The Right To A Speedy Trial

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial by an “impartial jury.” This means that a criminal defendant must be brought to trial for his or her alleged crimes within a reasonably short time after arrest, and that before being convicted of most crimes, the defendant has a constitutional right to be tried by a jury, which must find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A “speedy” trial basically means that the defendant is tried for the alleged crimes within a reasonable time after being arrested. Although most states have laws that set forth the time in which a trial must take place after charges are filed, often the issue of whether or not a trial is in fact “speedy” enough under the Sixth Amendment comes down to the circumstances of the case itself, and the reasons for any delays. In the most extreme situations, when a court determines that the delay between arrest and trial was unreasonable and prejudicial to the defendant, the court dismisses the case altogether.

The U.S. Constitution does not define exactly what is “speedy” when deciding whether the trial occurred soon enough. Not surprising there has been a lot of litigation and legislation passed to help determine time limits for a speedy trial. The U.S. Supreme Court provided some guidance in laying out the factors to be considered when trying to determine whether the time to trial was speedy enough. These factors are: 1) Length of delay; 2) Reason for the delay; 3) Defendant’s assertion of his right; and 4) Prejudice to the defendant.

While the Supreme Court provides some guidance, the Congress and many states have passed laws to provide specific time limits for the trial to occur. The U.S. Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act which set a time limit of 70 days from the filing date of the indictment unless waived. Many states have also passed their own legislation as to time limits for bringing a criminal matter to trial. In California, for instance, the law dictates that a person charged with a felony shall be brought to trial within 60 days of the defendant’s arraignment and within 30 days for a misdemeanor.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to be tried before an “impartial jury,” representative of a cross-section of the community, which will consider the evidence against the defendant and decide whether to find him or her guilty of the crime(s) charged. In almost all states, 12 jurors must agree in order to find a defendant “guilty” or “not guilty.” In such states, if the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict and finds itself at a standstill, the judge may declare a “mistrial,” after which the case may be dismissed or the trial may start all over again.

Given the short periods of time that a case is required to be brought to trial, it is often in the best interests of the defendant to waive the right to a speedy trial. This gives the defense more time to prepare to defend the case and do the work required to find favorable witnesses or evidence. Granted it gives the prosecutor more time too, but the prosecutor has already spent a considerable amount of time preparing the case, before the defendant was charged and starting the “speedy trial” clock. It is common and most defendants waive the right to a speedy trial by making a written declaration.

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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The Truth Will Set You Free

Juries and judges often base their verdicts, sentences, or other important decisions on sworn testimony and signed documents. Statements given under oath and certain legal documents are presumed to be truthful, or at least made in good faith. But how do we know for sure that witnesses and other parties involved in a legal matter are telling the truth? We can’t always be certain, but those who are caught knowingly misleading a court face serious criminal charges of perjury.

To “perjure” yourself is to knowingly make misleading or false statements under oath or to sign a legal document you know to be false or misleading. This crime is taken very seriously because the foundation of the legal system depends on trust and credibility. After all, just one sworn statement has the power to tip the scales of justice and dramatically alter someone’s life.

Perjury is considered a crime against justice, since lying under oath compromises the authority of courts, grand juries, governing bodies, and public officials. Other crimes against justice include criminal contempt of court, probation violation, and tampering with evidence.

There are a number of different ways you could perjure yourself, but the crime is committed either in statements made under oath or in signed documents.

Since witnesses and others involved in legal proceedings may unintentionally provide false testimony in good faith, prosecutors must be able to prove the intent to deceive or mislead. For example, a witness to a robbery testifies that the suspect had green eyes and a scar on his left cheek, but other evidence points to a suspect with blue eyes and a scar on his right cheek. Unless prosecutors can prove that the witness was trying to protect the assailant by knowingly lying about key facts, she hasn’t perjured herself just because her memory of the incident is hazy.

State and federal penalties for perjury include fines and/or prison terms upon conviction. Federal law (18 USC § 1621), for example, states that anyone found guilty of the crime will be fined or imprisoned for up to five years. Most state laws have similar provisions, but judges typically have discretion to use leniency (including probation in lieu of a prison sentence) where appropriate. If you’re convicted, you may even lose your livelihood. If you work in a profession where truthfulness is valued, such as the legal profession, law enforcement, and some public service jobs, you could lose your professional license.

Perjury is rarely charged and it’s hard to prove. However, the threat of perjury is often a tool prosecutors use to ensure that witnesses provide candid testimony and to garner convictions.

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 Arraignment Process

When you are charged with a criminal offense, the judge will formally state the charges against you the first time you enter the courthouse. This step in the criminal justice process is called an arraignment and differs according to the laws of your respective state. Some states combine this step with the bail hearing but it’s typically conducted after bail is determined.

Although the process and rules may differ in your jurisdiction, we will focus on the general process of an arraignment hearing.

Arraignment is the first stage of courtroom-based criminal proceedings, after the arrest, booking, and initial bail phases. During a typical arraignment, a person charged with a crime is called before a criminal court judge, who: 1) Reads the criminal charge(s) against the defendant; 2) Asks the defendant if they have an attorney or need the assistance of a court-appointed attorney; 3) Asks the defendant how he or she answers or “pleads to” the criminal charges — “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest”; 4) Decides whether to alter the bail amount or to release the defendant on their own recognizance; and 5) Announces dates of future proceedings in the case, such as the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and trial.

Furthermore, at the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will give the defendant and their attorney copies of police reports and any other documents relevant to the case. For example, in a DUI/DWI or drug possession case, the prosecutor may provide the defense with lab reports of any blood or chemical tests that were performed, and may be used in the case.

As stated above, the rules and procedures for criminal arraignments vary by state. For instance, some states allow counsel to be present; require defendants to be informed of certain constitutional rights; and/or decide on bail amounts (or whether the defendant must be remanded until trial).

If a criminal defendant faces the possibility of jail time if convicted for the crime(s) charged, the defendant has a constitutional right to the assistance of an attorney, or “counsel.” If the defendant wishes to be represented by an attorney but can’t afford to hire one, a government-appointed attorney will be assigned at no cost to the defendant.

Usually employed as “public defenders,” these government-appointed defense attorneys are responsible for zealously protecting a criminal defendant’s rights at all stages of the criminal process.

While defendants who meet certain criteria are entitled to a court-appointed attorney during a criminal case, you could also benefit from reaching out to a seasoned criminal defense attorney in your community. If anything, they could provide you with a second legal opinion in your case or even supplement your court-appointed attorney. They could also start working for you before a court-appointed attorney is named. Having a strong legal team in place could change the outcome in your 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.

Juvenile Court Procedure and Policy

When children commit crimes, whether it’s a simple allegation of shoplifting or a more serious charge of assault and battery, their cases are typically heard in juvenile court, where the emphasis is on counseling and rehabilitation versus hard time. The common belief is that juveniles still have a lot of time to mature and become functioning members of society, along with concerns that adult prisons are no place for a minor. This is the case throughout the United States in each and every State.

In the eyes of the law, a juvenile or a minor is any person under the legal adult age. This age varies from state to state, but in most states the legal age of majority is 18. In several states, such as New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina, a juvenile is age 16 or younger; and in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, a juvenile is age 17 or younger. Wyoming is the only state that has established the age of juveniles to be 19 or younger.

As well as having upper age limits, juvenile jurisdictions also have lower age limits. Most states specify that prior to age six or seven, juveniles lack mens rea, or criminal intent. At this young age, juveniles also are thought to lack the ability to tell right from wrong, or dolci incapax.

The age of the offender at the time the offense was committed typically determines jurisdiction. But in some states, age refers to the offender’s age at the time of apprehension. This arrangement allows for the sometimes lengthy periods it takes to clear a case.

One’s status as a juvenile or as an adult is pertinent for the court’s determination of the jurisdiction under which an offender falls: the adult or the juvenile court system. If it’s decided that a juvenile will be tried in a juvenile court, most states allow the juvenile to remain under that jurisdiction until the defendant’s 21st birthday.

Relying on age as a sole determinant for adulthood has been criticized by many criminologists and policy makers since individuals develop at different rates. Some youth are far more mature at 17 or 18 than are some adults. Because of this discrepancy, juvenile court judges have been given broad discretion to waive juveniles to adult court for trial and sentencing.

In rare situations, the courts also have the power to emancipate a juvenile in a civil proceeding so that they become an adult under the law and are granted certain adult privileges. For example, if a 17-year-old loses both parents and has no other living relatives, they could be emancipated in order to pursue custody of their younger siblings.

The juvenile justice system operates differently from the one used to try adult cases, mostly as a way to protect children and hopefully guide them to make better choices as they get older. But regardless of whether your case is in adult or juvenile court, legal representation can make a big difference in the outcome. For this reason, you should consider reaching out to a local criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with a crime.

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.

Defending Yourself Against a Criminal Charge

Each day in Court we come across defendants who presume they are capable of defending themselves without the assistance of legal counsel. Defending yourself against a criminal charge is no easy matter. You must understand the elements of the crime that you have been charged with and see what defenses you may have against the various elements. You do not need to defend against all of the elements, as it only takes a reasonable doubt by the jury for one of them.

In order to convict you of a criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a pretty lofty standard, and during any trial the defendant may present a defense in order to raise such a reasonable doubt. Most defenses break down into one of two categories: 1) I did not do it; or 2) I did it, but I should not be held responsible.

The most basic defense to any criminal charge is a general denial of the crime that one is being accused of having committed. When you are defending yourself against a criminal charge, this is probably the easiest defense, because the burden is on the prosecutor to prove each of the elements to the crime. The defendant can just sit back and let the prosecutor do all of the work, but if the defendant has something that proves that they could not have committed the crime, now is the time to speak up.

One of the hallmarks of the American legal system is the presumption that you are innocent until proven guilty. This isn’t just an ideal, it’s an actual legal presumption, which means the judge and jury must assume you’re innocent until they are shown otherwise. This is why a defendant can “plead the fifth,” remain silent, and not offer a shred of evidence to support his or her claim of innocence and still prevail. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove a defendant is guilty, not a defendant’s job to prove that he or she is innocent. So what does a prosecutor have to show?

The prosecutor must demonstrate to the judge or jury that there is no reasonable doubt of your guilt. If any reasonable doubt can be shown, any at all, then the prosecutor has failed and you should be found innocent. Because this standard is so high, most defendants concentrate on raising some reasonable doubt to the prosecutor’s allegations.

One of the primary ways defendants prove that they didn’t do it is to demonstrate that they couldn’t have done it. An alibi defense is evidence that you were somewhere else, often with someone else, and thus couldn’t have been the perpetrator. By demonstrating to a judge or jury that it is likely that you weren’t present at the crime scene, you are creating a reasonable doubt of your guilt.

You may have actually committed the act for which you are being charged, but you have some mitigating reason or circumstances that excuse your actions. When defending yourself against a criminal charge in this situation, the burden will be on you to prove why your actions should be excused. You will not be able to sit and wait for the prosecutor to prove their case, you will have to provide evidence of your defense. Here are a few examples of this of defenses for which a criminal act may be excused:

This is a common defense when someone is charged with causing some form of physical violence (assault, battery, etc). The defendant flips the story, and demonstrates that rather than being the aggressor, he or she was actually the victim and was acting to protect themselves from harm.

Self-defense is an ancient defense that exists in most legal systems, and is predicated on the belief that people have a right to defend themselves from physical injury. Proving such a defense can be tricky since a defendant will generally have to demonstrate that self-defense was necessary, the belief of physical harm was reasonable, and that the response was reasonable. For example, responding to an assailant’s threat to punch you by shooting them is almost certainly an unreasonable response.

The theory behind an insanity defense is the notion that in almost every criminal law, there is a “mental” or “intent” element. Often, the required mental state is that you must have intended to perform the criminal act. If a defendant is precluded from an understanding of what they’re doing because of mental illness, then they can’t possess the mental state that the criminal charge requires. From a policy standpoint, we also tend to think that it would be more appropriate to send someone who is truly insane to psychiatric care, not to prison. Thus, even if a defendant is successful in an insanity defense, they will be sent to a psychiatric institution, not set free.

So how do courts define “insane”? The most popular definition is the M’Naghten test which defines insanity as “the inability to distinguish right from wrong”. To successfully win an insanity defense, a defendant will rely on testimony from a psychiatrist, and will undergo extensive psychiatric testing which can be painful and humiliating.

Related to the insanity defense, some defendants defend themselves by claiming that they were under the influence of drugs, and could not have had the mental state necessary to commit the crime. In other words, they were too high to really know what they were doing. Only a few states allow this defense, and even then, it is only a partial defense. At best, it will lower the crime you are convicted of to a lesser crime.

An entrapment defense is appropriate when an official induces you to commit a crime. Common examples of this are prostitution stings or drug sales. The theory is that the government shouldn’t be allowed to push you into committing a crime and then convicting you for it.

This defense won’t be successful if the judge or jury believes you were predisposed to committing the crime, however. So even if an undercover officer offered to sell you illegal drugs, if you have a history of drug use, then an entrapment defense isn’t likely to be successful.

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.

Marijuana Laws Around the Country

The term “medical marijuana” refers to the use, possession, and/or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. People who are terminally ill or suffer from painful or long-term symptoms associated with certain diseases, such as epilepsy, AIDS, glaucoma, and cancer, often request medical marijuana as a form of treatment and/or pain relief. As a general principle, medical marijuana is no different than standard marijuana or cannabis.

A growing number of states have legalized medical cannabis within their borders. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, however, marijuana is classified as a “Schedule I drug,” meaning it: 1) Has the potential for abuse, 2) Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and 3) Has a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

As such, there is a growing debate concerning the personal medical use of marijuana and its legality.

On one side of the issue, some politicians and law enforcement officials would like to combat illegal drug use of marijuana and control some of its effects, such as the “wide open sale of marijuana under the guise of medical purpose.” On the other side, some health advocates and other drug legalization groups would like to legalize the medical use of marijuana, believing that the drug is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions.

The U.S. government shifted its attention to larger drug trafficking issues when the Obama Administration took over in 2009, with the Department of Justice stating it would not prioritize the enforcement of federal marijuana laws on authorized users of medical marijuana or their caregivers. However, the DOJ resumed its prosecution of medical marijuana providers in 2011 and put pressure on publishers who run ads for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Medical marijuana laws are constantly changing and vary among geographical location. Both federal and state laws make it a crime to use, grow, sell, or possess marijuana. The federal Supreme Court, for example, has stated that it is illegal to use, sell or possess marijuana, even for medical use (in the 2005 case of Gonzales v. Raich).

A growing number of states, however, have legalized the use and/or cultivation of marijuana for medical (and even recreational) purposes, thereby removing any criminal penalties from doctors who prescribe the drug or from patients who use it within the bounds set by state law. California was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 when it passed Proposition 215, also called the Compassionate Use Act. The law allows the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes upon a doctor’s recommendation.

These state medical marijuana laws typically set the boundaries under which the herb may be recommended, cultivated, possessed and used. For instance, states may require written documentation from a person’s doctor affirming that the person suffers from a debilitating condition and might benefit from the medical use of marijuana. Also, states may require people to present this documentation, or “marijuana ID card” prior to an arrest.

Other provisions may include limits on the type of conditions, such as HIV and AIDS, and the amount of marijuana that a person may possess, use, or grow. Finally, some states have other specific provisions, such as employee restrictions on the medical use of marijuana at work and certain ID card requirements and fees.

Penalties for medical marijuana violations may include prison time, fines, or both, depending on the nature of the offense and the state where the occurrence took place. In states that have not legalized the medical use of marijuana, the charges are treated as general misdemeanor or felony drug charges.

In states which have decriminalized medical marijuana, penalties in the form of prison or fines may still apply, yet offenses are often treated as minor civil infractions.

Patients who are arrested on drug charges might use their medical status as a defense, before or during the trial, to help reduce any penalties. In addition, a patient may show a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana to reduce penalties and help avoid jail time or fines altogether. Finally, a patient may want to claim the defense of medical necessity based on the clinical nature of his or her health condition.

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.

Criminal Defense Strategies

A criminal defense strategy for your criminal prosecution will emerge as your criminal defense attorney finds out more about what the prosecutor plans to do in your case. If a prosecutor lays out a story that has the defendant at the scene of the crime, the defense attorney will probably ask questions that may lay out a different story showing the defendant at another location. Additionally, how the criminal defendant acts and answers questions that the prosecutor poses can also change the criminal defense strategy.

The best criminal defense strategy comes when the defendant and the defense attorney present a story that is based in truth and shows the defendant in the best light possible. Depicting a story in a better light could lead to a plea bargain, conviction on a lesser charge, or even a finding of not guilty.

A prosecutor and a defense attorney can both use the same foundation of factual events and come up with two completely different stories. It’s up to the attorney and the defendant to come up with the best story possible for the defendant’s situation. The end story should have such characteristics as: 1) Being based in a truthful foundation of evidence; 2) Having the ability to gain sympathy from the judge or the jury and 3) Explaining and proving why the events that occurred in the defendant’s story were the actual events.

After the criminal defendant tells their story to their criminal defense attorney, they will probably collaborate to come up with a strategy that will work best. Coming up with a defense strategy isn’t as simple as telling the truth in a way that shows the defendant’s innocence or lessened legal culpability. Instead, it will often involve weighing witnesses’ credibility, figuring out the reputation between the community and the police. All of these considerations will go into making a “theory of the case” that will be based upon the defendant’s story as well as other provable facts.

This story would best be classified as a “confession” story because the defendant knew about the crime and was present while it was committed. However, the defense strategy would most likely be based upon a theory that the police used a weak eyewitness’s account to make a stronger case then they should have and bullied the defendant into giving a confession. This is a theory that is based in truth and shows the defendant in a better light.

The defense attorney would probably file a pre-trial motion asking for the confession to the police to be omitted from the record because the police engaged in an unconstitutional questioning by not reading the defendant a Miranda warning. In addition, the defense attorney would also probably try to question the eyewitness and show that the identification was so flimsy that it would not establish “beyond a reasonable doubt” the true identify of the perpetrator. This theory could have its goal for the case to come back with a verdict of not-guilty, or for the prosecutor to offer a plea bargain to a lesser charge.

Furthermore, Defense attorneys should tell clients about various pieces of information about the prosecution’s case so that the defendant knows what kinds of evidence they need to produce. For example, suppose that Dennis has been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Dennis’ attorney could tell him:

Another reason that defendants should tell their defense attorneys the complete truth is that it could lead to a lesser charge. If, for example, a defendant is charged with armed robbery, and the defendant tells his attorney that, yes, he did rob the store, but not with any weapon, this could reduce the charge to simple robbery, a much less serious crime in terms of potential jail time.

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.

Filing Decisions by Prosecutors

Under the criminal justice system, prosecutors have been given the authority to decide whether or not to charge a particular defendant and which charges to file. This rather broad power is called “prosecutorial discretion.” Under this power, prosecutors also have the authority to enter into plea bargains with a defendant, which can result in the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge or receiving a lesser sentence for pleading guilty to the original charge. Given the scope of this power, are there any limits?

Prosecutors may have a variety of reasons for using prosecutorial discretion. One reason that a prosecutor may decide not to file charges against a defendant is lack of evidence. A prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any charges they file against a defendant, so if the evidence is not there, they may decide against filing the charges.

Prosecutorial discretion also allows prosecutors not to file charges, to drop charges or to offer a plea deal when the circumstances surrounding the “crime” warrant it. For example, if the facts and evidence indicate that a killing was actually in self-defense the prosecutor may reduce the charges from murder to manslaughter, or even drop the charges entirely.

Probably one of the biggest advantages of allowing prosecutorial discretion is that it promotes judicial economy. There’s only so much time available on a court’s calendar, so a prosecutor’s ability to decide when to charge a defendant as well as their ability to plea bargain with a defendant allows prosecutors to ease the burden not only on themselves but also on courts and judges.

Prosecutorial discretion also allows prosecutors to secure cooperation of witness defendants by allowing them to offer reduced sentences or charges in exchange for testimony against another defendant. For example, a prosecutor may offer a low-level drug dealer probation in exchange for testifying against a serious drug trafficker.

Probably the biggest downside of prosecutorial discretion is that it creates the potential for prosecutorial misconduct that can be seen in cases of selective prosecution. Because of the inherent subjectivity of a prosecutor’s discretion, their personal beliefs and biases – whether conscious or unconscious – can creep into their decisions. This can lead to prosecutors filing charges based on a defendant’s race or social status.

Selective prosecution isn’t just a societal problem, it’s actually a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, a defendant can use it as a defense, although it can be difficult to prove. In order to succeed, the defendant must prove that the prosecutor’s policy: 1) was motivated by a discriminatory purpose; and 2) had a discriminatory effect.

 

In proving a discriminatory effect, the defendant would need to show that similarly situated individuals of a different race, class, etc. weren’t prosecuted for the same or similar crime. Given that most cases have a unique set of facts, there are any number of ways that a prosecutor could argue that certain facts warranted prosecution while others did not.

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.

Federal Rules of Evidence Explained

The law of criminal evidence governs how parties, judges, and juries offer and evaluate the various forms of proof at trial. In some ways, evidence is an extension of civil and criminal procedure. Generally, evidence law establishes a group of limitations that courts enforce against attorneys in an attempt to control the various events that the trial process presents in an adversarial setting.

In the United States, the federal courts must follow the Federal Rules of Evidence (hereinafter “FRE”). State courts, on the other hand, generally follow their own rules, which are generally imposed by the various state legislatures. The FRE is the most influential body of American evidence law. The FRE encompasses the majority of the laws of criminal evidence in 68 brief sections. Its language is accessible, easy to read, and mostly free of technical jargon and complicated cross-referencing. The FRE has been enormously influential in the development of U.S. evidence law. This influence in part is a result of its brevity and simplicity.

Before 1975, U.S. evidence law was mostly a creature of the common law tradition. The FRE was drafted and proposed by a distinguished advisory committee composed of practitioners, judges, and law professors appointed by the United States Supreme Court. Just 20 years after the FRE was adopted in the federal system, almost three-quarters of the states had adopted codes that closely resemble the FRE.

The FRE applies in all federal courts in both criminal and civil cases. Understanding some of the basic provisions of the FRE will enable most people to figure out what’s going on at trial, even if there are deviations between the FRE and applicable state laws criminal of evidence.

There are different types of evidence that can be used in a criminal trial, and a variety of rules that govern evidence. Some common concepts that come up when discussing the rules of evidence are:

Circumstantial Evidence: This isn’t what you would call “smoking gun” evidence, but rather some piece of information that strongly infers a set of circumstances. For instance, video surveillance showing that the defendant was on the same city block where a crime was committed at around the same time would be circumstantial evidence.

Corroborating Evidence: Evidence that strengthens another piece of evidence, even if it isn’t directly related to the crime. For example, a witness claims John was at the scene of the crime at a particular time. If another witness has proof that John failed to show up to work at that same time, then it could be considered corroborating evidence.

Hearsay: This isn’t given under oath or offered as official evidence, but merely stated out of court. For example, Fred says he heard that John was in a street gang; but without any evidence, Fred’s statement is merely hearsay (and not admissible).

Exclusionary Rule: This rule of evidence applies to that which was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Seizing property without a warrant often is considered a violation and thereby subject to the exclusionary rule.

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 LawyerSeattle 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.

Stop and Frisk Laws

You are minding your business on a street corner, when suddenly a police officer comes forward and asks you something. When you hesitate in responding, he aggressively pushes you against a fence and does a pat-down search of your outer clothing to check for weapons, discovering a vial of cocaine instead.

Was the police officer acting within the law? It depends on whether the search could be characterized as a “stop and frisk.” But what is stop and frisk and how is it legal? This type of search happens when police officers stop you for questioning and pat down your clothing to see if you’re carrying a gun or knife, much like in the situation described above. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this practice, there are still boundaries that police cannot cross.

Let’s say an officer on patrol becomes suspicious of two individuals he observes repeatedly peering into a store window, who seem like they might be casing the store for a robbery. When he approaches to question them and one mumbles a response, can the officer forcefully spin him around and pat down his outer clothing to check for weapons?

These were essentially the facts in Terry v. Ohio, the precedent-setting 1968 Supreme Court case about stop and frisk. The justices held that a police officer who’s investigating suspicious behavior may lawfully pat down the outer clothing of someone reasonably believed to be armed and dangerous, in an attempt to discover weapons that might be used to assault the officer.

The Court concluded that stop and frisk does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Because of the landmark decision’s name, another common term for a stop and frisk is a “Terry frisk” or “Terry search.”

However, the police aren’t allowed to target people willy-nilly. While they don’t need probable cause to stop you, they must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Also, they can’t frisk you unless they reasonably believe that you may be armed and dangerous.

Importantly, any contraband that officers find during the weapons pat-down, such as illegal drugs, can usually be used against you in court.

The ongoing debate with stop and frisk is how to prevent police officers from engaging in racial profiling in deciding who gets stopped and frisked. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others have claimed that the police are unconstitutionally relying on people’s race in making judgments about who seems suspicious and dangerous.

Critics scored a major victory when a federal judge declared New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013 based on statistical evidence suggesting that officers were disproportionately targeting people of color. Although a federal appeals court blocked the judge’s decision from taking effect, the city’s mayor announced a plan to reform the controversial police practice to make sure that stop and frisk isn’t used in a discriminatory manner.

While civil rights activists have achieved some successes in challenging police department policies, stop and frisk remains lawful and widely used throughout the United States. However, officers must remain within constitutional boundaries and comply with local police guidelines.

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.