I have been contacted by police, what should I do next?
If you are under investigation for a crime you should NOT speak to police or make any statements. Police may ask you to come to the station or come to your house. They may tell you a variety of things to elicit statements from you. Such as: we just want to get your side of the story, we just have a couple of questions so we can close the file, we just want to clear your name. A criminal defense attorney can represent you during an investigation. Statements you make to police almost never help your case and will almost always hurt you. You should remain silent and invoke your right to speak with an attorney before you make any statements to police.
What should I expect from a good criminal defense lawyer?
If you are facing serious charges and the possibility of hefty fines or jail time, you will want the best attorney to represent you and negotiate your case in order to lessen any harsh penalties. The best criminal defense lawyers are able to spot certain arguments and factors in your case that may mitigate any charges that were brought against you. Due to the fact that no criminal case is exactly like another, a good criminal defense lawyer will pick out special portions of the case and analyze each detail in a thorough manner.
I am unhappy with my current attorney or public defender, can you help?
Yes, If you are currently represented by a private attorney or public defender then you do have the right to change representation. I am frequently contacted by people that are represented by attorneys or public defenders that lack the experience and aggressiveness to take a case to trial or get the results you need. I am happy to talk to you about your current situation and how I can help.
I am not a U.S. citizen, will a criminal conviction have immigration consequences?
The crossover between immigration and criminal law is one of the most complex and technical areas of law today. Depending on the crime you are charged with and your current immigration status, you could be facing immigration consequences if convicted of a crime. A “crime of moral turpitude” (CIMT) can have immediate consequences as serious as deportation. I am well versed in the immigration consequences of various criminal charges and can discuss these with you during your initial consultation. You and your family's immigration status will be taken into consideration during my representation of you. A charge as minor as shoplifting (theft 3rd degree), DUI, Domestic Violence or Sex crime could lead to immigration and visa consequences. I am experienced in this field and capable of getting you the best result possible.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is considered less serious than a felony and often carries lighter penalties. However the state of Washington has "gross misdemeanors" whicch are basically between a felony and misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor penalties: up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.
Gross Misdemeanor penalties: up to 1 year in jail and a $5000 fine.
Class A: up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Class B: up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Class C: up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What happens after a person is arrested?
After someone is arrested, they will be booked at a police department which includes taking fingerprints and filling out other documents. They will then be held in police custody while a court hearing is pending. This hearing will often occur within 48 hours. While a person is in custody they have a right to speak with an attorney and should do so before the first court hearing.
At the court hearing, the judge will read the charges against the person in custody and the defendant will enter a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty. Along with an attorney's help, the facts of the case can be analyzed and arguments will be made in preparation for a jury trial or to be used in negotiations with the prosecutor as an alternative to a jury trial.
I have an Arraignment court date. What will happen at Arraignment? Should I have a lawyer present?
Yes, you should have a lawyer at an Arraignment. At Arraignment you will enter a plea, generally of Not Guilty. The judge will then decide if you should be released or go to jail. The judge will also decide conditions of release, such as: bail, No Contact Orders, Alcohol monitoring. The Arraignment court date is your first chance to make a good impression with the judge and prosecutor. Things that happen at Arraignment can effect the rest of your case, and generally do. You should have an attorney at Arraignment.
What is a pretrial hearing?
A pretrial hearing is a meeting with the defendant and their attorney with the prosecutor before the trial occurs. This is a time to clear up any possible legal issues so that when the trial begins, the more pressing issues can be focused on. Evidence can be decided against and other decisions will be made that will shape the course of the trial.
I want to plead guilty, do I need an attorney?
Even if you plan on pleading guilty you should consult with an attorney. An attorney can assist you with pleading guilty to a reduced charge or a reduced sentence. Just pleading guilty to the original crime you were charged with could lead to the judge imposing significant penalties and jail time.
How can I get my record expunged?
It is important to hire an attorney to guide you through this process as there are multiple criteria that you must meet in order to apply for a clearing of your record. The attorney you hire to help with your record does not need to be the same as the person who represented you in your case. In Washington State, there is the option to seal and destroy your record based on the following guidelines:
Criminal Charges: under General Rule 15, you may order your record to be sealed or redacted so long as the conviction has been vacated. The current law does not permit the sealing of a record if a conviction was found.
Civil Charges: General Rule 15 permits the sealing or redacting of a case if privacy or safety concerns outweigh the public interest in accessing the record.
There are individual guidelines for each charge, some of the most common are illustrated below:
Vacating Misdemeanors: If you have completed all aspects and terms of the sentence, 3 years have passed, there are no current charges pending against you, you have no prior convictions vacated, and you have not been restrained by a no-contact order in the past 5 years, then you may apply for a vacation of court record. In addition, the conviction must not be a violent offense, physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, sex offenses and some domestic violence charges.
Vacating Felonies: An offender who has been discharged may request the charge be vacated if there are no pending charges, it was not a violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, at least 10 years have passed for a Class B Felony, at least 5 years have passed for a Class C Felony and it is not a Class C Felony defined under RCW 46.61.502(6) or RCW 46.61.504(6) for driving under the influence.