Articles Posted in General Defense Info

A person does not lose their liberties simply because he or she is charged with a crime. Rather, under both state and federal law, criminal defendants are afforded with certain rights and protections, including the right to a speedy trial.

The Court of Appeals of Washington recently analyzed what constitutes a violation of the right to a speedy trial, in State v. Holcomb, a case where the defendant’s trial was delayed on several occasions. If you currently facing criminal charges, you should retain an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Factual Background

The defendant was charged with first and second-degree assault, both with firearm enhancements, violating a no-contact order, and tampering with a witness. He was subsequently tried and convicted of all charges. He then appealed, alleging in part, that the trial court violated the time for trial rule and his right to a speedy trial. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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By James J. White, Directing Attorney at Smith & White, PLLC.

It can be bad enough you did not realize you were on probation. But many cases do have a “stealth” probation. You do not have a probation officer, you do not need to do anything affirmative for the court, yet you are still on probation. You maybe did not know or totally forgot and then something unexpected happens.

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There has been plenty of press about the opiate epidemic that has swept the United States.  CDC opioid death statistics.  How the doctors neglect to warn people about the addictive properties of the painkillers which they are liberally prescribing and whether the FDA should approve such addictive substances to begin with are the subject for another article.  Deceptive Marketing of Drugs.  The hard truth that we must face, regardless how we got here, is that there is a crime wave that accompanies any opiate epidemic.

Fortunately, the vast majority of crimes associated with drug addiction are property crimes–theft, trafficking in stolen property, taking motor vehicles and even the noxious but not physically threatening identity theft.  As such, they are often eligible for the residential DOSA alternative to prison.  https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.94A.664. Continue reading

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Contrary to popular belief, in Washington a police officer cannot simply pull you over based on a “hunch”; there has to be a viable cause, or what is referred to as “reasonable suspicion” for the stop. Be it a minor traffic violation such as running a red light or perhaps an even lesser infraction like a defunct headlight, the officer in question cannot initiate a traffic stop based strictly on the fact the he/she thinks you may have been drinking. That said, assuming you are pulled over as a result of a valid suspicion, being knowledgeable about your rights at that moment and knowing precisely how to act, speak and behave is critical for any future DUI defense.

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police officerA famous song from the 1960s, borrowing from Jewish and Christian scriptures, states that there is a “time to every purpose under heaven.” Encounters with police can be like that. Which is to say, when interacting with the police, there is a time to be very forthcoming, and there is a time to refrain from speaking. Suffice it to say, whatever the specifics of your situation may be, the first thing you say when you encounter a law enforcement officer should probably not be, “I did it.” One man from southwestern Washington made that mistake in his case, a case in which the Washington Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.

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Jury TrialIf you or a friend or relative has been accused of a crime, there are many things about which to concern yourself in the criminal trial. One of these is ensuring that your case includes all of the defenses allowed by the law, possibly including self-defense. You are entitled to request that your jury receive an instruction on self-defense if there is enough evidence in your case to create a reasonable possibility that your actions were in self-defense. As a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision makes clear, it doesn’t matter if the evidence that potentially raises the issue of self-defense comes from your case or the prosecution’s case. If the evidence is validly before the court, and it raises the possibility that you acted in self-defense, the jury should be instructed on self-defense.

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The U.S. and Washington constitutions give criminal defendants certain clear rights. In Washington, one right accused people have is the right to a public trial. There are several procedural obligations that the courts must follow in order to ensure that an accused person’s trial meets this requirement. One requirement that does not exist is that prosecuting and defense attorneys cannot use sidebar to submit peremptory juror exclusion choices. The Washington Supreme Court, in a recent decision explaining the extent of the public trial right as it relates to submitting peremptory challenges, concluded that attorneys could make these challenges at sidebar as long as certain other processes are followed.

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imageYou have been accused of stalking. You are probably quite understandably upset, worried and maybe even angry. In most of these cases the two parties know each other. You may have been completely unaware that the other person was upset by your presence or communication. You are worried what this will mean to your future.  Commonly, this is a former intimate partner or relationship making this a domestic violence allegation.

Stalking is charged when you are suspected of repeatedly following another person who is afraid or intimidated by this and you know (or should have known) that they felt fearful. Please notice that you do not need to intend to frighten the other person for this crime to be charged; it simply matters that they felt threatened. This is generally a gross misdemeanor charge with penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine. But, there are situations which can increase this to a felony charge with penalties of up to 5 years in jail a $10,000 fine. This increase happens when you have a past conviction of stalking or there is a restraining order in place or you are suspected of trying to intimidate a witness in another case. So this is very serious. Also, if this is a domestic violence situation then the probation, even on the misdemeanor, can be five years long.  That is what you need to know and that is why you need a defense attorney. Continue reading

You are facing robbery charges. You are understandably upset and worried about what that may mean to your future – both immediate and long term. Your family may be upset with you. You are upset with yourself for getting into this situation. You may feel all alone. You do not need to be and, in fact, you should not be. You need a defense attorney on your side.

Theft, in and of itself, is a serious charge. But robbery gets even more serious. It is like being charged with theft and a violent crime at the same time. Robbery has two possible degrees you could be charged with. Second degree is charged when you are accused of taking property from someone else by threatening them harm or intimidating them. This is a class B felony and has penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. That is serious enough but first degree is even more serious. First degree robbery is charged in the event of four possible situations: you were armed, or you showed a weapon, or the victim suffered bodily harm, or the robbery was done at a bank or financial institution. Of course any combination of these suspected scenarios would also lead to a first degree robbery charge. This is now classified as a class A felony which is on the same level as murder in the first degree; you could be facing life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. That is the bad news and is why you want and need a defense attorney on your side. Continue reading

Are you facing a weapons charge? In Washington there are many possible weapons charges and they are all taken seriously. They can stand by themselves, such as illegal possession of a firearm, or they can be in conjunction with another criminal charge, as is the case with armed robbery. You’re understandably concerned what this will mean to your future. You are possibly upset and thinking, “Don’t I have the right to bear arms in this country?” That right does exist and Washington does uphold it but they have placed certain legal restrictions on that right.

As mentioned there are a wide variety of possible gun crimes but they fit into a few categories. The first category of weapons charges is if a gun is used to commit a crime – this can result in harsher sentencing. This is because Washington has in its laws what it calls weapons enhancers. This means that you can get sentenced for a crime and then extra time added if there was a weapon involved. Almost anything that could potentially cause harm can be raised by the prosecution as a weapon whether it was a gun, knife or even a baseball bat. They will then probably ask for a weapons enhancer to be attached. If the weapon was a gun it is rather difficult to claim it was anything other than a weapon – in fact firearms have a longer enhancement than any other weapon. The extra time will be added to the end of whatever other sentence is faced and will not be able to be reduced. There are, in fact, people who have spent more time in jail due to the weapons enhancement than they were sentenced for the actual crime. Continue reading

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