Criminal Trial Process

This past week, SQ Attorneys prepared for trial on a criminal assault 4th degree domestic violence charge. 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.

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Drug Charges in the Criminal Justice System

Drug offenses are some of the most common criminal charges filed within the criminal justice system. The Federal and State drug possession laws make it a crime to willfully possess illegal controlled substances such as marijuana (with exception to certain states), methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, heroin and other controlled substances. These laws also criminalize the possession of chemicals used in drug cultivation and manufacturing, as well as certain accessories related to drug use. Drug possession laws vary according to drug type, amount, and geographic area of the offense. Possession of small quantities may be deemed “simple” possession and may be charged as a misdemeanor depending on the drug, while possession of large amounts may result in a charge of possession with intent to distribute.

Possession of certain illicit drugs violates federal and state laws. While drug possession laws vary widely from state to state, the elements of the offense are generally the same. Prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the drug in question was a controlled substance, and that he or she knowingly had possession of the drug. Such charges may be filed against one or more individuals who were mere accomplices or just simply around the controlled substances in question.

Drug possession laws generally fall into one of two main categories: simple possession for personal use and possession with intent to distribute. The latter category typically carries much stiffer penalties upon a conviction, and are usually serious felony charges. A simple possession charge is not as serious, and one first time offenses, are often times amended down to a misdemeanor. To prove possession with intent to sell, prosecutors may present evidence such as digital scales, baggies, large quantities of the drug, large amounts of cash in small bills or testimony from witnesses.

Drug possession laws also prohibit paraphernalia such as syringes, crack pipes or bongs. The Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute defines what constitutes drug paraphernalia but usually hinges on a determination of primary use. For example, a newly purchased water pipe may not be considered a marijuana bong unless it has drug residue or is sold explicitly as a marijuana bong. Laws also exist to restrict the possession of certain chemicals or materials commonly used in the cultivation or manufacturing of drugs, such as the laboratory equipment used to make methamphetamine.

While some states have legalized possession of marijuana for medical use, and both Colorado and Washington have legalized its recreational use, it is still considered illegal in all cases under federal law.

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.

Pretrial Procedure

Every day, the media reports on big high profile criminal trials that make for great TV drama. We watch movies and TV shows depicting intense, exaggerated trials but the beginning of a trial is often left off of the script. One may often wonder how charges are actually brought and what happens between the arrest and trial.

Although each State has its own procedures in bringing criminal charges against a criminal defendant, the most common way a criminal trial can start is through a document called the “information.” This document is written by the prosecutor and is somewhat similar to a complaint in a civil trial. After probable cause is found in the preliminary hearing, the information is filed. In it, the prosecutor describes what happened in a series of statements, and then shows how the defendant’s actions are crimes. The substance of the information can come from police reports and other documents produced through police investigation, but it can also come from complaints brought by citizens. In most states, a case may proceed to trial after felony or misdemeanor charges are brought by information. In the federal system, a prosecutor can bring misdemeanor or felony charges by information (if a grand jury is waived).

Another way a criminal trial can start is by indictment through a grand jury. A prosecutor will review evidence gathered by the police and give that evidence to a jury. The jury will then decide if the defendants should go to trial. A prosecutor might choose this method if she is not sure she will succeed in a criminal trial, and considers the grand jury proceedings as a test trial. In the State of Washington, a grand jury system does not exist, except for in a Federal case.

The third way to bring criminal charges is the most straight forward. A police officer may see someone committing a minor crime, such as speeding, jaywalking, or littering, and write up a ticket, also known as a citation. Citations can only be used to charge someone with an infraction, which are minor cases compared to a criminal charge and are generally not punishable by prison. The person who receives the ticket has the opportunity to contest it, or can just pay a fine to end the proceedings.

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.

Sentencing After Guilty Conviction

Judge will decide on the appropriate punishment during the sentencing phase of a criminal case after a defendant has pled guilty or has been found guilty at trial. This is otherwise known as the sentence. Sentencing for criminal offenses can range from probation and community service to prison and even the death penalty.

Sentencing usually takes place almost immediately after convictions for minor infractions and misdemeanors, or when a defendant has pled guilty. In more complex criminal cases, such as those involving serious felonies, the sentencing judge usually receives input from the prosecutor, the defense, and the probation department, who prepare recommendations in a pre-sentence report.

In most cases, the judge will consider several factors in determining a criminal sentence, which include whether the offender has any prior criminal history; whether the offender was the main offender or an accessory (someone who assists the main offender) or; whether the offender was under great personal stress or duress when he or she committed the crime; whether anyone was injured or the crime was particularly likely to result in injury; whether the offender was particularly cruel to a victim, or particularly destructive, or vindictive; and whether the offender displayed remorse or regret.

Judges in most cases have a great deal of discretion when determining a sentence and have several sentencing alternatives from which to choose, from diversion to incarceration. Not every conviction means a trip to prison and alternative sentences can include: Suspended sentences; Fines or restitution; Community service; Deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion which would result in a dismissal of the charges; and/or Probation.

Additionally, there are many different types of sentences. Multiple sentences can be served concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after another), and single sentences could be deferred or suspended based on certain conditions.

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 is Probation??

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. 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. More likely than not, you may be ordered to perform some sort of evaluation (i.e. alcohol drug evaluation, domestic violence etc.) and follow the treatment program recommended by the State certified evaluator. Now you may be wondering, how long is this probation going to last?

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 on misdemeanor cases, but can last longer and even up to life depending on the type of conviction, such as drug or sex felony offenses.

The conditions imposed while on probation 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. Similarly, a judge may require that you avoid specific people or group members for a gang-related or battery type of offense. Most understand what is required of them while on probation because the Court typically makes it very clear what conditions the defendant must follow. Moreover, the assigned probation officer usually will review all of the conditions once the defendant is placed on probation. The defendant would also receive all of the conditions of probation in writing. The majority are able to get through probation successfully but what happens if you violate the conditions of probation?

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.

A revoked probation does not automatically mean you will be sent to jail. A judge has a variety of options available during sentencing. For instance, upon a revoked probation, a judge may add an extra length to the probation, impose additional fines, or require you get additional counseling or attend other treatment programs. Even so, a judge may order you to serve a brief period of time in jail, or require you to serve the time allotted on your original sentence, depending on the circumstances. Upon a probation violation, you may request a bail hearing in felony cases to allow you to remain free for a brief period of time before having to serve time in jail or before a judge makes his final determination.

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.