The Criminal Justice Theories

Many have heard about the “three strikes” law which has been implemented in many States, where in which a defendant with three violent felony convictions may be sentenced to life in imprisonment. In addition to “three strikes” laws, other state and all federal criminal statutes include mandatory sentences that require judges to impose identical sentences on all persons convicted of the same offense. Mandatory sentences are a direct result of state legislatures’ or Congress’ response to the public perception of judicial leniency or inconsistency in sentencing practices. Driving Under the Influence charges carry mandatory minimum sentences if convicted, depending on how many prior convictions a defendant has.
However, most crimes do not carry mandatory sentences. If sentencing is not mandatory, judges are given discretion and may fit the punishment to the offender based on the particular circumstances. Competing theories about criminal justice help to fuel the different approaches to sentencing and punishment. These theories include the following:
Retribution. Some believe that the primary purpose of punishment should be to punish an offender for the wrong committed, society’s vengeance against a criminal. The sentiment is to punish criminals and promote public safety by keeping them off the streets.
Rehabilitation. Others believe that the primary purpose of punishment should be to rehabilitate criminals and to mend their criminal ways in order to encourage the adoption of a more socially acceptable lifestyle. Most experts agree that this theory is commendable but not practical in prisons. Many criminals boast of coming out better criminals than they were when they entered prison.
Deterrence. Still others argue that the perceived punishment for a crime should be so undesirable as to result in deterring someone from actually committing a crime for fear of the likely punishment. Again, the theory is commendable, but many crimes are committed on impulse or under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Fear of punishment is usually not a deterrent under these circumstances. Moreover, repeat offenders do not fear incarceration the way that people who have been free all their lives might.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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M’Naghten Rule for Insanity Defenses

The American justice system protects those are found to be mentally incompetent, and seeks help for such defendants. Criminal defendants who are found to be legally insane cannot be convicted of charges arising from a particular mental disability. Depending on the jurisdiction, Courts use one of several legal tests to determine whether a defendant actually is legally insane. They two main tests include the Model Penal Code Test and and the M’Naghten Rule.
Washington state uses the M’Naghten rule. The M’Naghten Rule focuses on whether a criminal defendant knew the nature of the crime or understood right from wrong at the time it was committed. The defendant must meet one of the two distinct criteria. Some courts differ as to whether the “wrong” in question refers to moral or legal wrong, or if it refers to both. Additionally, some states have eliminated the first part of the test in which a defendant is ruled legally insane for not fully understanding what he or she has done.
The rule which was established by the English House of Lords in the mid-19th Century, states:
“Every man is to be presumed to be sane, and … that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind, and not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”
An example of this occurred several years ago, when a man murdered his wife and daughter, and then waited calmly for the police to arrive. Three mental health experts testified that he was too psychologically ill to understand that his criminal acts were wrong. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to 10 years in a mental health facility.

Another example was when a woman with severe schizophrenia is charged with assault and battery after attacking her next door neighbor with a shovel. She claims the neighbor was actually a demon who was trying to harvest her soul. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity after the court determined that she failed to understand the nature of her actions.

This particular test for legal insanity has been challenged for a number of reasons. Some have argued that defendants meeting the legal definition of insanity do always meet the medical criteria for insanity, but are sentenced to mandatory medical care anyway. Another criticism is that it fails to distinguish between defendants posing a public danger and those who do not, or between temporary mental issues and lifelong conditions.
Additionally, some have argued that this rule makes it too easy for a defendant with a severe mental disorder to escape responsibility for any crimes, regardless of how big a role the disorder played in the incident.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

How Do I Select a Jury in My Trial?

One of the most important constitutional right a person facing a criminal charge is their right to a jury trial. The Constitution guarantees a right to a trial by a jury of our peers in all criminal prosecutions from minor offenses to the most serious. The jury is charged with finding the facts of a case and after carefully reviewing the evidence they are responsible for deliberating and rendering a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If a jury is unable to reach a verdict, then it is deemed to be a hung jury, and the defendant may or may not be re-tried. So one may ask, how are jurors selected?

Jury selection happens in two parts. The first part is, essentially, random selection. The state, city or federal district will randomly pull names off of lists that the state keeps in the regular course of business. These lists could include a list of registered voters, a list of people who hold driver’s licenses, or a list of people receiving unemployment benefits.

Once your name is pulled from one of these lists, you will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the date you have to go to court. The rules can vary by state, but unless you have some pressing reason to miss the first day of jury service, you generally have to go.

The second step is known as jury selection and/or “voir dire.” Voir Dire refers to the second stage of jury procedures, and is the process by which the court and the attorneys narrow down the pool of jurors to the 12 people (in a felony case) that will decide the case. If it is a misdemeanor than the number of jurors selected is usually six in most states. The process for voir dire varies from state to state, and even from judge to judge. Sometimes, if the juror pool is too large, the judge will randomly pick some people and excuse them from duty after questioning them regarding their ability to serve as a juror in a criminal trial.

Normally, however, the judge and attorneys will interview each juror about their backgrounds and beliefs. Sometimes this happens in front of the rest of the jury pool, sometimes this happens in private. Each attorney has the chance to object to jurors. There are two types of objections: “peremptory challenges” and “challenges for cause.” When an attorney challenges a juror for cause, there was most likely something in the juror’s background that would prejudice them in the case. For example, it is likely that an attorney would not allow a retired police officer to sit on a jury that decides a police brutality case. Many times, the attorneys will not let a prosecutor or a defense attorney sit on a jury for possible bias. In federal courts, each side has an unlimited number of challenges for cause. Attorneys do not need to give reasons for peremptory challenges, but each side only gets a limited number of these types of challenges. Of course, an attorney is not allowed to use peremptory challenges based on the race or gender of potential jurors.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Grounds for Appeal

The right to a trial by jury is the most fundamental constitutional right a criminal defendant is granted. Upon a conviction after a jury trial, a defendant has the right to appeal a finding of guilt. In order for an appellate court to hear an appeal from a lower court the aggrieved party must demonstrate to the appellate court that an error was made at the trial level. The error must have been substantial. “Harmless errors,” or those unlikely to make a substantial impact on the result at trial, are not grounds for reversing the judgment of a lower court. Any error, defect, irregularity, or variance, which does not affect substantial rights is disregarded.

Assuming that there was no harmless error, there are two basic grounds for appeal: 1) the lower court made a serious error of law (plain error) and 2) the weight of the evidence does not support the verdict.

Plain error is an error or defect that affects the defendant’s substantial rights, even though the parties did not bring this error or defect to the judge’s attention during trial. Of course, some plain errors or defects affecting substantial rights may be noticed although they were not brought to the attention of the court. In any event, plain error will form a basis for an appeal of a criminal conviction.

It is much more difficult to prevail in an appeal based on the alleged insufficient weight of evidence. Although appellate courts review the transcripts of trials, they almost never hear actual testimony of witnesses, view the presentation of evidence, or hear the parties’ opening and closing arguments. Consequently, they are not in the best position to assess the weight of evidence in many cases. For this reason they place much confidence in trial courts’ decisions on issues of facts. In an appeal based on an alleged insufficient weight of evidence to support a verdict, the error or misjudgment of evidence must truly be egregious for a defendant to expect to prevail on appeal.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

 

 

Drug Laws Explained 

Certain illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, are restricted at both the federal and state level. This includes the manufacturing, cultivation, trafficking, distribution and possession of these substances. Conviction on drug charges often carries stiff sentences, including prison time, but sometimes prosecutors will offer plea deals to lower-level offenders in exchange for help with a larger case. Some states like Washington have decriminalized marijuana charges as long as the amount in possession is less than a certain amount and if it is for the purpose of recreational use. Many state have enacted medical marijuana laws allowing physicians to recommend the drug for certain illnesses while exempting qualified patients from criminal prosecution on marijuana-related drug charges.
So what governs the state and federal drugs laws you ask? In response to widespread, recreational drug problems in the U.S, Congress in 1970 enacted the Controlled Substances Act (hereinafter “CSA”) as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The Act developed a complex regulatory system designed to control the distribution of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. The CSA established five schedules of drugs, with each schedule representing the degree with which the drug is likely to be abused and the level of accepted medical use.

So what is the purpose of the Drug Enforcement Administration? Formed during the summer of 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a federal law enforcement agency that is responsible for dealing with drug smuggling and drug abuse within the United States. It is under the U.S. Department of Justice and works directly with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Additionally, the DEA has been given the power to conduct United States drug investigations internationally.

Possession of drug paraphernalia, is a criminal charge involving items that are used in relation to drug crimes. Drug paraphernalia can be divided into two main categories: those used to distribute drugs and those used to ingest drugs. This distinction can be important for someone who is facing drug paraphernalia charges, especially since things like ordinary household items such as scales or spoons can be also used in the distribution or consumption of illegal drugs.

There are several ways to defend against a charge of drug possession. Unlawful or illegal search and seizure, the drugs belong to another person, missing evidence, or duress or coercion such as being forced to carry or hold drugs for someone else, are among the most common defenses. Keep in mind, the medical use of marijuana is never a defense in federal court but may be in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. States with such exceptions to marijuana laws typically require a doctor’s signed recommendation.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.