Writ of Habeas Corpus

In many countries, authorities may take citizens and incarcerate them for months or years without charging them. Those imprisoned have no legal means by which they can protest or challenge the imprisonment. The framers of the U. S. Constitution wanted to prohibit this kind of occurrence in the new United States. Therefore, they included a clause in the Constitution that allows courts to issue writs of habeas corpus. Many states also recognize writs of habeas corpus in addition to the federal government. The U. S. Constitution also specifically prohibits the government from suspending proceedings for writs of habeas corpus except under extraordinary circumstances such as during times of war.

Defendants who are considering challenging the legal basis of their imprisonment, its duration, or certain conditions of confinement may seek relief from a court by filing an application for a “writ of habeas corpus.” A writ of habeas corpus (which literally means to “produce the body”) is a court order to a person or agency holding someone in custody (such as a warden) to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order and to show a valid reason for that person’s detention.

Sometimes, especially where there are disputed facts, the court may hold an evidentiary hearing before ruling on a writ of habeas corpus. During the hearing, the parties (the prisoner and the government) can present evidence and the court may also issue and enforce subpoenas in order to obtain and examine evidence. If challenging the present basis for a detention, a prisoner may include evidence that his or her sentence was miscalculated or that good time credits earned by the prisoner were not properly awarded. If an evidentiary hearing is held, the court will usually appoint an attorney to represent the prisoner.

If granted, a writ of habeas corpus could lead to relief such as: 1) Release from custody; 2) Reduction in a prison sentence; 3) An order halting illegal conditions of confinement; or 4) A declaration of rights.

While Habeas Corpus allows prisoners to challenge the fact of their present confinement, it does have its limitations. Specifically, these writs cannot be used to challenge a finding of guilt as that is reserved for the criminal appeal process. Also, in many cases where prisoners are challenging the conditions of their confinement, they may be required to use the civil rights complaint process instead of habeas corpus.

When it comes to appealing guilty verdicts, prisoners are normally required to first exhaust any available relief in the state courts before seeking relief in federal courts. However, when seeking to remedy violations of their constitutional rights while in confinement, prisoners can file their complaint in either state or federal court. They can bypass state courts with these complaints because they typically include claims under provisions of the U.S. constitution, such as the Eighth Amendment. However, when challenging conditions of confinement through a civil rights complaint, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that prisoners first exhaust all administrative grievance procedures before filing their complaint.

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 Law of Civil Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture laws allow the police to take and keep large sums of cash or property suspected of either being used to commit crimes or obtained through criminal means such as goods purchased with “dirty” money. Civil asset forfeiture laws differ by jurisdiction, but generally don’t require proof of the property owner’s guilt, although some state laws do require a conviction. Washington does not require a conviction before assets can be forfeited.

Unlike criminal asset forfeiture — a less-common action in which property used or derived from a crime is forfeited only after a conviction for that crime — civil asset forfeiture does not require a conviction or even criminal charges. The majority of such forfeitures are related to suspected illicit drug or organized crime activities. Technically, it involves a lawsuit by the government against the property itself — or, in legal terms, in rem. As strange as it may seem, the inanimate property (whether it’s a yacht or a bag of cash) is the defendant in such a proceeding.

It depends on the jurisdiction, but typically the police (the plaintiffs in such a proceeding) are only required to show that there is a preponderance of the evidence suggesting the seized property was involved in wrongdoing. This is a much lower standard of proof than what is required for a criminal conviction (beyond a reasonable doubt), which is why property is so often seized from individuals who are not convicted of (nor charged with) a crime. Even if the owner of the property is tried for a crime related to the seized property, there’s no guarantee they’ll get their property back upon acquittal.

The seized property is usually sold at auction, with a majority of the proceeds (as well as any seized cash) going straight into the police department’s coffers. State laws differ in this regard, although some states allow 100 percent of the seized property to be used for law enforcement and others earmark the proceeds for education or other purposes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and other federal agencies use civil asset forfeiture laws when investigating crimes. The legal authority for these actions is found in Title 18, § 981 of the U.S. Code and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under federal law, the government must send written notice to “interested parties” (i.e. property owners) within 60 days of the seizure, although deadline extensions are often granted by courts. If a claimant (typically the property owner) sends a claim to the agency seizing the property, the government has 90 days in which to either file a formal civil complaint (“in rem”) against the seized property or obtain a criminal indictment for a criminal forfeiture. Failing either of those actions, the government is required to release the property.

Since the action is against the property, the owner (or “interested party”) generally has no right to counsel in these proceedings. One exception is if the seized property is the owner’s primary residence.

In July 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to revive the Equitable Sharing Program, allowing greater collaboration between federal agencies and state and local police. The program allows federal agencies to take control of the assets seized through such federal/local collaborations and then return 80 percent of those funds back to the state agency (typically a state or local police department). This controversial program effectively allows local agencies to get around state laws that often limit the percentage of seized assets they’re allowed to keep.

State laws regarding civil asset forfeiture differ quite a bit from one another and also are subject to frequent changes. Two of the defining characteristics of these laws are the burden of proof required for seizure and how the proceeds are used. For instance, Texas police must show a preponderance of the evidence for a seizure and may keep up to 70 percent of the proceeds for their department.

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.

Types of Evidence

Evidence comes in four basic forms:1) Demonstrative evidence; 2) Documentary evidence; 3) Real evidence and 4) Testimonial evidence.

Some rules of evidence apply to all four types and some rules apply to one or two of them. All of these forms of evidence must be admissible, though, before they can be considered as probative of an issue in a trial.

Basically, if evidence is to be admitted at court, it must be relevant, material, and competent. To be considered relevant, it must have some reasonable tendency to help prove or disprove some fact. It need not make the fact certain, but at least it must tend to increase or decrease the likelihood of some fact.

Once admitted as relevant evidence, the finder of fact (judge or jury) will determine the appropriate weight to give a particular piece of evidence. A given piece of evidence is considered material if it is offered to prove a fact that is in dispute in a case. Competent evidence is that evidence that accords with certain traditional notions of reliability. Courts are gradually diminishing the competency rules of evidence by making them issues related to the weight of evidence.

Testimonial evidence is usually the more common form of evidence, where someone takes the stand and is asked questions about a case. Because this evidence involves the statements of other people regarding certain facts, which can be tainted by poor memories or bias, there are a number of admissibility rules that apply.

For example, while witnesses may testify as to what they observed or perceived during an event, in some situations they may also testify about statements they heard outside of court (and not under oath). Such statements often constitute hearsay evidence and are generally not admissible because they are not as reliable as statements made in court and under oath. However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule allowing for the admission of statements made outside of court.

There are also times when a witness may seek to provide testimony about a person’s character, often to make the point that the person is the “type” of person who would or would not say or do what is at issue in a case. This type of evidence also has reliability problems as it does not directly show whether the person actually did or said what is at issue. Because of this, character evidence is generally not admissible, but there are exceptions.

In addition, there are times when certain evidence is so complicated, like DNA evidence, that it requires an expert to interpret and explain. This type of expert testimony is only admissible once the expertise of the witness is established and his or her testimony is found to be based on reliable methods and acknowledged within the scientific community.

When one side of a case tries to introduce evidence that is not relevant, material or competent, the other side can ask, before or during trial, to have the evidence suppressed on admissibility grounds. One area where a motion to suppress is commonly raised is with chain of custody issues where a piece of evidence is not properly secured from its collection to trial.

So, for example, if one side can show that a blood sample was not properly labeled or a weapon was not properly locked in an evidence room, there is no way to trust the results of any subsequent blood test or a fingerprint analysis. While this evidence may be relevant and material, it would not be competent because of intervening custody problems that could have led to inaccurate test results.

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 LawyerSeattle Criminal Lawyer.

Terrorism

Terrorism has been a grave concern throughout the United States and around the world. Whether perpetrated by foreign nationals with a vendetta against the U.S. government or radical groups within the country, political violence seems increasingly common. Regardless of its source, terrorism involves acts meant to inflict terror on a particular group of people through deadly and provocative means.

Federal laws prohibit terrorism and terroristic threats (threatening to detonate a bridge if your demands aren’t met, for instance), while most states also have anti-terrorism laws and procedures in place.

Terrorism is different from other crimes. Most crimes punish an act itself. The intent of the person carrying out the act may affect the defenses available or the severity of the punishment, but in the case of terrorism the intent of the person is critical to the definition of the crime because of its very nature. To commit terrorism is to intend a particular goal through causing fear in others.

Terrorism, as defined in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 113B, involves acts of violence that appear intended to:

Intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

Influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

Affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

Most acts of terrorism or terroristic threat would be considered a crime regardless of the intent of the person responsible. These acts, such as shootings, bombings, and other acts of violence would result in criminal liability regardless of the intent or purpose of the perpetrators. These crimes become terrorism when they are intended to intimidate civilians and the government.

In many circumstances, intent is difficult to prove. Normally, the burden of proving intent is on the prosecution, but in the case of terrorism, acts that “appear to be intended” to intimidate or coerce may still qualify as terroristic crimes without additional evidence.

U.S. Code defines both foreign and domestic terrorism roughly the same, hinging on the perpetrator’s intent. The coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for instance, were considered acts of international terrorism because they “transcend[ed] national boundaries in terms of the means by which they [were] accomplished,” per the legal definition.

However, despite “domestic terrorism” being defined by U.S. Code, there are no specific penalties prescribed for acts of domestic terrorism. Inclusion of the term allows the federal government to investigate such crimes, but they’re charged as murder, assault, or other related crimes. In other words, there is no “substantive offense” for domestic terrorism under federal law.

One prominent example of a domestic terrorism-related conviction involved Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building in 1995. McVeigh hoped the bombing would lead to a revolution. He was convicted for his use of weapons of mass destruction and for the murders for which he was responsible and put to death by lethal injection, but he wasn’t charged with “terrorism” per se.

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.