How Can I Reverse a Conviction?

Appeals judges generally defer to trial court findings, particularly findings of fact as opposed to matters of law. Courts rarely overturn lower court decisions and “perfect” trials are not guaranteed, although certain safeguards do exist in order to account for errors and oversights. An appellate court will overturn a guilty verdict only if the trial court erred in a way that significantly contributed to the outcome. While most errors are deemed “harmless,” there are, of course, some types of errors that are so serious that they are presumed harmful, such as the use of a coerced confession. Appellate courts rarely interfere with sentences handed down by the lower courts. But in some cases where the law specifies a particular sentence, the appellate court may send the case back for resentencing if the court gets it wrong.

If you have been convicted of a crime and believe the guilty verdict (or even plea) was in error, you will want to pursue the reversal of that conviction. Reversing a conviction generally happens through appeals or writs.

It is theoretically possible for two completely reasonable juries to rule differently on the agreed-upon facts of a case, and thus give different verdicts. And unless something goes wrong at the trial level, you can’t appeal a case simply because you believe the jury reached the wrong verdict. Having said that, convicted criminals do have the right to challenge the verdict, or appellate court’s ruling of a case if mistakes were made regarding the facts or matters of law, or if there were issues not readily apparent in the case record itself. These legal remedies are called appeals and writs, respectively.

If you and/or your attorney have discovered errors in the way your case was handled, and believe it materially affected your conviction or sentence, you may file an appeal. But the appeal must pinpoint a specific aspect (or aspects) of the case and make a convincing argument that there may have been serious mistakes. For example, let’s say the police exceeded the specified scope of a search warrant, leading to your arrest and eventual conviction. In such a case, you would appeal on the grounds that the evidence was obtained illegally and must be excluded from trial.

But even a successful appeal won’t always reverse your conviction. Using the example above, prosecutors may still be able to reach a guilty verdict without the illegally obtained evidence. So it’s important to understand that criminal appeals must focus on specifics of the case and not necessarily the outcome.

If all of your opportunities for an appeal have been exhausted or never available to begin with, but you still believe your trial was clouded by some kind of an injustice or mistake, you may look into filing a writ. A writ is an order from a higher court directing a lower court to take some kind of action, typically filed in extraordinary situations where an appeal isn’t an option. So while the trial court may not have erred, per se, a writ may be filed if the verdict was materially based on some other injustice or error beyond its immediate control.

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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Classification of Criminal Cases

Criminal cases receive different classifications according to their severity. The mildest crimes are known as infractions, more serious crimes are known as misdemeanors, and the most serious crimes are known as felonies. The classification of a crime influences both the substance and procedure of a criminal charge, so it’s important to understand the differences between the classifications. This section describes each classification and examines how they differ from one another.

Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.

Infractions are the least serious type of crime. Typically, a police officer will see someone doing something wrong, write a ticket and hand it to the person. The person then has to pay a fine. Infractions usually involve little to no time in court (much less jail), and include things like traffic tickets, jaywalking, and some minor drug possession charges in some states. However, if infractions remain unaddressed or unpaid, the law typically provides for an increasing range of fines and potential penalties. Common infractions are seatbelt violations, simple speeding tickets, littering citations, running a red light, and failure to stop properly at a stop sign.

Accomplice liability allows the court to find a person criminally liable for acts committed by a different person. If a person aids, assists, or encourages another in the commission of a crime, they are said to be an “accomplice” to the crime. The person who actually commits the act is called the “principal.” The crime for which an accomplice provides assistance is called the “target crime.”

Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole. 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. he protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment). Many of these well known protections are not available to a defendant in a civil 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.

Murder in the Second Degree Explained

Second-degree murder is ordinarily defined as: 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable “heat of passion”; or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder may best be viewed as the middle ground between first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Some jurisdictions make a distinction between different situations that constitute murder and prosecute the charges differently. These states usually break the crime of murder into first degree murder and second degree murder.

The exact definition of second degree murder varies between jurisdictions, but there are a few common elements that second degree murder shares across jurisdictions. The essential elements of second-degree murder differ from those of first degree murder. The criminal act for both crimes is the same: the killing of another person. What separates the two is the perpetrator’s mental state at the time of the killing.

First degree murder involves a premeditated killing, meaning the killer made a plan to kill the victim and then carried that plan out. Second degree murder does not require premeditation, however. Instead, there are three typical situations that can constitute second degree murder: 1) A killing done impulsively without premeditation, but with “malice aforethought”; 2) A killing that results from an act intended to cause serious bodily harm; or 3) A killing that results from an act that demonstrates the perpetrators “depraved indifference” to human life

Intent to Cause “Serious Bodily Harm”

A second category of acts that constitute second degree murder are acts where the perpetrator intends to cause serious bodily harm with full knowledge that death could result from the act. The killer might not necessarily intend to kill the victim, but knows that death is a likely outcome.

“Depraved Indifference” to Human Life

The final main type of second degree murder occurs when a victim dies as a result of the perpetrator’s depraved indifference to human life. Depraved indifference to human life may be defined differently depending on the jurisdiction, but it generally means that the perpetrator had an utter disregard for the potential damage their actions could cause to other people.

Some states also classify killings that occur during the commission of another felony as second degree murder, although other states characterize these felony murders as murder in the first degree. An individual can be found guilty of felony murder even if he or she didn’t actually kill anyone and only intended to commit the original felony.

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.

Self-Defense is an Affirmative Defense

If someone has invaded your home, and you fear great bodily harm or death, then yes — the law will generally protect you if you shoot an intruder. Outside of those very specific circumstances, however, the question is a bit too complicated to provide a black and white answer, especially when you consider the different laws relating to self-defense among the states.

The law gives everyone the right to defend themselves with a reasonable response. This is called self-defense. 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. For self-defense to apply, a defendant will generally need to show the existence of an immediate threat.

In addition, any force used against an intruder must usually be proportionate to harm that is reasonably perceived. For example, if a burglar were to enter your bedroom with a yellow banana as a weapon, you would probably not be justified in shooting him or her with a 20 gauge shotgun. However, if the burglar were carrying a fake pistol, and you reasonably believed it to be real, you would likely be justified in shooting the intruder.

If you act with a disproportionate response, or believe that banana to be a futuristic space weapon (an unreasonable perception), this becomes what is referred to as imperfect self-defense. This can mitigate the crime you are charged with and usually result in a lesser punishment, although it will not completely excuse the disproportionate response or result in an acquittal at trial.

In many states, there is 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.

Again, in some states, a person is privileged to use deadly force against anyone who unlawfully enters their home. In these states, there is no need to take the time to assess the intruder’s ability to use deadly or nonlethal force. However, the specifics and applicability vary state to state. If you are uncertain about your state’s rule, it may be advisable to consult with an attorney to learn more.

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.

Restitution Hearing

In the past few weeks, SQ Attorneys has represented individuals in several restitution hearings. Restitution is a payment made by the perpetrator of a crime to the victims of that crime. Judges often order restitution be paid in cases where victims suffered some kind of financial setback as the result of a crime. The payment is meant to make the victims whole and restore them financially to the point they were at prior to the commission of the crime.

For example, a defendant who spray paints the side of a residential home may be ordered to pay restitution to the homeowners upon a guilty conviction. The money could then be used to repaint the home. In another example, a defendant who broke his victim’s arm in an assault may be ordered to compensate the victim for his or her medical expenses.

Judges typically orders restitution as a condition of another sentence such as incarceration or probation, although it is possible to receive a sentence of restitution on its own. States and the federal government have statutes that determine who can receive restitution and how judges can determine the amount that defendants will have to pay. For more information on how restitution works where you live, contact an attorney in your local jurisdiction.

Restitution differs from a fine in that it’s paid to the victims of a crime to compensate them for the injuries they suffered as a result of the crime. A fine, on the other hand, is paid to the government strictly as a punitive measure. While a government can be a victim of a crime for restitution purposes, a fine is not intended to compensate the government for its injuries. Instead, a fine is meant only to punish an offender and deter future criminal behavior.

For example, if a jury convicts a defendant of stealing government property, a judge could order the defendant to pay the government restitution in the amount of the value of the piece of property. In addition, the judge could also fine the defendant in order to punish and deter. The two payments are separate one is to compensate the government for its loss and the other is to punish the perpetrator.

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.

Deferred v. Diversion

Certain types of offenses and defendants may qualify for programs that result in the dismissal of the case against the defendant upon completion of specified conditions. These programs go by several different names, but they all remove the defendant from the ordinary channels of prosecution so that the defendant may complete certain conditions. Once the defendant meets the conditions, either the prosecutor or the court will dismiss the charges.

The goal of this sort of program is to allow the defendant time to rehabilitate themselves and demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly. For so doing, the state or the city rewards the defendant by dismissing the charges.

These programs are typically used for drug or domestic offenses, or for first-time offenders. The conditions imposed typically include some form of counseling and/or probation, and require the defendant to demonstrate good conduct throughout the program.

There are two types of these kinds of programs: those that require the defendant to first plead guilty to the charge and those that do not. The former type is usually known as a deferred sentence in the State of Washington, while the latter category is generally known as pretrial diversion or sometimes known as a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC).

Pretrial diversion or SOC removes a defendant from prosecution prior to a guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) plea. In a pretrial diversion the prosecutor halts the case against the defendant so that the defendant can meet certain conditions. These conditions can include probation, counseling and community service, among others.

In most cases, the prosecutor has the discretion to admit a defendant to a pretrial diversion program. A statute will set the eligibility requirements, but a prosecutor will make the ultimate determination about whether or not to allow a defendant to enter into a pretrial diversion program. In some jurisdictions, judges can suggest pretrial diversion for a defendant or have the final say about admitting a defendant to pretrial diversion.

Sometimes prosecutors must get the consent of the victim of the crime before they can put a defendant into pretrial diversion. Certain things, such as previous involvement in a pretrial diversion program, can render a defendant ineligible for pretrial diversion.

In addition, prosecutors will usually require a candidate for pretrial diversion to waive their right to a speedy trial and their protections under the relevant statute of limitations. The length of a pre-trial diversion program varies between states and for felonies and misdemeanors. For misdemeanors, they generally run from six months to 24 months, while felonies generally run for up to five years.

If the defendant fails to meet the conditions of the pretrial diversion program, prosecutors can put the defendant on trial as if no diversion had taken place.

Deferred adjudication begins after a defendant has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere. In this way, it resembles probation, but in most other respects a deferred adjudication proceeds similarly to a pretrial diversion. In addition to deferred adjudication, this sort of program is also known as a stay of adjudication.

Even though the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere in a deferred adjudication, the court will not enter a judgment of guilt. Instead, like a pretrial diversion, the court will lay out a number of conditions that the defendant must meet. If the defendant meets the conditions, the charges are dismissed and the defendant will not have a record of conviction.

If, on the other hand, the defendant does not satisfy the conditions, the court will enter a judgment and determine a punishment. At this point, the defendants record will show a conviction.

The main difference between a deferred adjudication and a pretrial diversion is that, in a deferred adjudication, a defendant must first plead guilty or nolo contendere. This means that, if the defendant does not fulfill the conditions of the deferred adjudication, the state does not have to put the defendant back on trial for the crime. Instead, the court simply enters its judgment and sentence.

In a pretrial diversion, if the defendant fails to meet the conditions of the program, the state must then place the defendant on trial since there was no prior guilty plea.

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.

Posting Bail

Upon an arrest, most people have one thing going through their minds, and that is how or when they will be released? This is generally accomplished by posting “bail,” which usually consists of cash or a piece of property with cash value that you give to the court in return for your promise to show up to court when ordered to do so. If you do, the court will return your bail. However, if you don’t show up, the court will keep your bail and most likely issue an arrest warrant, meaning you’ll likely end up back in jail.

If you have been arrested, you will want to know your bail amount as soon as possible. If you are  not able to see a judge right away, you could end up spending some time in jail, usually a weekend. In fact, this is sometimes a tactic used by the police as they will arrest you on Friday, meaning that the earliest you could see a judge to set bail is Monday. However, for some of the more common crimes, jails often have a chart setting standard bail amounts which means getting out is a simple matter of paying the fixed amount.

The Eighth Amendment establishes that no person can have an excessive bail amount set against them. This has been held to mean that bail cannot be used as a way for the government to raise money or to punish a person for being arrested. The Eight Amendment therefore ensures that bail is only used as a guarantee that an arrested person comes back to court at the appointed time. The bail amount cannot be more than is reasonable to accomplish that purpose.

Despite the theory behind the Eighth Amendment, judges often use excessively high bail amounts to prohibit an arrested individual from getting out of jail. This type of excessive bail is often used for people that have been arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs, murder or other crimes where flight is a real possibility. Many people have argued that this type of high bail violates the Eighth Amendment, but almost all have been unsuccessful.

There are also situations in which bail is set at a reasonable amount, but the arrestee still cannot afford to make the payment. When this happens, the arrested individual must wait to ask the judge to lower the bail amount at a special bail hearing or during the defendant’s first court appearance. Depending upon your financial situation, the judge may decide to lower your bail amount, which could make it easier to get out of jail.

Posting bail can be done in several different ways. The most common methods of posting bail is: 1) paying cash or check for the full bail amount; 2) signing over ownership rights to propery; 3) Giving a bond (a promise to pay if you don’t appear) in the full amount of your bail; or 4) Signing a statement that says you will appear in court at the required time, generally called being released on your own recognizance or “O.R.”

Generally, if you can be released on your own recognizance, you should try to take that option. However, many people are forced to purchase a bail bond in order to get released from jail. A bond is much like a check that you give to a friend, asking him or her not to cash it until you say it’s okay to do so. Generally, the purchase price of the bond is about 10% of the value. Therefore, if your bail is set at $5000, you can expect to pay about $500 in order to purchase a bail bond.

 

You should avoid purchasing a bail bond, whenever possible. If you appear at court and meet all the requirements, you usually get the full amount of your bail returned to you (minus some small, administrative fees from the court). However, if you buy a bail bond, you’re already out 10% of your bail amount (this is generally not refundable), and you’ll also probably have to give the bail bondsman some collateral in order to get the bond (such as an interest in your car or home). If you fail to appear in court at a required time, the bondsman can cash in on the collateral, meaning that he or she could sell your property and take the money from the sale.

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.

Accomplice Liability is Full Liability

Complicity is the act of helping or encouraging another individual to commit a crime. It is also commonly referred to as aiding and abetting. One who is complicit is said to be an accomplice. But, even though an accomplice does not actually commit the crime, his or her actions helped someone in the commission of the crime.

The concept of accomplice liability means an accomplice faces the same degree of guilt and punishment as the individual who committed the crime. Indeed, accomplices can face the same penalties, including prison time. The key consideration is whether the individual intentionally and voluntarily encouraged or assisted in the commission of the crime, or (in some cases) failed to prevent it.

Elements of Accomplice Liability

With some variations, depending on the state, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following four elements in order to convict someone for being an accomplice or aiding and abetting:

A crime was committed by another individual;

The defendant “aided, counseled, commanded, or encouraged” the other person in the commission of the crime.

The defendant acted with the requisite mental state in their jurisdiction,for example, knowingly or purposefully, to assist in the crime (see Mens Rea – A Defendant’s Mental State).

The following examples illustrate the many ways an individual may be an accomplice to a criminal act: 1) Serving as the getaway driver in a bank robbery; 2) Turning off the alarm system of a jewelry store in which you work, knowing that it will be  robbed later that evening; 3) Loaning a handgun to someone who you know is planning to commit a crime and/or 4) Directing a vehicle to a dead-end street where you know an armed carjacker is waiting.

When an individual takes on an active role in the planning of a crime, the crime may instead be one of conspiracy. A conspirator agrees with others to commit a future crime, while an accomplice assists, in some way, in the actual commission of a crime. Furthermore, unlike accomplices to a crime, conspirators can be guilty even if their plan is not completed.

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 Juvenile System

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 any person age 18 or younger is considered a juvenile. In several states, such as New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina, a juvenile is age 16 or less, and in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, a juvenile is age 17 or less. Wyoming is the only state that has established the age of juveniles to be 19 or younger. Below you will key information about the background of juvenile justice laws.

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. Usually, the age of the offender refers to the age of the offender at the time the offense was committed, 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 is 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 18 years of age than some adults are. 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 he or she becomes an adult under the law and is granted certain adult privileges. For example, if a 17-year-old loses both parents and has no other living relatives, he or she could be emancipated in order to pursue custody of his or her younger siblings.

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 Beginning of a Criminal Case

Whether it’s the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial or the Donald Trump Russia investigation, each day the media reports on high profile criminal trials and investigations that make for great TV drama. We watch movies and TV shows depicting intense, exaggerated trials but the beginning of a trial is often left off of the script. One may often wonder how charges are actually brought and what happens between the arrest and trial.

Although each State has its own procedures in bringing criminal charges against a criminal defendant, the most common way a criminal trial can start is through a document called the “information.” This document is written by the prosecutor and is somewhat similar to a complaint in a civil trial. After probable cause is found in the preliminary hearing, the information is filed. In it, the prosecutor describes what happened in a series of statements, and then shows how the defendant’s actions are crimes. The substance of the information can come from police reports and other documents produced through police investigation, but it can also come from complaints brought by citizens. In most states, a case may proceed to trial after felony or misdemeanor charges are brought by information. In the the federal system, a prosecutor can bring misdemeanor or felony charges by information (if a grand jury is waived).

Another way a criminal trial can start is by indictment through a grand jury. A prosecutor will review evidence gathered by the police and give that evidence to a jury. The jury will then decide if the defendants should go to trial. A prosecutor might choose this method if she is not sure she will succeed in a criminal trial, and considers the grand jury proceedings as a test trial. In the State of Washington, a grand jury system does not exist, except for in a Federal case.

The third way to bring criminal charges is the most straight forward. A police officer may see someone committing a minor crime, such as speeding, jaywalking, or littering, and write up a ticket, also known as a citation. Citations can only be used to charge someone with an infraction, which are minor cases compared to a criminal charge and are generally not punishable by prison. The person who receives the ticket has the opportunity to contest it, or can just pay a fine to end the proceedings.

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.