Juvenile Background

As our children get older, they may find themselves in situations where they are accused of a crime or a situation where they actually did commit the crime. When children commit a crime,  whether it’s shoplifting or assault, 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.

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, 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.

How Long Will I Be Held in Custody?

So you have just been arrested and you have no clue as to what will happen next? Getting arrested is probably one of the most stressful experiences you can go through in life, not to mention the hardship it can put on your loved ones.

There’s a lot to worry about during this time. You need to comprehend: 1) Your rights as an inmate; 2) The arrest process; 3) When you’ll be released and 4) How to manage life in the meantime. These concerns only get magnified the longer the police hold you in custody.

So how long can you be held without charges? There are limits based on the Constitution and federal and state laws. The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed to criminal defendants by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A “speedy trial” basically means that the defendant must be “tried” for the alleged crimes within a reasonable time after being arrested. Being tried means the prosecutor reviews the crime and details and decides if they want to pursue a criminal case. The case could go to trial, be dropped at a later point, or be settled outside of court.

Although arrestees cannot be held without formal charges for an unreasonable amount of time, the Constitution does not spell out what this time is. Instead, these are typically set forth by state law, and the time period differs from state to state.

As a general rule: If you’re placed in custody, your “speedy trial” rights typically require the prosecutor to decide charges within 72 hours.

Many states adhere to this 72-hour limit. Sometimes, no charges are filed, and you will be released. There will not be anything on your criminal record, but you will have an arrest record now.

How long you can be held without charges will depend on a few factors. The U.S. Supreme Court has protections for defendants. These laws stop you from being forced to serve lengthy jail times before a conviction.

Speedy trial rights also lessen the time the accused must endure the anxiety and publicity of an impending trial. This also minimizes the damage that a delay might cause to the person’s ability to present a defense.

If you’re arrested, a prosecutor will review your case before making an independent decision on what charges should be filed. A prosecutor is not bound by the initial charging decision, but may later change the charged crimes once more evidence is obtained.

If the prosecutor doesn’t bring charges within the time limit, the police have to let you go. A failure to do so may be a violation of your rights.

If you’re detained, but not booked within a reasonable time, your attorney may go to a judge and obtain a writ of habeas corpus.

 

A “writ of habeas corpus” is an order issued by the court instructing the police to bring you before the court so that a judge may decide if you’re being lawfully held.

Timing is essential, and your freedom is the most important thing. This is especially true when an arrest is made, as this can trigger strict law enforcement requirements.

If you’re still unsure about how long the police may hold you without charges, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.

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 Lawyerto 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 Lawyeras 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.

Right to Record the Police

Protests continue all though out the United States as more and more excessive force incidents by the police arise. Many of these incidents are captured on video. As much as police would like to fight it, there is no longer any way to contain people recording them in public. Smartphones are everywhere. It may be possible to talk one person out of doing it, but if a crowd forms, there’s no way to stop it.

But the law still has not caught up in many places. So while most state laws don’t explicitly say whether it’s legal to videotape police, courts around the country have agreed that it’s legal under the First Amendment, even during protests or during traffic stops.

Like most legal rules of thumb, however, there are some limits to when you may videotape police.

In general, you are allowed to record on-duty police in public when you’re legally authorized to be there, the police activity is in plain view, and you’re openly (not secretly) recording them.

But even in public spaces, police officers may legally order you to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations, which may include your recording them. However, such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens videotaping them, according to the ACLU.

Your right to videotape police is much more limited on private property because you are subject to the whims of the private property owner’s rules. If the owner does not want you to record the police, he or she can order you off the property and even have you arrested for trespassing if you don’t comply.

When videotaping police, take the following steps to ensure you’re in the clear legally: 1) Tell police you are recording them; 2) Comply with their requests to step back or identify yourself; 3) Keep your camera out of the way (low and close to your body, and don’t point it like a gun); 4) Calmly remind the police of your right to film them, if needed

If a police officer orders you to stop filming – either out of ignorance or to intimidate you – and you don’t, you should prepare to be arrested. Stay calm, and remember your rights.

When it comes to your actual footage, police generally cannot confiscate or demand to view your video without a warrant. In addition, officers cannot delete your video under any circumstances.

For example, police do not have the authority to search your cellphone or order you to unlock it for them without a warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that is akin to giving up your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

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.

Excessive Force and Police Brutality

All throughout the United States, people have been protesting in the wake of the murder of George Floyd from the hands of four police Minneapolis police officers. The officers have been charged with Murder in the second degree and aiding and abating due to the excessive force used during an arrest. Excessive force refers to situations where government officials legally entitled to use force exceed the minimum amount necessary to diffuse an incident or to protect themselves or others from harm. This can come up in different contexts, such as when handling prisoners or even during military operations. When it involves law enforcement, especially during an arrest, it’s also referred to as police brutality.

The constitutional right to be protected from excessive force is found in the reasonable search and seizure requirement of the Fourth Amendment and the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment.

In the Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner, the Court found that police used excessive force by shooting an unarmed, non-threatening teenager in the head while fleeing a house he had burglarized.

At the time, a Tennessee law authorized the use of “all the necessary means to effect the arrest” of fleeing suspects, regardless of the situation. The Court overturned the state law because it allowed for unreasonable use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In that landmark case, the Court ruled that deadly force can only be used during an arrest if: 1) the force was necessary to prevent the escape; and 2) The officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.

Excessive force and police brutality don’t just apply to cases of deadly force, but can also be found where injuries are relatively minor but resulted from an unreasonable use of force.

The Supreme Court has recognized that “the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat.” However, the degree of coercion or force used must be proportional to the threat and escalate only in response to the threat.

In order to be considered reasonable and compliant with the U.S. Constitution, the use of physical force must stop when the need for the force ceases, such as when a suspect is successfully restrained or a situation has otherwise de-escalated. In other words, an officer isn’t allowed to punish criminals who no longer pose a threat.

Excessive force is a constitutional violation that can be remedied by filing a civil rights complaint for monetary or injunctive relief under Section 1983 of the United States Code.

You can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, which may decide to investigate your case.

 

When deciding whether a government official such as a police officer engaged in excessive force, courts look to the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the actions were “objectively reasonable.”

In making this determination, judges use the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene lacking the benefit of hindsight. With this perspective, courts analyze factors such as: 1) The severity of the underlying crime or circumstances; 2) Whether an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others existed; 3) Whether the individual was actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee; 4) Whether other alternatives were available; or 5) Whether warnings were provided or could have been provided.

In excessive force cases, qualified immunity can protect police officers in harder to evaluate situations where there’s a “hazy border between excessive and acceptable force.” However, to benefit from this immunity, officials would need to show that a reasonable person in their position wouldn’t have known that their actions violated clearly established 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 Lawyeras 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.

Unlawful Killings

The murder of George Floyd recently in Minneapolis, Minnesota by police officer(s) has brought up the question of unlawful killings. There are a numerous legal categories under the topic of the unlawful killing of another person:  felony first-degree murder, felony second-degree murder, (in some states third-degree murder), and that doesn’t even start on the issue of manslaughter.

While it’s not as serious as a murder charge in terms of legal penalties, manslaughter charges still arise after someone’s death. The difference in the definition of manslaughter, especially when compared to murder, lies in the defendant’s state of mind when the homicide took place.

Before we get into the difference between murder and manslaughter, we have to understand why state of mind is important.

In most cases, a person has to be intentionally doing something prohibited by law in order to be committing a crime according to the U.S. legal system. This state of mind is generally referred to as “mens rea,” which is Latin for “guilty mind.”

That means people typically can’t be convicted for simply being stupid or careless, but there is a limit on that. “Recklessness” or “criminal negligence” can create the necessary mens rea to be charged with a crime. That is the important distinction to make when talking about manslaughter charges.

Legally speaking, murder involves killing with malice aforethought or with some heinous intention behind the person’s actions. But with manslaughter, there is no malice and also, by definition, no premeditation.

Essentially, manslaughter charges indicate that the defendant had no intention to kill the victim and didn’t plan it beforehand. However, their actions were reckless or negligent enough to create mens rea and the reasonable belief that they could have avoided killing if they had acted appropriately.

Manslaughter is further separated into two categories, voluntary and involuntary. In voluntary manslaughter, the death happened “in the heat of passion,” often after the defendant was provoked or when self-defense gets out of hand.

The defendant has no prior malice towards to the victim and didn’t plan the killing at any point. But they did intend to cause serious harm in the moment, and that resulted in death.

With involuntary manslaughter, the killing is unintentional and could be called accidental. But the “accident” is caused by the defendant’s reckless behavior, such as drunken driving or DUI.

The law then serves to discourage that kind of unsafe action by punishing people who cause serious harm as a result. The charges penalize the inappropriate behavior, rather than punish the defendant for the unintentional killing.

That doesn’t mean persons convicted of involuntary manslaughter escape without punishment. But their sentence is often lighter than those convicted of murder, and they could be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

In the U.S., the law varies by state jurisdiction on most topics, including murder. Some states base their laws on the Model Penal Code, which is a set of model laws that were created to provide a standard and universal text to help states define criminal offenses.

Penalties for involuntary manslaughter, or second-degree manslaughter, generally include less than two years in prison. In some cases, incarceration is not part of the sentence at all. However, penalties vary by state.

The penalties for voluntary manslaughter, or first-degree manslaughter, are much steeper and often involve several years in prison. While this charge is not as serious as murder, the law still seeks to discourage losing control and engaging in reckless behavior in the way that voluntary manslaughter describes.

Murder may get more newspaper headlines, but manslaughter is also a serious offense. It’s still a charge you want to avoid.

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 Lawyerto 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.

Hiring a Criminal Lawyer

If you have been accused or charged of a criminal offense, it is a good idea to look into hiring the best criminal defense lawyer possible. You may have the ability to get a court-appointed lawyer if your income qualifies.

It is well known, that the legal system is designed to make competently representing yourself in criminal trials almost impossible. Even if you have an abnormally high IQ, the system does not work in your favor. Hiring an attorney to represent you in your criminal trial is a necessity.

Because no criminal case is exactly the same, criminal defense lawyers are trained to pick out the parts of each case that make them unique.

In essence, they use their knowledge to find subtle evidence and reasons why you should win the case.

Also, the best criminal defense lawyer for you may be able to spot certain arguments and factors that could mitigate or even negate any potential crime. Even if you are guilty and the evidence is against you, they may be able to help you reduce fines and jail time.

Criminal defense lawyers have many responsibilities which they must adhere to on a daily basis. These include: 1) Contacting clients through email, phone calls, video calls, or in-person meetings; 2) Reading case documents, evidence, and statutes (laws); 3) Taking notes on what would be helpful for the case and 4) Forming a strategy for the case

While these activities may seem boring, they are the essential building blocks to making a strong case.

Criminal attorneys often spend months preparing for a case. The preparation can take much longer than actually being in the courtroom. This way, when the case goes to court, things can move as quickly as possible, and there are no surprises in the case.

After the research and strategy are done, a criminal defense lawyer has many jobs. While in court, they will call witnesses in your defense and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

They need to be dynamic and trustworthy, explain complex topics to a jury, and be prepared to discuss any aspect of the case. And this is just the beginning of the tasks ahead of them.

Your criminal defense attorney may work with you and the prosecutor to negotiate a “plea bargain.” A plea bargain can reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some of the charges brought against you. However, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants that represent themselves.

Your attorney will figure out a good sentencing program for your situation. If you’re found guilty, your criminal defense attorney may be able to change your sentence. Often, they are changed in a way that would prevent you from winding back in the criminal justice system.

For instance, instead of going to prison for ten months for a drug possession conviction, your criminal defense attorney may suggest a prison sentence of six months and then four months in a drug treatment facility. This approach aims to help you with the drug problem that landed you in trouble in the first place.

As hard as it might be to hear, an attorney has the experience and training to provide you with a reality check.

 

Defense lawyers know what’s going on much better than you will during your criminal trial. They also can predict how a case is going and what the judge or jury’s outcome may be.

Your defense attorney has the advantage of: 1) remaining objective throughout a proceeding and 2) offering realistic insights into how the trial is actually going

These assessments and reality checks are often essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a prosecutor’s plea bargain.

You can read books on criminal defense, but it takes years of study to grasp this area of law. Your attorney will point out important legal rules and regulations that you most likely wouldn’t find on your own. Many rules about criminal prosecutions are buried within regulations and laws, and even prior court decisions.

For example, if you were to represent yourself, you may never know if the search that the police conducted of your apartment was lawful or not. To know this, you must understand the many nuances and intricacies surrounding the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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 Covid-19 Impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads each day, many courtrooms are closing their doors to the public and postponing criminal cases. This is a situation that our country has not seen since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, so many legal professionals and courts are making emergency plans as they go.

During this time, it is very likely your case will face delays somewhere along the criminal justice process.

Many courts across the United States are suspending elements to criminal cases, which includes: 1) Jury selection; 2) Jury duty; 3) Jury trials; 4) New criminal trials; 5) Court hearings; 6) Oral arguments; 7) Non-employees entering the building and 8) In-person interviews.

The Justice Department has also asked for chief judges to detain people without trial. In emergency situations, this power would let them keep a person in jail indefinitely until the case could proceed as usual. Each court has implemented different policies and procedures so it is important that you reach out to your criminal defense lawyer to find out when your court date has been rescheduled for. .

Many defendants may wonder what this may mean for their criminal case? It is possible for a defendant to remain in prison or jail until your trial or appeal can take place. If you are on probation, then you will likely stay on probation. If you are out on bail and awaiting your trial to start, then the trial may be postponed. You will need to remain in the area on bail.

Criminal matters may be adjourned (stopped until later notice) if the person is not already in custody. If the person is in custody, some courts are using video calls to keep the process moving.

Unfortunately, closing some courts may push criminal cases back from weeks to years. This has further legal repercussions because the Sixth Amendment promises citizens a “speedy” and fair trial.

The federal Speedy Trial Act and your state’s laws determine what this timeframe is. There are also laws in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure stating that you should not face “unnecessary delay.”

Some people can waive their right to a speedy trial. The advantages of this are: 1) To give your side more time to develop the case or find evidence; 2) To get more time for an appeal and 3) To have more time before serious charges go to a jury.

Your attorney may advise you to take advantage of the delays. When the courts resume cases, you can choose to “waive time” and allow the case to move at a slower pace.

If your case is delayed, your attorney may have new defenses to use, such as due process arguments.

 

However, as states catch up to the pandemic and change their criminal process rules, these defenses could be taken away.

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.

Revoking Probation

A motion to revoke probation is a court filing that says you did something wrong while on probation for a criminal conviction or a diversion. Every probation has specific terms and conditions that must be followed. In a motion to revoke probation, the courts could try to send you to jail or prison or revoke a diversion agreement which would result in a guilty finding.

If your probation officer says any terms of your probation have been broken, then they may try to take your probation away. To do this, they will let the Prosecutors office know what happened. This starts the motion to revoke probation process. The Prosecutors will complete some paperwork and file it with the court where you had your charges filed. This is called the motion — it is the act of asking a judge for an order. It is the judge’s order that would take your probation away, not the motion itself.

Only your probation officer can start a motion to revoke your probation. They can decide to: 1) Follow the probation revocation process or 2) Handle minor issues themselves. Many times, small problems can be handled by your probation officer. They might extend your probation or make the terms more strict.

If there is a serious problem or you have broken probation multiple times, they may have no choice but to follow the legal process.

After a revocation hearing, a judge can honor the original amount of jail time you were given, or they can send you to jail for the max amount of time possible. They can also choose to increase the fines you originally had. An attorney is your best option for getting off probation but not getting an increased sentence or fines.

Revoking your own probation is different than a motion for early termination of probation. You can ask for probation to end early after a certain time frame has passed. Only a judge can end your probation at any time but typically depending on the jurisdiction a certain amount of time has to pass. Judges will also make sure all terms of your probation are met, including all fines, court costs, community service, and good behavior.

Some courts will set a bond for you. This means a bondsperson can pay for you to stay out of jail. But, you will owe them the money back, and they will make sure you don’t try to leave town.

From the start of the process to the judge deciding what happens to you, it can take a few days. If the reporting or filing is over a weekend, then the case will be pending for a few days longer. If you run from the police or try to hide, then it may take longer.

An attorney can help the process go smoothly. They are there to help you get the best outcome possible in a tough situation. Your attorney can try to make the judge see that you may have messed up your second chance, but that you are trying.

You always have the right to an attorney. There is no chance to be found innocent or change the penalties of your case because you were already charged with the crime. But, your attorney can try to keep you on probation or reduce your time in jail or prison.

Representing yourself is very difficult in these types of cases. If you are facing a motion to revoke probation, it is helpful to get professional help as soon as you can.

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 Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws

It is two o’clock in the morning and you are awakened by the sound of breaking glass from an intruder attempting to crawl through your window. You race down with your gun and think about possibly shooting him. Could you be charged with a crime and/or sued by the intruder for physical injuries?

The prime legal protection you may have for shooting an intruder is called the “Castle Doctrine”. There is also another doctrine called “Stand Your Ground” that may provide some protection depending on the state you live in. Both of these doctrines fall under the broader umbrella of self-defense.

So is it illegal to shoot an intruder? The answer depends on whether you were acting in self-defense and whether any of these doctrines apply.

The law gives everyone the right to defend themselves with a reasonable response. Self-defense is an affirmative defense to a charged violent crime. This means that if someone is charged with murder or assault, they can use self-defense as a legal excuse for the conduct if they can prove it in a court of law.

In order to use self-defense as a shield against a charge for a violent crime in most jurisdictions, you must: 1) Not be the aggressor; 2) Only use enough force to combat the threat and no more; 3) Have a reasonable belief that force is necessary; 4) Have a reasonable belief that an attack is imminent; and 5) Retreat (if possible).

The Castle Doctrine stems from old English Common Law that holds that your home is your castle and that you have a right to defend your castle. The doctrine is an offshoot of self-defense and eliminates the requirement to retreat. Most states have some variation of the Castle Doctrine in their laws.

The prime difference between self-defense generally and the Castle Doctrine is that there’s no duty to retreat and there’s a presumption that deadly force was necessary. Typically, state laws can allow for the use of deadly physical force and it’s legally presumed to be justified if an intruder is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a dwelling or residence. Some states even allow the use of deadly force if there is an unlawful and forceful entry into a business or occupied vehicle.

However, not all states have codified the Castle Doctrine. States like Vermont have justifiable homicide laws and then rely on the courts to determine if force was necessary to defend one’s home.

The general elements that would allow protection by the Castle Doctrine are: 1) There was a forceful and unlawful entry into one’s home, business, or occupied vehicle; 2) You were not the original aggressor; 3) You were not engaged in criminal activity; and 4) You have a legal right to be where you are.

 

There is a split amongst the states as to whether or not deadly force can be used. The majority of states hold that any degree of physical force, including deadly force, can be used by the occupant to protect against an invader. But there is a strong minority of states, including West Virginia, that requires a reasonable belief that the intruder intended to inflict serious bodily injury.

In many states, there’s a duty to retreat to safety, if possible, before using force. However, in many other states, there are “Stand Your Ground” laws that remove the duty to retreat and allow a person to claim self-defense, even if they made no attempt to flee. However, even in “Stand Your Ground” states there is no license to attack without cause, and the rules vary on the ability to use lethal force.

Stand Your Ground differs from the Castle defense, as it can be used in more places than just a person’s home, employment, or automobile. While the Castle Doctrine holds that there is no duty to retreat within one’s home, the Stand Your Ground doctrine eliminates the duty to retreat wherever you may feel threatened.

Self-defense, the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are powerful defenses that can prevent charges from being filed or civil suits being brought, but not in all cases and not in all states. Even in the states that do, there can be circumstances that sometimes make it difficult to determine if these defenses apply. If you’re facing criminal charges and you believe you acted in self-defense, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your specific situation.

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 v. Civil

The legal system in the United States addresses the wrongdoings that people commit with two different types of cases: civil and criminal cases. Crimes are generally offenses against the state  or a city, even if the immediate harm is done to an individual, and are accordingly prosecuted by the state or the city prosecutors. Civil cases on the other hand, typically involve disputes between individuals regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe to one another. These cases are adjudicated through civil lawsuits. Although there is some overlap, there are several ways in which you can tell the differences between a criminal case and a civil case.

Here are some of the key differences between a criminal case and a civil case: Crimes are considered offenses against the state, city or society as a whole; Criminal offenses and civil offenses are generally different in terms of their punishment; The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case; Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury; A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney and the protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable

That means that even though one person might murder a particular person, the murder itself is considered an offense to everyone in society. Accordingly, crimes against the state are prosecuted by the state, and the prosecutor (not the victim) files the case in court as a representative of the state. If it were a civil case, then the wronged party would file the case.

Civil cases generally only result in monetary damages or orders to do or not do something, known as injunctions. Note that a criminal case may involve both jail time and monetary punishments in the form of fines. In general, because criminal cases have greater consequences – the possibility of jail and even death – criminal cases have many more protections in place and are harder to prove.

Crimes must generally be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”, whereas civil cases are proved by lower standards of proof such as “the preponderance of the evidence” (which essentially means that it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way). The difference in standards exists because civil liability is considered less blameworthy and because the punishments are less severe.

Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury. Civil cases do allow juries in some instances, but many civil cases will be decided by a judge.

A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney, and if they can’t afford one, the state must provide an attorney. Defendants in a civil case don’t have the right to an attorney, so if they can’t afford one, they’ll have to represent themselves.

The protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment). Many of these well known protections aren’t available to a defendant in a civil case.

Although criminal and civil cases are treated very differently, many people often fail to recognize that the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is the OJ Simpson trial. The same conduct led to a murder trial (criminal) and a wrongful death trial (civil).

In part because of the different standards of proof, there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to decide that OJ Simpson was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the criminal murder case. In the civil trial, however, the jury found enough evidence to conclude that OJ Simpson wrongfully caused his wife’s death by a “preponderance of the evidence”.

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.