Jury Nullifcation Explained

A trial by jury is a guaranteed right that all defendants have in the United States.  That jury is comprised of average citizens from all walks of life with no special training or skills to serve other than being a U.S. citizen who are at least 18 years old, residing in the judicial district for a set period of time, being proficient in English, having no disqualifying mental or physical conditions, and not having a pending or previous felony conviction. In fact, over 32 million people are called for jury service every year, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Serving on a jury is a cornerstone of democracy and a hallmark of our justice system. Unlike judges, juries historically have been able to ignore the law in order to achieve justice in individual cases that involve unjust rules or their unjust application. This is known as jury nullification.

Jury nullification might sound like a convoluted concept in an already confusing legal system, but the idea is actually quite simple. It happens when a jury returns a verdict of Not Guilty despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. Why would a jury do this? Don’t jurors swear an oath to uphold the law? Yes, but oftentimes it is a tool juries can use to set aside a law they believe is immoral or wrongly applied to the accused.

Jury nullification is legal according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but whether or not juries need to be instructed on this right is a different matter. The Supreme Court has ruled that while the power of jury nullification exists, state courts and prosecutors are not required to inform jurors of this power. Accordingly, judges around the country have routinely forbidden any mention of jury nullification in the courtroom.

The right to disregard the law if you morally disagree with it also comes from the fact that jurors cannot be punished for the verdict they render, no matter how unpopular it is to the general public or the specific judge presiding over the case. Also, defendants found not guilty cannot be retried for the same crime. Hence, once a jury finds a defendant not guilty, there is no mechanism for a prosecutor to bring the case against the same defendant again.

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

Revised Code of Washington

Each and every crime in the State of Washington is enumerated in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). These codes define what a crime is, lay out the elements of each crime and, in many cases, provide sentencing guidelines for the specific criminal act. Crimes are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors, and are further divided into simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. All misdemeanor cases are heard in Municipal and District Courts; and the Court is determined by the law enforcement agency that conducts the investigation and the Prosecutors office assigned to the particular jurisdiction. The more serious offenses are known as a felony. Felonies are categorized into classes A, B, or C in descending order of seriousness. All felony cases are heard in the Superior Court of the particular county the crime is alleged to have occurred.

A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. Examples of simple misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, driving while license suspended in the third degree and solicitation of a prostitute. A simple misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A gross misdemeanor is a much more serious offense. Driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs is a gross misdemeanor as well as an assault in the 4th degree charge and theft in the 3rd degree. These offenses carry penalties of up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Some misdemeanors such as a driving under the influence offense carry mandatory punishments per the RCW. Penalties often depend on the nature of the offense, any aggravating factors involved, and the prior criminal history of the offender.

Felony crimes are much more serious than misdemeanors. A felony crime includes offenses such offenses as murder, robbery, rape, burglary, and sales or distribution of illegal drugs. Class A felonies are the most serious offenses and are punishable by prison sentences which can include life, as well as fines of up to $50,000. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The Washington State sentencing guidelines further classifies each felony crime by assigning specific standard ranges for each charge. These standard ranges are used to determine the amount of time a defendant could be incarcerated for if convicted of a particular felony charge. Fifteen seriousness levels exist from Level I to Level XV which carry corresponding sentencing ranges for each level. At the time of sentencing on a felony charge, a pre-sentence report is typically required by the respective sentencing judge who makes the final determination of the exact sentence that the defendant will receive. These pre-sentence reports often time include information such as criminal, family, and employment history, psychological assessments, statements from victims, and often times will include each parties recommendation to the Court of what they believe would be a fair and just sentence.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Seattle 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

Probationary Period

One of the most important jobs of a criminal defense lawyer is to ensure that a client avoids jail time at any cost. For many, this means a suspended sentence in lieu of jail time, but with this comes along a probationary period. The length of probation can vary, and the type of probation imposed is determined by the conditions a defendant must comply with as part of his or her sentence.

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.

I’m in jail … Get me out!

Upon an arrest, typically the first question a person asks thenselves 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.