Hit & Run – Don’t Do it!

In Washington State the law dictates that drivers involved in any kind of road traffic accident that causes injury to a person or damage to someone else’s vehicle or property must stop immediately at the incident scene. If it is not possible to stop at the scene without causing further problems, then stopping nearby is acceptable. The only mitigating circumstances which negate these laws are those which have rendered the driver incapacitated. Following such traffic incidences all drivers are obliged to fulfill certain disclosure and assistance requirements. It is therefore imperative that they remain at the site of the incident until these things have been attended to.

Perhaps one of the most commonly held but wrong beliefs when it comes to hit and run situations is that the driver is not obliged to stop if they hit an unoccupied vehicle. Ask any Seattle DUI lawyer and they will tell you this is simply not true. If a driver hits an unoccupied vehicle, he or she is still legally required to adhere to the legal guidelines set out above. Failure to stop at the scene in such circumstances does constitute a Hit and Run and the driver may faces charges of Misdemeanor.

There are four clearly outline aspects to how Hit and Run is classified and each carries with its own penalty. Your Washington DUI Attorney will be able to advise you in more detail about this, but in short the basics are as follows:

1. Failure to stop and comply at the scene of any accident that causes the death of another may be classified as a Class B Felony
2. Failure to stop and comply at the scene of any accident that causes injury to another person may be classified as a Class C Felony.
3. Failure to stop and comply at the scene of any accident that causes damage to an occupied vehicle may be classified as a Class D Felony.
4. Failure to stop and comply at the scene of any accident that causes damage to an unoccupied vehicle or any property belonging to another may be classified as a Class D Felony.

Revoking of driver’s licenses is also a possible penalty if a driver fails to stop and comply.

The Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers of SQ Attorneys is a highly skilled, knowledgeable and experienced team dedicated to providing aggressive representation for those charged with Hit and Run. The team creates success by not only working with alleged victims to develop a relationship and encourage positive communication, but the team also works with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the Hit and Run allegations are considered in creating the most equitable and fair resolution possible.

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Smoke Dope, Get Stoned … by the Government

Being arrested, cited, charged and/or convicted of a crime involving Marijuana in Washington State may be a much bigger deal than one might imagine. This is so even though many of our state governmental agencies claim they are de-emphasizing their pursuit of marijuana possession arrests and convictions. Don’t be fooled, the majority of Washington State governmental bodies are still seeking out arresting, citing, charging and even convicting people for possessing Marijuana – even for possessing very minimal amounts of Marijuana. Below following are some of the many affects being arrested and/or convicted of Marijuana possession in Washington State can have on an individual:

1. If you are convicted for Marijuana possession, you may: (a) be put on court supervised probation, and (b) be required to participate in mandatory random Urinalysis Testing;

2. A Marijuana conviction in Washington State can detrimentally impact federally insured student loans;

3. A Marijuana conviction may significantly impact child custody issues in Washington State family law court, and may also detrimentally impact an individual’s ability to successfully adopt children;

4. A felony Marijuana conviction, like all felony convictions, deprives a person of their constitutional right to vote;

5. A felony Marijuana conviction, like all felony convictions, deprives a person of their constitutional right to possess firearms;

6. Being arrested for Marijuana possession with Intent to Distribute in Washington State, or being arrested for “manufacturing” five or more Marijuana plants, may result in the government attempting to forfeit your home, car, cash and even other valuable assets. The government is permitted to do “Asset Forfeiture” even if the charges are later dismissed or even if the defendant is acquitted (found not guilty) at trial;

7. A Marijuana conviction may detrimentally impact an individual’s right to qualify for government subsidized housing;

8. A Marijuana conviction may result in an individual being denied entry into Canada and possibly even other countries around the world;

9. A Marijuana conviction may detrimentally impact an individual’s ability to obtain food stamps as well as other equally important welfare benefits;

10. A misdemeanor Marijuana conviction, like many other misdemeanor convictions, remains on your Washington State criminal record for at least three years before it can ever be expunged. Criminal records are available to the general public and thus a misdemeanor Marijuana conviction in Washington State can detrimentally impact both current and future employment opportunities;

11. A felony Marijuana conviction in Washington State remains on an individual’s criminal record for at least five years before it can ever be expunged. Criminal records are available to the general public and thus a felony Marijuana conviction in Washington State can detrimentally impact both current and future employment opportunities.

No matter the circumstances one may find themselves in, the best approach to take when arrested for Marijuana possession in Washington State is to contact a qualified Washington State criminal defense attorney who has knowledge of not only the Washington State court system but also Washington State police procedures. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with possessing Marijuana in Western Washington. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the Marijuana possession allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

Criminal Procedure 101

INITIATION OF A CRIMINAL CASE:

Washington State District and Municipal Courts handle both Gross Misdemeanor and Misdemeanor cases, not Felonies. Gross Misdemeanor and Misdemeanor cases are initiated in one of three ways: (1) the prosecuting attorney files a “Complaint” and a “Summons” is mailed to the defendant to appear in court; (2) law enforcement files a “Citation” and gives the suspect a “Notice to Appear” in court; and (3) in very rare circumstances, an ordinary citizen initiates criminal charges against another citizen.

ARRAIGNMENT:

An “Arraignment” is the first formal step in any criminal court proceeding and is where the accused is: (1) called to court; (2) his identity established; (3) he is informed of the charges being brought against him; and (4) he is called upon to enter his plea of not guilty/ guilty to the charge before him. Although not absolutely necessary, it is wise to have a qualified Seattle criminal defense attorney at this stage of the proceedings. A Gross Misdemeanor/ Misdemeanor defendant is required to be arraigned not later than 15 days after the complaint has been formally filed.

SPEEDY TRIAL RIGHTS:

By constitutional mandate, every person accused of a crime is entitled to be brought to trial in an expeditious manner. If an accused is in custody, he must be brought to trial within sixty (60) days from the date of Arraignment. If an accused is out of custody, he must be brought to trial within ninety (90) days from the date of Arraignment.

PRE-TRIAL/ READINESS HEARING(S):

Depending on the jurisdiction of the court, either a Pre-Trial Hearing or a Readiness Hearing will be set at the Arraignment. Pre-Trial Hearings are set to determine the status of the case, and to encourage the parties to work towards a resolution short of having an actual litigated trial. There may be one or more of these types of proceedings; it is not uncommon to have several Pre-Trial Hearings. Readiness Hearings are set to inform the court whether the parties are ready to proceed to trial, jury or judge alone. Usually the trial occurs a week or two after the applicable Readiness Hearing.

MOTIONS:

Motion Hearings are set when the parties desire to litigate legal issues that may, or may not, result in suppression of evidence and/or dismissal of a charge. These are legal issues that are raised before, and resolved by, the judge who is presiding over the case.

JURY/ BENCH TRIAL:

Jury trials consist of: (1) jury selection (commonly known as, “Voir Dire”); (2) opening statements; (3) examination of witnesses; (4) jury instructions; (5) closing arguments; (6) verdict; and, if necessary (7) sentencing. Bench trials generally consist of: (1) examination of witnesses; (2) closing arguments; (3) verdict; and if necessary, (4) sentencing.

APPEAL:

If the result of the case is unfavorable for the defendant, and there were procedural errors in the processing of the case, a defendant may want to appeal the verdict. A defendant generally has thirty (30) days to appeal a guilty verdict, unless he was not properly notified of his appeal rights. If a defendant is not properly notified of his appellate rights, he generally has three hundred sixty five (365) days to appeal the guilty verdict.

Contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney to help you navigate through the criminal justice system.

Drugs, drugs, drugs ….

Washington State is one of the leaders in arrests for drug possession, and simple possession of controlled substances. “Drug crime” charges may include the possession, use, sale or furnishing of any illegal (and under certain circumstances, legal) drug or drug paraphernalia that is prohibited by the laws in the State of Washington. It is a misdemeanor in the State of Washington to possess 40 grams or less of marijuana. Possessing even the smallest amount of cocaine, however, is a felony in Washington. A VUCSA in Washington (Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act) charge is an offense for which an individual faces serious, life impacting criminal penalties, including significant prison time and heavy fines. It is extremely important you contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney when faced with such a charge.

Because the punishment for “intent to deliver or sell drugs” is so much greater than the punishment for simply “possessing drugs”, it is common for prosecutors to allege that a defendant who was in possession of drugs, intended to sell or deliver the drugs rather than simply possessing the drugs. Thus, it is imperative that a person facing drug charges hire a qualified Seattle criminal attorney who is skilled and experienced enough to develop the strongest possible defense, and thoroughly prepare against the criminal charge(s). This is because a conviction could mean significant jail or prison time, and can seriously affect future education opportunities, financial aid, and employment.

The type of charge, and the seriousness of the punishment associated with the charge depend upon a number of factors which include: Quantity of drugs possessed; The type of drug (marijuana, meth, cocaine, crack, heroin) and its classification;The purpose of the possession (for personal use or with the intent to sell or distribute); Evidence of sales activity; Weapons possession or use while in possession of the drug(s); Large amounts of money involved; and Past criminal history (offender score. The Seattle Criminal Lawyers at SQ Attorneys are able to fight for your rights and get results which will preserve your future.

No Contact Means NO CONTACT!

In Washington State there are two types of No Contact Orders – (1) Pre-Trial, and (2) Post Conviction. Both types of No Contact Orders in Western Washington prevent a defendant from having contact with an alleged victim. Neither type of No Contact Order, however, prevents the victim from having contact with a defendant, since only the defendant goes to jail if the order is violated; In other words – a No Contact Order limits only a defendant’s behavior, not the alleged victim’s behavior. If charged with a Violation of a No Contact Order in Washington, contact a Seattle Criminal Lawyer immediately.

Pre-Trial

A Pre-Trial No Contact Order that is issued against a defendant (sometimes called a Respondent) before he or she is convicted of having done anything wrong is called a Pre-Trial No Contact Order. Amazingly, these types of No Contact Orders can preclude contact between the Respondent and: (1) the alleged victim of the crime, (2) the defendant’s and/or victim’s children, (3) the victim’s place of work and the victim’s home (even if it’s the Respondent’s home too).

In short, these types of No Contact Orders can force a Respondent away from his home and his kids before he has even been convicted of a crime – this is true even if the victim says that nothing happened, or that whatever did happen was blown way out of proportion.

Pre-trial No-Contact Orders stay in place until either there is a final resolution to the criminal case with the help of a Seattle Criminal Attorney, or a Judge specifically orders it lifted.

Post-Conviction

A Post-Conviction No Contact Order is an order that is issued after a criminal conviction. This type of No-Contact Order can carry with it the same type(s) of restrictions that a Pre-Trial No Contact Order does. Post-Conviction Orders are generally good for at least one year.

Civil Standby

Since a No Contact Order can preclude an individual from going to his own home, with the help of a Criminal Lawyer in Seattle, Courts will generally allow the person one trip home to get his clothes and a few personal items. However, the individual must be accompanied by a Law Enforcement Officer during the trip. This process is called a “Civil Standby.” The person must contact the law enforcement agency and schedule a time for the Civil Standby. Be aware, however, that this is a low priority action for most law enforcement agencies, so a civil standby will only be done when the agency has time to spare.

Violating a No Contact Order

Generally, a knowing and willful violation of a No Contact Order in Western Washington is a Gross Misdemeanor. A person convicted for violating a No-Contact Order can receive up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Since violating a Domestic Violence No Contact Order is itself labeled a crime of domestic violence, an individual’s rights to own or possess a firearm will be forfeited upon conviction – even if no gun was used, possessed, mentioned or in any other way used. This is true even where the underlying criminal case is dismissed.

Shockingly, being in a public place (even in the courthouse) is not a defense to violating a No-Contact Order. This means that if a No Contact Order is issued against an individual and that person sees the protected person at a grocery store then he must leave. Inadvertent contact may technically not violate the order, but an individual may have to go in front of a Judge to defend himself, and there is not guarantee that a Judge or even a Jury will believe him.

Even if a victim invites the contact, a Respondent can face jail time if the No-Contact Order is violated. For example:

A man and a woman are married. Something happens at home and the police are called. The police are required to arrest either the husband or the wife. Criminal charges are filed. A No Contact Order is put in place. The No-Contact Order precludes the couple from having contact with one another. The alleged victim contacts the defendant and says something to the effect of, “I’m so sorry that all of this is happening. Come meet me at . . . and I’ll make it worth your while.” The problem, of course, is that the defendant takes the alleged victim up on the offer and meets her at . . . . The officers see the defendant’s car parked next to the alleged victim’s car and initiate an arrest of the defendant for violating the No-Contact Order. The defendant is now facing additional criminal charges. It is important to immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney if this occurs.

Implied Consent …. Hmmm whats that??

Whether you know it or not, as a licensed Washington driver you have already consented to taking a breath test in Washington State. Under Washington’s Implied Consent law, if you are lawfully requested by law enforcement to take a breath test you must take the breath test or you will lose your Washington State driving privilege. Washington’s Implied Consent Laws also state that if you take the test and blow over the legal limit you will lose your Washington driving privilege. That is why it is imperative you consult with a Seattle DUI Lawyer immediately upon your arrest.

Although technically you have the right to refuse a breath test in Washington State, the consequences for so choosing can be more pronounced than if you consented to taking the test in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, the government can usurp your choice to refuse to provide a breath sample by obtaining a warrant to draw your blood, notwithstanding your refusal. The only way, and sole opportunity, to have a chance to fight automatic suspension of your driver’s license in a Washington DUI case is to timely send to the Department of Licensing a request for an administrative hearing.

The law regarding taking or refusing to take a breath test in Washington is one of the most complicated areas of Washington State DUI law. Because this and because of the significant driver’s license implications associated with DUI investigations, any person facing the decision to take or refuse a lawfully requested breath test in Washington State should call a reputable Seattle DUI attorney immediately to discuss the consequences of that decision.