Sentencing Alternatives

Every day in courts throughout the United States, defendants are sentenced to crimes. Many times the defendant will be sentenced to jail or prison, and sometimes the respective Judge may impose jail alternatives. Sentences for a criminal conviction can take many forms, and a conviction doesn’t always mean a trip to jail or prison. Alternative sentences can include different combinations of the following: a suspended sentence, probation, fines, restitution, community service and deferred sentence/pretrial diversion. Judges typically determine whether to impose alternative sentences based on the type and severity of the crime, the age of the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, the effect of the crime on the victims, and the defendants remorse at the time of sentencing. An essential factor in consideration of a final judgment and sentence includes the Prosecutors recommendation in the plea agreement.

As an alternative to imprisonment, a judge can issue a suspended sentence where an imposition of jail is stayed on condition that the defendant, abide by certain conditions ordered by the Court. Common conditions can include enrolling in a substance abuse program and not committing any further law violation.   This is generally reserved for less serious crimes or first-time offenders. In Washington state, suspended sentences are general imposed on misdemeanor convictions. If the conditions are not met, the judge can then impose a jail sentence.

Another alternative to prison is probation. Similar to a suspended sentence, probation releases a defendant back into the community, but the defendant does not have the same level of freedom as a normal citizen. Courts typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is possible, but it is up to the sentencing judge to determine whether or not to actually grant probation. In Washington state, felony probation is monitored by the State Department of Corrections and misdemeanor probation is monitored by the respective courts own probation department.

Typically, probation comes with conditions that restrict behavior, and if the defendant violates one of those conditions, the court may revoke probation and impose jail time. Courts have a great deal of discretion when imposing conditions for probation.

Any time an individual is involved in the court system, he or she has to pay some sort of fine., For many, the fines may be in the form of a speeding or parking ticket. Individuals convicted of more serious crimes also have to pay fines in many situations, although the amount of the fine is usually much more substantial than a traffic ticket. Generally, fines are imposed to punish the offender, help compensate the state for the offense, and deter any future criminal acts.

In some cases, a judge will order a criminal offender to perform work on behalf of the community, usually in exchange for a reduction of fines and/or incarceration. Court ordered community service can accompany some other form of alternative sentence with the intent that performing community service offers more benefit to society than being incarcerated. The community benefits from the work that the offender performs and avoids the cost of incarceration while the offender benefits from a lesser sentence and hopefully learns from his or her work experience. In most Courts, community service must be completed at a registered non-profit organization and a letter must be filed with the Court on the agencies letterhead, to confirm that the community service has been successfully completed.

Certain types of defendants may qualify for programs that result in having charges dismissed if the defendant completes certain conditions. This is sometimes called a deferred sentence or diversion and these programs take the defendant out of the ordinary process of prosecution so he or she can complete certain conditions. Once he or she is done, either the prosecutor or the court dismisses the charges.

The goal of diversion programs is to allow a defendant time to demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly, and gives them an opportunity to clear their criminal record. In most cases, such programs are designed for time offenders who have no prior history of any kind. Normally, the conditions imposed include some form of counseling and/or probation, and require the defendant to stay out of trouble.

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.

Advertisements

What Must Happen Before An Arrest Can Be Made?

Did you get arrested recently? Are you feeling as if your rights have been violated? The fact of the matter is, when the police arrest someone, they take away that person’s fundamental right to freedom. As a result there are several procedures the police must follow before they can make a legal arrest so that your rights remain protected. So what are those standard requirements that the police must comply with prior to an arrest?

In many states and police departments there are extra procedures which must be followed. These procedures are designed to protect police officers’ physical safety and sometimes they are designed to help the police officer document the arrest, and help the officer avoid making a legal mistake which could ruin the prosecution’s case in a criminal trial. These extra procedures differ from one police department to the next, but generally there are standard requirements an officer must follow prior to conducting a lawful arrest.

There are only a very limited number of circumstances in which an officer may make an arrest. The first is when an officer has personally observed a crime such as a Driving Under the Influence charge. The second is when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person arrested committed a crime. Probable cause is defined as a reasonable suspicion that the individual arrest may have engaged in unlawful conduct. The final circumstance is when an officer has an arrest warrant issued by a judge.

An officer cannot arrest someone just because he/she feels like it or has a hunch that someone might be a criminal. Police officers have to be able to justify their arrest usually by showing some tangible evidence that led them to probable cause.

The rules regarding what an officer must do while making an arrest vary by jurisdiction. Generally, an arrest happens when the person being arrested reasonably believes that she is not free to leave. The officer need not use handcuffs, or place the arrestee in a patrol car, although police often use these tactics to protect themselves. They also do not have to read Miranda Rights at the time of arrest. However, the police must read a suspect his Miranda Rights before an interrogation, so many police departments recommend that Miranda Rights be read at the time of arrest. This way, they can start questioning right away, and also, any information volunteered by a suspect can be used against them. Finally, although the police will almost always tell an arrestee why they are under arrest, they may not necessarily have any legal obligation to do so. This depends on both the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the arrest.

One universal rule police officers must follow is that they are not allowed to use excessive force or treat the arrestee cruelly. Generally, police officers are only allowed to use the minimum amount of force necessary to protect themselves and bring the suspect into police custody. This is why people are advised to never resist an arrest or argue with police. The more a suspect struggles, the more force is required for the police to do their job. If the arrestee thinks the arrest is unjustified or incorrect, she can always challenge it later with the help of an attorney, and if warranted, bring a civil rights case.

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.

What Happens on Probation?

So you have just pled guilty and are being sentenced to probation. Has your lawyer advised you on what probation is and what will be required of you? Probation is the suspension of a jail sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime a chance to remain in the community, instead of going to jail. Active probation requires that you follow certain court-ordered rules and conditions under the supervision of a probation officer. Typical conditions may include performing community service, meeting with your probation officer, refraining from using illegal drugs or excessive alcohol, avoiding certain people and places, and appearing in court during requested times and for many alcohol/drug related crimes, you may be required to submit to random urine analysis tests. But how long will this last?

Typically, the amount of time you are on probation depends on the offense and laws of your state. Typically, probation lasts anywhere from one to five years in Washington state, but can last longer and even up to life depending on the type of conviction, such as drug or sex offenses.

A person who is placed on probation is usually required to report to a probation officer and follow a variety of conditions during the probation period. Specific conditions may include: 1) meeting with your probation officer at set times; 2) appearing at scheduled court appearances; 3) paying probation fees and restitution to the alleged victim; 4) avoiding certain people and places and not traveling out of state without permission from your probation officer; 5) obeying all laws and committing no new law violations and 6) refraining from illegal drug use or alcohol use )if ordered) while also submitting to random drug and alcohol testing. These are just some examples of what is required of one while on probation. There can be many other conditions. Typically, the conditions imposed relate to the type of criminal offense. For example, a judge may require you to submit to periodic drug testing or attend a drug rehabilitation program for a drug-related offense.

So now that you are on probation, you may ask what the consequences are if you happen to violate any of the conditions? Probation violation occurs when you break any of the rules or conditions set forth in the probation order at any time during the probation period. When a potential violation is discovered, your probation officer has the discretion to simply give you a warning, or require you to attend a probation violation hearing. If a judge determines that you violated your probation, you may face additional probation terms, heavy fines, a revoked probation, jail time, or more.

During a revocation hearing, the prosecuting attorney must show that you, more likely than not, violated a term or condition of your probation using a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Generally, you have a right to learn of any new charges against you and to present evidence in court before a neutral judge that may support your case and/or refute the evidence brought against you. You may want to consult with an attorney or other legal professional regarding the rights available to you in your particular state.

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.

Child Pornography Cases

SQ Attorneys has represented a wide array of defendants who have been charged with serious sex offenses. Possession of child pornography is a crime which carries serious mandatory conditions which could include prison time, along with having to register as a sex offender. Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor (under the age of 18). Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, and distribute pornographic material involving children.

A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime, and convicted offenders face fines severe statutory penalties. First-time offenders found guilty of producing child pornography may be sentenced to fines and between 15 to 30 years in prison. Offenders may be prosecuted under federal, state or both jurisdictions for any child pornography offense.

A federal child pornography crime such as possession, manufacturing, distribution, or “access with intent to view,” typically involves the illegal activity crossing state lines such as on the Internet or through the mail. While federal authorities may be involved, state prosecutors may also pursue child pornography prosecutions. Sentences vary by state, but most will require a convicted defendant to register as a sex offender for several years to life.

If a person is convicted of a child pornography-related crime (federal or state), the sentence will likely include mandatory sex offender registration. Upon conviction, a sex offender will be required to register his or her name, address, and past offenses into a registry for monitoring and tracking offenders. The time period for registration varies depending on the actual charge the defendant is convicted of.

It is both a federal and state crime for a person to knowingly fail to register or update his or her registration as required by law. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) includes links to the registry for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Some have argued unsuccessfully, that child pornography should be protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, courts have consistently found that images of child pornography are not protected speech under the First Amendment and are therefore illegal.

If you come across a website that you believe is depicting child pornography, the first step is to contact your local law enforcement agency. While many of these crimes involve federal law, local authorities will know where to route the investigation.

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.