military. Judge Turner uses the knowledge he gleaned from his time as a judge combined with his experience working as a criminal defense attorney to help his military clients to obtain favorable pleas or to win dismissal of the charges pending against them. Judge Turner analyzes each case in order to craft the strongest defense that is available to his client. If you are a military service member who is facing a DUI charge, you may want to review the information we have compiled on our military DUI page.
People who have been charged with a crime in Washington will have to provide their attorney with several documents including their criminal record and the arrest documentation. Criminal defense attorneys need these and other documents so that they can help their clients counter the charges. It is important that a defendant’s attorney has all of the same information that the prosecution has plus any evidence of an alibi.
Some of the most important documents that a criminal defense attorney will need to obtain before defending a client are the client’s arrest record and police file. The arrest record will contain information about the incident that led to a person’s criminal charge, and the police file will contain information about an investigation that might have been going on before the incident.
Information about a defendant’s physical and mental health will be important for the defense attorney to obtain. Proof of mental illness could allow a client to plead innocent, and proof of medication usage could explain a client’s odd behavior. A criminal defense attorney may also be able to use medical records to dispute the validity of statements written in the arrest record. For example, an attorney who has evidence that the client is physically disabled may use that evidence to dispute claims that the client violently resisted arrest.
Defendants who would like to plead innocent to a criminal charge will have to provide their attorney with evidence that may prove that they did not commit the crime. A criminal defenseattorney may request information about the defendant’s alibi and evidence that could be used to build a paper trail. If there were witnesses to an alleged crime or witnesses who can confirm a defendant’s alibi, the defendant’s attorney will need information about this as well.