Number of Criminal Appeals

The final judgment of a lower court, usually the trial court, can be appealed to the next higher court one time only. Thus, the total number of appeals depends on how many courts are “superior” to the court that made the contested decision, and sometimes what the next higher court decides the appeal’s basis. Remember, the first appeal is known as an “appeal as of right,” and you are entitled to the assistance of an attorney.

In states with large populations, it is common to find three or even four levels of courts, while in less populous states there may be only two. There are important differences in the rules, time limits, costs, and procedures depending on whether the case is in Federal court or state court. Also, each state has different rules. Finally, even within a single state one may find that different rules for appeals depend on the court in which the case originated.

Keep in mind, the appeals process is state-specific and you would be wise to consult an attorney to learn more about filing procedures and more.

The filing process involves two important actions: filing the “notice of appeal” and then finally the actual appellate brief with the court. First, let’s talk about filing a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal is simply that — a notice to the court that you are appealing your case. Your attorney sends the it to the court that entered the judgment against you. The notice of appeal is a short document, usually not more than a page or two long.

An appellate court cannot adjudicate a case if the notice is not properly filed in a timely manner. The notice must be filed within a definite time, usually 30 days in civil appeals and 10 days in criminal appeals. The period within which to file usually starts on the date a final judgment in the lower court is filed.

The next big step in the appeals process is to actually file your appellate brief with the court. The appellate brief will usually be a lengthy document written by your attorney. It will state all the reasons why the lower court’s ruling was wrong, and also cite to the trial transcript as evidence of the error.

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 Crimes

Most criminal systems for states across the United States divide their crimes into several different categories depending on how serious they are. This categorization determines how the court system treats a particular case, so it is important to understand the differences. As a general rule, however, these crimes are differentiated by how much potential jail time (if any) an offender could face.

Infractions: In general, these 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.

Misdemeanors: Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions. They are usually defined as a crime which is punishable by up to a year in jail time. Sometimes that jail time is served in a local county jail instead of a high security prison. Other states define a misdemeanor as a crime that is not a felony or an infraction. Prosecutors generally have a great degree of flexibility in deciding what crimes to charge, how to punish them, and what kinds of plea bargains to negotiate.

Felonies: Felonies are the most serious types of crimes. They are usually defined by the fact that they are punishable by prison sentences of greater than one year. Since the punishments can be so severe, court room procedure must be strictly observed so that the defendants’ rights stay protected. Felonies are usually crimes that are viewed severely by society, and include crimes such as murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, or arson. However, felonies can also be punished in a range of ways so that the punishment matches the severity of the 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.

Ways To 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 (most commonly) or writs. This article covers the basics of reversing a conviction, but keep in mind that each case is different and laws vary by jurisdiction.

It is theoretically possible for two completely reasonable juries 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. But, 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.

Court Appointed Lawyers

If you’re facing criminal charges and are unable to afford a private defense attorney, you may qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. After all, one of the foundations of our legal system is that every criminal defendant has the right to legal representation. This is best understood by listening to the Miranda warning that police must provide to every person upon an arrest:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed.

It might seem crazy how much a private criminal defense attorney can charge, with hourly rates sometimes as high as $300-$600 and retainer fees which can cost thousands. If you’re unable to afford a private criminal defense attorney, you may be able to obtain a court-appointed lawyer to represent you. Generally, the lawyer will work at the government’s expense. In order to obtain a court-appointed lawyer in your case, you’re generally required to:1) ask the court for a court-appointed lawyer; and 2) provide details about your financial situation to show that you can’t afford a private defense attorney.

The first time you’re able to request a court-appointed lawyer will be the first time you go in front of a judge after your arrest, known as your arraignment. You either arrive to the arraignment on your own (if you were able to post bail), or escorted by the sheriff’s department of your county if you weren’t able to post bail.

When the judge calls your case for the arraignment, the first question will be whether or not you’re represented by an attorney and, if not, whether you want one appointed to your case. If so, the judge could simply appoint an attorney already present in court to assist with the remainder of your arraignment. However, this lawyer normally will not be the same lawyer appointed to you for the duration of your case, which can happen after your arraignment. Some courts will postpone the arraignment itself until an attorney is appointed for the duration of your case and others could delay all hearings until your financial situation can be investigated to determine whether you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer.

Each state, and sometimes each county, has rules for determining how to qualify for court-appointed counsel. These rules often have some flexibility to account for the seriousness of the alleged crime or the probable length of the trial. So, even if you make a decent wage and could hire a private attorney to work on a short case, a judge may determine that you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer if the charges against you are more serious or if it appears that your trial may take some time.

Lastly, if you earn income, but it’s not high enough to hire a private attorney and not low enough to qualify you for a court-appointed lawyer, the judge may provide you with “partial indigency.” Under this procedure, you’re represented by court-appointed counsel, but you’re also required to reimburse the state for a portion of your costs of representation.

When answering this question, remember that in most situations, any legal representation in a criminal case is better than none. However, this is not to say that a court-appointed lawyer is little better than nothing. In fact, many public defenders and court-appointed lawyers are some of the best legal minds in the world. Public defenders often have more courtroom time and experience than many private defense lawyers twice their age. Indeed, public defenders have been on the defense side of many of the most prestigious cases in our country’s history.

However, the time and effort that court-appointed lawyers can spend on their cases has declined in recent years with reduced government funding and higher caseloads. Indeed, in some places it has become so bad that public defenders only meet their clients for the first time in the court’s anteroom before trial starts.

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.

Pros and Cons of a Plea Bargain

Although plea bargaining is often criticized, more than 90 percent of criminal convictions come from negotiated pleas. Therefore, less than 10 percent of criminal cases actually go to trial. So, what are the incentives behind plea bargaining? Turns out, it’s quite complicated and it does not simply rely on one’s guilt or innocence. Below is a sampling of the various points of view among different players within the criminal justice system with respect to plea bargaining, looking at the pros and cons of such an arrangement.

For judges, the key incentive for accepting a plea bargain is to alleviate the need to schedule and hold a trial on an already overcrowded docket. Judges are also aware of prison overcrowding and may be receptive to the “processing out” of offenders who are not likely to do much jail time anyway. Generally speaking, plea bargains help create more judicial economy and conservation of limited resources.

The downside to this incentive, however, is the tendency for lower income defendants who believe they are innocent to accept a plea deal because they lack the funds for a robust defense.

For prosecutors, a lightened caseload is equally attractive. But more importantly, plea bargaining assures a conviction, even if it is for a lesser charge or crime. No matter how strong the evidence may be, no case is a foregone conclusion. Prosecutors often wage long and expensive trials but lose, as happened in the infamous O. J. Simpson murder trial.

Moreover, prosecutors may use plea bargaining to further their case against a co-defendant. They may accept a plea bargain arrangement from one defendant in return for damaging testimony against another. This way, they are assured of at least one conviction (albeit on a lesser charge) plus enhanced chances of winning a conviction against the second defendant. For example, a low-level criminal may have information that could help prosecutors in their case against a criminal kingpin. But since the incentive for the first defendant is to get a better deal, the reliability of this information sometimes is questionable.

For a defendant in a criminal case, plea bargaining provides the opportunity for a lighter sentence on a less severe charge, and to have fewer (or less serious) offenses listed on a criminal record. If they are represented by private counsel, defendants also save the monetary costs of a lengthy trial by accepting a plea bargain. Therein lies the potential problem with accepting such a deal: The defendant, even if not actually guilty of the crime, will sometimes take the lighter sentence instead of asserting their constitutional right to a fair trial because they cannot afford an “top-shelf” legal defense.

The decision whether to accept a plea bargain is not an easy one and will depend on the specific facts of your case, your financial standing, your criminal history, and other factors. It also depends on what is being offered. If you’re a licensed professional and your license may be revoked after a felony conviction, pleading out for a misdemeanor charge may guarantee your ability to maintain that license and your livelihood.

While pleading guilty to a crime you know you didn’t commit can be quite distasteful, sometimes it’s best to be pragmatic and listen to your attorney’s assessment of your chances at trial. Ultimately, it’s a decision you have to make on your own.

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.

Child Pornography

Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor under the age of 18.  Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.

Federal laws addressing child pornography are:

18 U.S.C. § 2251- Sexual Exploitation of Children

(Production of child pornography)

18 U.S.C. § 2251A- Selling and Buying of Children

18 U.S.C. § 2252- Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of  minors (Possession, distribution and receipt of child pornography)

18 U.S.C. § 2252A- Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography

18 U.S.C. § 2260- Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States

A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime, and convicted offenders face fines and severe statutory penalties. First-time offenders found guilty of producing child pornography may be sentenced to fines and between 15 to 30 years in prison. Offenders may be prosecuted under federal, state or both jurisdictions for any child pornography offense.

A federal child pornography crime such as possession, manufacturing, distribution, or “access with intent to view,” typically involves the illegal activity crossing state lines such as on the Internet or through the mail. While federal authorities may be involved, state prosecutors may also pursue child pornography prosecutions. Sentences vary by state, but most will require a convicted defendant to register as a sex offender for life.

If a person is convicted of a child pornography-related crime (federal or state), a sentence will likely include mandatory sex offender registration for a certain number of years. Upon conviction, a sex offender will be required to register his or her name, address, and past offenses into a registry for monitoring and tracking offenders.

It is both a federal and state crime for a person to knowingly fail to register or update his or her registration as required by law. You can gain access to the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) that includes links to the registry for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Some have argued, rather unsuccessfully, that child pornography should be protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, courts have consistently found that images of child pornography are not protected speech under the First Amendment and are therefore illegal.

If you come across a website that you believe is depicting child pornography, the first step is to contact your local law enforcement agency. While many of these crimes involve federal law, local authorities will know where to route the investigation.

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.

Appeals and Writs

Appeals Court 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, a defendant has the option 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 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. But, 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 one has discovered errors in the way a case was handled, and believe it materially affected a conviction or sentence, they 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.

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.

Case Strategy

Soon after a defendant explains his or her story to a criminal lawyer, they will probably collaborate with each other to come up with a strategy that will work best in court. Generally speaking, this strategy will be based upon the story that the defendant tells his or her attorney, but in most cases will not be exactly the same. Coming up with a defense strategy is not as simple as telling the truth in a way that shows the defendant’s innocence. Instead, it will involve weighing witness credibility, figuring out the reputation between the community and the police as well as various other legal factors.

The very first aspect of preparing a case for trial is to establish a theory. This theory is what the defense will present to a jury, which could explain, justify or prove a defendant’s innocence. Putting this theory forward in court could be very beneficial to the defendant. Prior to a case going to trial, a defense attorney could file a pretrial motions asking for certain evidence to be excluded from trial. This evidence can include certain confessions, statements or actual hard evidence found in a crime scene. In addition, the defense attorney would also probably try to interview any witnesses and/or alleged victims to ascertain information for a trial. This information can be further used during a trial to question credibility and prove to the jury that the prosecutions burden of proof has not been met.

Attorneys are charged to be zealous advocates for their clients and this often means that they will provide coaching to their criminal defendant clients in order to put the best defense theory forward possible. In many situations, defense attorneys will practice mock testimony with the defendant to commit and clearly understand a defense theory to memory; take a defendant to a crime scene in order to stimulate memories and get a defendant to write down their own version of the events, which in many cases varies from the actual police report and discovery provided to the defense.

Additionally, defense attorneys will often explain the theory of the case that the prosecution is using in order to get defendants to include important pieces of fact in their testimony. For example, if a key part of the prosecution’s case is that the defendant was in a certain location at a certain time, the defendant needs to remember to tell a version of events that does not place him at that location at that time. Establishing a criminal defense theory involves manipulating the facts in order to be able to zealously advocate for a client and ensure that he or she has received an effective defense.

It is important for defense attorneys to explain to defendants about various pieces of information about the prosecution’s case so that the defendant knows what kinds of evidence they need to produce.

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 as opposed to a robbery with a deadly weapon.

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.

Adult System v. Juvenile System

The juvenile court system is different from the adult system in many ways. After committing an offense, juveniles are detained and not arrested. Next, a petition is drawn up which outlines the jurisdiction authority of the juvenile court over the offense and detained individuals, gives notice for the reason for the court appearance, serves as notice to the minor’s family, and also is the official charging document.

Once in court, the juvenile case is adjudicated, and a disposition is handed down. Records from juvenile courts are sealed documents, unlike adult records which are accessible by anyone under the Freedom of Information Act. Like diversion, this measure is designed to protect the juvenile so that one mistake does not follow the juvenile for life. Juvenile records may also be expunged upon the juvenile’s eighteenth birthday provided the juvenile has met certain conditions, such as good behavior. Juvenile court procedure is also far less formal than adult court procedure.

The court’s ability to interfere in both criminal and other matters relating to juveniles is the product of a very old legal concept called parens patriae, a concept that regards the government as the legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves. Even today, the disposition of a juvenile case is based on the least detrimental alternative, so the legacy of parens patriae is still evident. However, one major controversy in juvenile dispositions is the use of indeterminate sentencing, which allows a judge to set a maximum sentence.

In such cases, juveniles are monitored during their sentences and are released only when the judge is satisfied that they have been rehabilitated or when the maximum time has been served. Critics argue that this arrangement allows the judge too much discretion and is, therefore, not the least detrimental punishment.

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.

Execution of Inmates

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

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

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

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

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.