Threats Against the President

With the United States Presidential elections now a distant memory, many are satisfied with the results, while others are not. Throughout the United States, citizens discuss issues involving the new President. Some express their frustrations, while others support the actions taken by the new administration. One my ask, what would happen if one decides to threaten the President of the United States.

On March 21, 2010, a young man in Arlington, Texas posted a rant threatening the life of President Barack Obama on the popular online classifieds site Craigslist. The post, which expressed anger over passage of the Affordable Care Act, stated the following: “It is time for Obama to die. I am dedicating my life to the death of Obama and every employee of the federal government.” The Secret Service tracked the incendiary comments to Brian Dean Miller, who was living with his mother at the time, and arrested him for the crime of threatening the President.

As with most other constitutionally guaranteed liberties, the First Amendment right to free speech has its limits. Miller, whose speech most certainly crossed the line, pleaded guilty in a Dallas federal court and was sentenced to 27 months in prison without parole.

The statute criminalizing threats against the President and other federal officials can be found in Chapter 41 of the U.S. Code. This chapter covers several different types of threat-related offenses involving federal government officials, plus related offenses such as blackmail, extortion, and receiving kickbacks from public works employees

What is a ‘Credible’ Threat?

According to the law, the threat must be made “knowingly and willfully” and must take the larger context of the statement into consideration. If such a threat is uttered as a political argument or made simply in jest, it typically won’t rise to the level of “credible threat.” Regardless, defendants may not defend against such charges by stating that the threat was accompanied by religious or political statements.

For example, if a comedian makes a joke about killing the president, it probably wouldn’t violate the law, even if it lacks good taste (although a comedian is still capable of making a credible threat). In fact, legendary comedian Groucho Marx was quoted in 1971 as saying “I think the only hope this country has is Nixon’s assassination.” It may have been an irresponsible comment, but one protected as free speech.

Essentially, the jury is tasked with determining whether a statement is a credible threat against the President, Vice President, or other government official covered by this statute. First Amendment protections make this determination necessarily nuanced and fact-based. Did the defendant mean their words to be taken as a threat, and would a reasonable person regard them as such? What tone was used when the statement was made, and what were the reactions of the listeners or audience?

Miller, the man who threatened President Obama in 2010, reportedly admitted that he wrote the threatening words and reiterated his threat when initially confronted by federal agents. Since he pleaded guilty, the decision of whether his threat was credible wasn’t in the hands of a jury.

Anyone who is found guilty of making a credible threat of death, kidnapping, or bodily harm against the President, Vice President, or other individuals covered by this statute faces up to five years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines. In addition, anyone convicted of this crime may be sentenced to three years of supervised release but also may have internet access restrictions imposed upon release.

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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How Can I Get Out of Jail?

Upon an arrest, the very first question the arrestee will ask is how he or she can get out of jail expeditiously. 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.

The Death Penalty

In June 2003 Governor George Ryan of Illinois stirred controversy when he commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates to life imprisonment. Ryan said he had concluded the state’s capital punishment system was “haunted by the demon of error.” His action came three years after he ordered a moratorium on executions after evidence proved that 13 inmates on death row had been wrongly convicted. Ryan, a Republican, had sought office with a platform that supported capital punishment. Washington and most other States have slowly abolished the death penalty.

In a 1989 case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the execution of inmates who had serious mental health issues. In the years following, however, many states enacted legislation to prohibit such executions. In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 that the execution of mentally ill persons is prohibited under the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

Despite his role in a landmark court decision, Daryl Atkins currently resides on Virginia’s death row. When the Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling, it also remanded Atkins’ case so that he could be re-sentenced. After the decision in Atkins, the Virginia legislature passed legislation to define mental illness. A jury then heard evidence only on the issue of his mental ability. After deliberating 13 hours, and weighing conflicting testimony, the jury concluded that Atkins was not mentally ill and could, therefore, be sentenced to death. Attorneys for Atkins filed an appeal in October 2005.

In 2005, in another historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of persons who are under the age of 18 when they commit capital crimes. The ruling in Roper v. Simmons followed the same reasoning used by the Court in Atkins. In a 5-4 decision, the majority found that “evolving standards of decency” and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment required the banning of juvenile executions. In its reasoning, the court gave credence to the fact that few nations in the world allow the execution of juveniles.

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.

Jail v. 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. 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.