Expungements Explained

Each week, we here at SQ Attorneys receive inquiries regarding individuals wanting to clear their past criminal convictions. This process is called an expungement. When expungement of an arrest or conviction is an option in a state or county, in most instances a person’s criminal record must meet certain standards in order to qualify for the process. Whether or not a person is eligible for expungement will usually depend on a number of factors, which includes: 1) the amount of time that has passed since the arrest or conviction; 2) The severity and nature of the event for which expungement is sought (i.e. a conviction for a sex offense may lead to a denial of expungement); and 3) The severity and nature of other events in the applicant’s criminal record.

Depending on the state and/or county, special eligibility rules might exist for expungement of arrests or convictions that occurred while the offender was a juvenile, and arrests or convictions for sex offenses.

Where available to persons who have been arrested or convicted, expungement does not happen automatically, and is never guaranteed. A person seeking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record must usually fill out an application or petition, and submit the paperwork to the proper criminal court for a judge’s review and decision. In most jurisdictions, a fee must be paid in conjunction with the filing of the petition.

The expungement process can be complicated. For example, some jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or “serve”) papers on district attorneys, while others require the applicant to prepare the legal document (or “Order of Expungement”) which will be signed by the judge. In some cases, a court hearing is required, after which a judge will decide whether to grant the expungement.

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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Restitution Explained

In the past few weeks, SQ Attorneys has represented individuals in several restitution hearings. Restitution is a payment made by the perpetrator of a crime to the victims of that crime. Judges often order restitution be paid in cases where victims suffered some kind of financial setback as the result of a crime. The payment is meant to make the victims whole and restore them financially to the point they were at prior to the commission of the crime.

For example, a defendant who spray paints the side of a residential home may be ordered to pay restitution to the homeowners upon a guilty conviction. The money could then be used to repaint the home. In another example, a defendant who broke his victim’s arm in an assault may be ordered to compensate the victim for his or her medical expenses.

Judges typically orders restitution as a condition of another sentence such as incarceration or probation, although it is possible to receive a sentence of restitution on its own. States and the federal government have statutes that determine who can receive restitution and how judges can determine the amount that defendants will have to pay. For more information on how restitution works where you live, contact an attorney in your local jurisdiction.

Restitution differs from a fine in that it’s paid to the victims of a crime to compensate them for the injuries they suffered as a result of the crime. A fine, on the other hand, is paid to the government strictly as a punitive measure. While a government can be a victim of a crime for restitution purposes, a fine is not intended to compensate the government for its injuries. Instead, a fine is meant only to punish an offender and deter future criminal behavior.

For example, if a jury convicts a defendant of stealing government property, a judge could order the defendant to pay the government restitution in the amount of the value of the piece of property. In addition, the judge could also fine the defendant in order to punish and deter. The two payments are separate one is to compensate the government for its loss and the other is to punish the perpetrator.

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 Get Out of Jail?

When a defendant gets arrested and is taken to jail, typically their first concern is how they can get out as quickly as possible. Several things must happen before a jail facility can release an individual from jail. The process typically involves a “booking” process and a bail hearing that determines whether the person arrested may be released pending trial and set the bail amount. Once the accused has “posted bail” themselves or through a bail bond agent they are released.

An arrest occurs when a person has been taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about after a crime has been committed or after a police investigation. When and how an arrest takes place is very important. Obviously, someone who has been handcuffed and read their rights knows they have been arrested, but not everyone who is arrested is handcuffed or explicitly told that they are under arrest. Whether or not the proper procedure is followed may determine the admissibility of evidence or even result in the case being dropped.

After an arrest a police officer will begin the “booking” process. This is an administrative process in which the police collect the suspect’s personal information and organize evidence relating to the alleged crime. The officer will record evidence, observations and statements about the alleged crime, fingerprint and photograph the suspect, conduct a criminal background check, collect the suspect’s personal property for storage until release, and place the suspect in a holding cell. This is called the discovery process, and all of the “discovery” is given to the respective criminal defense attorney who represents the defendant.

Soon after the booking, within 24 hours, a defendant is entitled to a bail hearing.The purpose of bail is to ensure that an individual accused of a crime that is released into the community will willingly return for future court hearings and not commit new crimes, intimidate victims and witnesses, or flee to another jurisdiction. Those accused of minor crimes may simply be cited and released, but all others arrested and charged with crimes will have an opportunity to argue for their release at a bail hearing.

At the bail hearing a judge examines the alleged crime, the accused’s criminal background, contacts within the community, financial resources, and length of residence in order to determine whether releasing the suspect would pose a threat to the safety of the community and whether the suspect is likely to appear at future hearings. Someone who poses a threat to the community may be held without bail. Likewise, someone who is a flight risk may be held without bail. Concerns about these and other factors also impact the amount of bail required.

More serious crimes typically result in a higher bail amount. Wealthy individuals may also face higher bail amounts to ensure that the bond represents a significant amount to the party paying. On the other hand, if the alleged crime is not serious, the accused can show evidence that they pose no risk to the community, and are likely to appear at future court hearings they may be released “on personal recognizance” without having to post bail.

Other conditions may be placed upon release including limits on travel, court ordered drug and alcohol abstinence or testing, periodic checks by an authority and restrictions on contact with victims or witnesses.

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.

Establishing a Theory for Trial

Soon after a defendant explains his or her story to a criminal lawyer, they will probably collaborate with each other to come up with a strategy that will work best in court. Generally speaking, this strategy will be based upon the story that the defendant tells his or her attorney, but in most cases will not be exactly the same. Coming up with a defense strategy is not as simple as telling the truth in a way that shows the defendant’s innocence. Instead, it will involve weighing witness credibility, figuring out the reputation between the community and the police as well as various other legal factors.

The very first aspect of preparing a case for trial is to establish a theory. This theory is what the defense will present to a jury, which could explain, justify or prove a defendant’s innocence. Putting this theory forward in court could be very beneficial to the defendant. Prior to a case going to trial, a defense attorney could file a pretrial motions asking for certain evidence to be excluded from trial. This evidence can include certain confessions, statements or actual hard evidence found in a crime scene. In addition, the defense attorney would also probably try to interview any witnesses and/or alleged victims to ascertain information for a trial. This information can be further used during a trial to question credibility and prove to the jury that the prosecutions burden of proof has not been met.

Attorneys are charged to be zealous advocates for their clients and this often means that they will provide coaching to their criminal defendant clients in order to put the best defense theory forward possible. In many situations, defense attorneys will practice mock testimony with the defendant to commit and clearly understand a defense theory to memory; take a defendant to a crime scene in order to stimulate memories and get a defendant to write down their own version of the events, which in many cases varies from the actual police report and discovery provided to the defense.

Additionally, defense attorneys will often explain the theory of the case that the prosecution is using in order to get defendants to include important pieces of fact in their testimony. For example, if a key part of the prosecution’s case is that the defendant was in a certain location at a certain time, the defendant needs to remember to tell a version of events that does not place him at that location at that time. Establishing a criminal defense theory involves manipulating the facts in order to be able to zealously advocate for a client and ensure that he or she has received an effective defense.

It is important for defense attorneys to explain to defendants about various pieces of information about the prosecution’s case so that the defendant knows what kinds of evidence they need to produce.

Another reason that defendants should tell their defense attorneys the complete truth is that it could lead to a lesser charge. If, for example, a defendant is charged with armed robbery, and the defendant tells his attorney that, yes, he did rob the store, but not with any weapon, this could reduce the charge to simple robbery, a much less serious crime in terms of potential jail time as opposed to a robbery with a deadly weapon.

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.