Steps to Take When Being Pulled Over

Let’s face it, each and every driver will eventually get pulled over by law enforcement at some point in their lives. The following are a few things to keep in mind after law enforcement initiates contact.

The first thing to do is to pull over quickly and safely, letting the police officer know you understand and are complying. Use your signals and pull as far to the right shoulder as you can. Your goal is to make it clear that you understand he or she is in control. By pulling over quickly, you can also be close to the scene where the officer claims you committed a violation. This allows you to review the scene to evaluate the truthfulness of the officer’s allegation and look for potential defenses such as obstructed views.

Always be polite during traffic stops, even if the officer is aggressive. You have little to lose by being polite and a lot to lose by being belligerent. Roll down your window, turn off the engine and place your hands on the steering wheel. If it is night time, turn on your interior light. Do not reach for documentation: officers are trained to spot driver’s reaching for hidden items, or stashing items, and it is likely an officer may misinterpret your actions. You might be reaching for your registration, but for all the officer knows, you’re reaching for a gun.

If you have any suspicion that the officer is not really a police officer (e.g., you were pulled over by an unmarked car), ask politely to see the officer’s photo identification and badge. If you still are unsure, you can ask that officer to call a supervisor to the scene or you can request that you be allowed to follow the officer to a police station.

Although police officers are normally not allowed to search your car during traffic stops, it’s easy to give the officer a valid reason to search your car if you’re not careful. Once the officer shines his or her spotlight on your car, the officer is watching you closely for any suspicious movements. For instance, if an officer observes you trying to hide or throw something out of the window, the officer may legally search your car. If you appear to hunch down in your seat, the officer may reasonably believe you’re hiding something under the seat. Be calm, don’t make sudden or suspicious movements and don’t reach for anything until the officer asks you to.

If an officer has reason to believe you’re armed, dangerous, or involved in criminal activity, the officer can frisk you. If the officer has probable cause (a reasonable basis to believe that you or your passengers are involved in criminal activity), then the officer can search your car. Even if the officer doesn’t initially have probable cause, if during the stop the officer sees something in “plain view” (out in the open), then the officer is allowed to inspect it and any other objects the officer comes across can be legally seized as well. Common examples of items in plain view are open beer cans, wine bottles and drug paraphernalia.

 

Finally, an officer can search your car if you or any passenger in your car is arrested. If you are the one arrested, the police may tow your vehicle and do an “inventory” search of the car’s contents without any need for reasonable suspicion.

You should not get out of your car unless the police officer asks you to. Again, you want to avoid antagonizing the officer and communicate that you understand he or she is in control. Officers are trained to expect the worst, and if you suddenly exit the vehicle, the officer is trained to think you’re either going to fight or flee.

If an officer asks you to exit the vehicle, you should do so calmly and carefully, with no sudden movements. Exiting the vehicle may give you the opportunity to better survey the scene to verify the officer’s allegations. If the officer has a reason to believe you’re armed, he or she can pat down your outer clothing. If the officer finds something suspicious, he or she can reach in to grab the concealed object.

Let the officer do most of the talking. Don’t interrupt, don’t be argumentative, and don’t say anything that the officer can record and use against you. This means when an officer asks you questions such as “do you know why I stopped you,” you should respond “no.” If the officer asks you “do you know how fast you were going,” you should simply answer “yes.” Officers are trained to let you incriminate yourself by letting you admit to violations or admit that you were careless or negligent. If required, give noncommittal responses such as “ok” or “I see.” Often the best course is simply not to respond, silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you. Be polite, but don’t give the officer anything — it’s his or her job to prove your guilt.

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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Child Pornography Under State and Federal Law

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 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 you have been convicted of a child pornography-related crime (federal or state), your sentence will likely include mandatory sex offender registration. 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. You can also contact:

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipLine

Executive Office for the United States Attorneys (EOUSA)

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.

Harassment Via Text Messaging

Most states have criminal laws against harassing texts, in some form or another. Harassment has a rather low level threshold: it is repeated, unwanted contact. Even spam may be considered harassing texts, but these aren’t the kind in which to call the police, and if you do, do not expect any action to be taken in the near future.

The harassing texts police follow up on tend to be those that endanger health, safety, and welfare. Before contacting the police, ask the sender to stop sending them. If that doesn’t work, set up an appointment to meet with police to explain the situation.

Repeated text messages that are affecting your health should be reported. Everyone has different stress and anxiety thresholds, and once harassing texts have elevated you past these, it is time to contact the police. When reporting them, make sure the police understand if you have a pre-existing health condition that would make your threshold potentially lower, and especially let them know if the harassing person knows this. In extreme cases, this information can lead police to intervene after only one harassing text.

If harassing texts are making you feel unsafe, these should be reported as well. Perhaps the text is menacing or stalking. If you are even contemplation changing your daily patterns to avoid certain situations warned about in the harassing texts, for fear of personal injury, contact the police.

Many people receive harassing texts that threaten their career, job, or livelihood. They can be sexually offensive from co-workers, giving rise to a sexual harassment claim, or as it is now termed, textual harassment. There are even some cases between co-workers that are ex-lovers that have risen to the level of revenge porn. Repeated texts from co-workers can be annoying, coming at all hours of the night asking about the progress of a project. You may want to address these with your human resources department. However, if that doesn’t help, or if you have a warranted fear of retaliation, you should speak with the police. Some unwanted texts, especially ones that contain lewd photos, could give rise to a criminal arrest.

If any of these three apply to your situation, contact the police in the city in which your harasser lives. For best results, make sure you have plenty of evidence, clearly sorted, in order to make investigating your case that much easier. Police are hear to help protect your health, safety, and welfare from these menacing texts.

If you are arrested for sending harassing texts, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Laws against all forms of cyberbullying are being taken increasingly seriously. You may not have had the courage to harass the victim face to face, but the judge will have no problem facing 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 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.

Steps to Take When Being Pulled Over

Most of us at some point in our lives may get pulled over by a police officer one day. There are simple steps during traffic stops that one should follow in order to have a fighting chance to contest a ticket.

Step One: Pull over quickly and safely, letting the police officer know you understand and are complying. Use your signals and pull as far to the right shoulder as you can. Your goal is to make it clear that you understand he or she is in control. By pulling over quickly, you can also be close to the scene where the officer claims you committed a violation. This allows you to review the scene to evaluate the truthfulness of the officer’s allegation and look for potential defenses such as obstructed views.

Always be polite during traffic stops, even if the officer is aggressive. You have little to lose by being polite and a lot to lose by being belligerent. Roll down your window, turn off the engine and place your hands on the steering wheel. If it is night time, turn on your interior light. Do not reach for documentation: officers are trained to spot driver’s reaching for hidden items, or stashing items, and it is likely an officer may misinterpret your actions. You might be reaching for your registration, but for all the officer knows, you’re reaching for a gun.

If you have any suspicion that the officer is not really a police officer (e.g., you were pulled over by an unmarked car), ask politely to see the officer’s photo identification and badge. If you still are unsure, you can ask that officer to call a supervisor to the scene or you can request that you be allowed to follow the officer to a police station.

Although police officers are normally not allowed to search your car during traffic stops, it’s easy to give the officer a valid reason to search your car if you’re not careful. Once the officer shines his or her spotlight on your car, the officer is watching you closely for any suspicious movements. For instance, if an officer observes you trying to hide or throw something out of the window, the officer may legally search your car. If you appear to hunch down in your seat, the officer may reasonably believe you’re hiding something under the seat. Be calm, don’t make sudden or suspicious movements and don’t reach for anything until the officer asks you to.

If an officer has reason to believe you’re armed, dangerous, or involved in criminal activity, the officer can frisk you. If the officer has probable cause (a reasonable basis to believe that you or your passengers are involved in criminal activity), then the officer can search your car. Even if the officer doesn’t initially have probable cause, if during the stop the officer sees something in “plain view” (out in the open), then the officer is allowed to inspect it and any other objects the officer comes across can be legally seized as well. Common examples of items in plain view are open beer cans, wine bottles and drug paraphernalia.

Finally, an officer can search your car if you or any passenger in your car is arrested. If you are the one arrested, the police may tow your vehicle and do an “inventory” search of the car’s contents without any need for reasonable suspicion.

You should not get out of your car unless the police officer asks you to. Again, you want to avoid antagonizing the officer and communicate that you understand he or she is in control. Officers are trained to expect the worst, and if you suddenly exit the vehicle, the officer is trained to think you’re either going to fight or flee.

If an officer asks you to exit the vehicle, you should do so calmly and carefully, with no sudden movements. Exiting the vehicle may give you the opportunity to better survey the scene to verify the officer’s allegations. If the officer has a reason to believe you’re armed, he or she can pat down your outer clothing. If the officer finds something suspicious, he or she can reach in to grab the concealed object.

Let the officer do most of the talking. Don’t interrupt, don’t be argumentative, and don’t say anything that the officer can record and use against you. This means when an officer asks you questions such as “do you know why I stopped you,” you should respond “no.” If the officer asks you “do you know how fast you were going,” you should simply answer “yes.” Officers are trained to let you incriminate yourself by letting you admit to violations or admit that you were careless or negligent. If required, give noncommittal responses such as “ok” or “I see.” Often the best course is simply not to respond, silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you. Be polite, but don’t give the officer anything — it’s his or her job to prove your guilt.

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.

Jury Nullification

The United States Constitution guarantees a trial by jury to all persons accused of a crime. That jury is comprised of average citizens from all walks of life with no special training or skills to serve other than being a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old, residing in the judicial district for a set period of time typically one year, being proficient in English, having no disqualifying mental or physical conditions, and not having a pending or previous felony conviction. In fact, over 32 million people are called for jury service every year, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Serving on a jury is a hallmark of our justice system and a cornerstone of democracy. But did you know that, unlike judges, juries historically have been able to ignore the law in order to achieve justice in individual cases that involve unjust rules or their unjust application? This is known as jury nullification. Below, you will find a discussion of jury nullification, including how it’s defined, its legality, examples, and where to find more information.

Jury nullification might sound like a convoluted concept in an already confusing legal system, but the idea is actually quite simple. It happens when a jury returns a verdict of Not Guilty despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. Why would a jury do this? Don’t jurors swear an oath to uphold the law? Yes, but oftentimes it is a tool juries can use to set aside a law they believe is immoral or wrongly applied to the accused.

Jury nullification is legal according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but whether or not juries need to be instructed on this right is a different matter. The Supreme Court has ruled that while the power of jury nullification exists, state courts and prosecutors are not required to inform jurors of this power. Accordingly, judges around the country have routinely forbidden any mention of jury nullification in the courtroom. For example, a 2016 push by New Hampshire lawmakers to require a jury nullification instruction was quashed in the state Senate.

The right to disregard the law if you morally disagree with it also comes from the fact that jurors cannot be punished for the verdict they render, no matter how unpopular it is to the general public or the specific judge presiding over the case. Also, defendants found not guilty cannot be retried for the same crime. Hence, once a jury finds a defendant not guilty, there is no mechanism for a prosecutor to bring the case against the same defendant again.

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.

Mandatory Sentences and Theories

State and federal criminal statutes that include mandatory sentences require judges to impose identical sentences on all persons convicted of the same offense. Mandatory sentences are state and federal legislators’ response to the public perception about judicial leniency or inconsistency in sentencing practices.

However, it’s important to note that most crimes do not carry mandatory sentences. If sentencing is not mandatory, judges may “fit the punishment to the offender” rather than “fit the punishment to the crime.” Sentencing structures with substantial ranges of punishments per crime allow judges wide discretion to allow mitigating and aggravating factors to have a great effect on the sentences rendered.

Competing theories about criminal justice help to fuel the different approaches to sentencing and punishment. These include the severity of punishment rendered, and the specific objective sought by the punishment:

Retribution: Some believe that the primary purpose of punishment should be to punish an offender for the wrong committed, society’s vengeance against a criminal.

Segregation: This philosophy does not address financial or racial divisions, but rather seeks to separate criminals from society through strict sentences. The idea is protect society by keeping criminals “off the streets.”

Rehabilitation: Others believe that the primary purpose of punishment should be to rehabilitate criminals to mend their criminal ways and to encourage the adoption of a more socially acceptable lifestyle.

Deterrence: Still others argue that the perceived punishment for a crime should be so undesirable as to result in deterring someone from actually committing a crime for fear of the likely punishment.

Closure for Victims’ Families: Relatives and friends of crime victims, especially murder victims, often argue that only the strictest sentences bring them justice. In the case of murder victims, loved ones often say they felt vindicated after a death sentence was carried out. Others claim they were re-empowered and no longer felt like victims.

Proponents of mandatory sentences cite deterrence as a motivating factor for mandatory sentencing schemes like theThree-Strikes Laws. Opponents of mandatory sentencing argue criminals are not deterred by strict mandatory sentences. Criminals, they say, are deterred more by an increased chance of conviction rather than a longer sentence. One famous example against deterrence stories that medieval pickpockets used to be hanged in London, and the most likely place to get your pocket picked was at a medieval English pickpocket hanging.

In 2010, the Sentencing Commission of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts noted that federal sentencing requirements often punish defendants more harshly for crimes that threaten potential violence than for crimes that conclude in actual violence. Other studies have noted the high disparity in severe mandatory sentences for crimes likely to be committed by minorities with those of whites. Disparities like these sparked public outcry, and ultimately led to President Obama’s signing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

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.

Appealing a Sentence

Imagine you were charged with a serious felony by your state prosecutor. You went to trial and, despite your attorney’s best efforts, twelve people didn’t believe your story and found you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Can you appeal?

Now imagine the same scenario, but instead of taking the case to trial, you pled guilty because you didn’t really want to deal with the hassle of a court case. Can you appeal in this situation?

The answer in the first case is yes; if you went to trial and were convicted, you have the automatic opportunity to file an appeal of your conviction and sentence. In the second case, the opportunity to have the court of appeal review your case is not automatic. Your attorney will have to ask permission from the court to file an appeal of a plea bargain or guilty plea.

Also, keep in mind that you can only challenge errors in the criminal process or in the application of the law, not merely to get a second bite at the apple, so to speak.

The following is an explanation of what happens when you appeal a sentence, including the importance of speaking with a criminal defense attorney skilled in appellate work.

Whether you are convicted or plead guilty, an appeal in a criminal case does not happen automatically. There is the extra step of having your attorney file the notice of appeal and appellate brief arguing your case. As stated above, you do have the automatic right to an appeal if you have been convicted, but you have to trigger the process, so to speak. Criminal defendants who plead guilty (or no contest) have their request to appeal denied.

In order to get a court of appeals to look at your case, your attorney will need to file a notice of appeal in a timely fashion. There are rarely second chances with the deadline. You either meet it or you don’t. If you don’t, you’ll need good cause why didn’t following the filing rules. While your attorney will know more, if you have thinking of appealing, it is important you tell you attorney about your intention as soon as possible. If your criminal defense attorney is not skilled in appellate work, they will have to refer you to someone else. Regardless, the clock is ticking and you need to make sure you file you notice of appeal on time.

Your lawyer will order the trial transcript from the court reporter once your notice of appeal is filed with the intermediate-level appellate court (or state Supreme Court in some jurisdictions). A transcript is the official record of what happened in your case. Your lawyer and the prosecutor will write appellate briefs arguing legal issues, supported by the trial transcript.

The next step in the process is getting a date for oral arguments where your attorney will appear before a panel of judges and argue on your behalf.

While you may have a new trial strategy, new evidence, or simply didn’t like your lawyer, the plain truth is that you cannot bring that into an appeal. Appellate judges will look only at the “four corners” of the court reporter’s transcript to make sure that the verdict was correct based upon the evidence and that the trial was fair and that there wasn’t a violation of your due process rights. The judges will come to a decision and write an opinion stating their reasons for either affirming your conviction or granting your appeal.

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.

Writ of Habeas Corpus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Law of Civil Forfeiture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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