Attorney Fees and Agreements

Once you’ve decided to hire an attorney, it’s important that you review any agreements before signing on. Usually, an attorney will have a representation or fee agreement that will outline the terms of the attorney-client relationship and the fees and costs associated with the representation. Representation agreements are important because they will often let the client know how and when the lawyer will give the client status updates, and who will be performing the work. A clear fee structure is important because it outlines the various legal fees and costs associated with the work the attorney and his or her staff will perform, and allows the client to figure out whether or not he or she can afford the attorney. A clear fee structure can also be helpful in avoiding a fee dispute in the future.

After hiring an attorney, you might wonder what to expect from your attorney. While an attorney can not guarantee a specific outcome, there are some things that he or she can guarantee. An attorney should communicate with you effectively, comply with ethical rules, represent you in a competent manner, and bill you in the manner that is outlined in his or her fee agreement.

Communication between an attorney and a client is very important. Good communication means that the client can feel comfortable that the attorney is working on the client’s case. Of course, an attorney can’t be in constant communication with the client. After all, he or she usually is handling multiple cases. But, it’s important for an attorney to return a call or email within a business day, or at least explain why he or she couldn’t respond sooner. In addition, the attorney must keep the client updated with any new developments on the client’s case.

Lawyers are bound by the ethical rules of the state in which they are practicing. However, there are some themes common to the ethical rules of each state. The ethical rules of pretty much every state require that an attorney maintain attorney-client privilege, represent the client’s interests loyally, and not engage in criminal activities. In addition, states generally require that attorneys keep a separate bank account for their clients’ money. Finally, it’s expected that the lawyer handle each legal matter “competently,” which relates to the core knowledge and expertise of the lawyer.

How much a legal matter will cost you will depend on various factors including the complexity of the case, the costs involved, the amount of time spent on your legal matter, and the lawyer’s experience. Usually, an attorney will also factor in overhead expenses – such as rent, utilities, office equipment, etc. – when deciding on his or her fee. There are a few common types of fee arrangements you can expect when you hire an attorney.

Probably the most common type of fee arrangement is when the attorney charges an hourly rate. This type of fee allows the attorney to charge for the hours that he or she works on your legal matter. The hourly rate can vary depending on the type of work being performed – a court appearance versus legal research. Also, large firms will usually have different fee scales depending on the seniority of the attorneys, with senior members charging more that young associates.

A common type of fee arrangement for personal injury lawyers is a contingency fee. A contingency fee is based on the amount awarded in the case, whether it’s a judgment or a settlement. If the client loses the case, the lawyer doesn’t get the fee, but the client is still responsible for expenses associated with the case. A contingency fee can also be charged in property damage cases, or other cases that will potentially result in a large settlement or judgment, but can’t be used in criminal and child custody manners.

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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Shall I Refuse the Breath Test?

To take a Breathalyzer or not can be a difficult question. The law of implied consent and blood alcohol content (BAC) testing varies from state to state. Generally, as a condition to obtaining a driver’s license, a driver has to consent in advance to submitting to a either a blood, Breathalyzer, or urine test when requested to do so by an officer. The penalties for refusing a blood or breath test are enhanced in Washington State, if convicted of a DUI Refusal. However, there are many factors to consider when making such a determination to either take a breath test or refuse it.

A person’s BAC will vary based on many factors, but primarily on the amount of alcohol consumed, the person’s gender, body type, and the time passed since the alcohol was consumed. If you are fairly certain that you are sober, the best decision might be to submit to a test in order to end the ordeal quickly. Conversely, if you are certain that you are highly intoxicated and above the legal limit (usually 0.08, which is on average, four to five drinks), your best bet might be to refuse and accept the punishment for refusal, which is typically an automatic license suspension.

In some states and in limited circumstances, the decision to submit to testing is taken out of drivers’ hands with the practice of forced blood draws by police. In extreme cases, officers can actually hold you down and draw your blood by force. Though this rarely happens, when it does, it usually happens after the driver was involved in a serious accident and subsequently refuses to submit to a BAC test. Whether or not forced blood draws are an option depends on your particular state; but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a warrant is required.

The constitutionality of forced blood draws was briefly addressed by the Supreme Court in 1966, where the court ruled the process constitutional under certain exigent circumstances. However, laws with regard to forced blood draws are controversial and in a state of flux within the courts. The bottom line for the moment is that blood draws are rarely done, and almost never done unless the suspected driver was involved in an accident and a judge issues a warrant.

The decision on whether or not to submit to a BAC test does not happen in a vacuum. You must also consider any other evidence against you, such as failed field sobriety tests or poor driving. If the officer already has other evidence, and if your state allows authorities to use your refusal as further evidence of guilt (many do), the penalty for refusal could be tacked on to the penalty for the DUI, resulting in double penalties. On the other hand, if you were simply pulled over, the officer smelled booze, and then asked you to take a BAC test, a refusal alone may not be enough to convict.

The bottom line is, there are only a few circumstances in which a refusal is a better idea than taking a BAC test required by law. Your task will be to weigh your estimated blood alcohol content, local laws, and the evidence against you, in determining whether to refuse a BAC test. Of course, if you are under the influence at the time, that will only make the decision-making process more difficult (unless they let you call a lawyer). This all leads to the best course of action, not drinking anything at all before driving.

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.

Pretrial Motions Explained

After the preliminary hearing and before a criminal case goes to trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney usually appear before a criminal court judge and make pretrial motions — arguments that certain evidence should be kept out of the trial, that certain persons must or cannot testify, or that the case should be dismissed altogether.

Remember that most DUI cases do not reach the preliminary hearing stage. In the majority of such cases, the arraignment and pretrial hearings usually represents the first and last time the suspect will be in court, as most DUI suspects choose to plead guilty, especially if evidence of intoxication is strong.

As their name implies, pretrial motions are requests made by either attorney prior to the trial to limit the amount of evidence a jury or judge will hear. Pretrial motions are tools used by the government and the defense in an effort to set the boundaries for trial, should one take place. Pretrial motions typically address the following issues:

  1. What physical evidence and testimony can be used?
  2. What legal arguments can and cannot be made?
  3. Is there any reason that the defendant should not be forced to stand trial?

While specific possibilities are endless, following are some examples of pre-trial motions that might be made in a DUI case:

The defense asks the judge to keep out of the case (“exclude”) marijuana “joints” that the defense argues was obtained through an illegal search of the defendant’s car.

The defense argues that a confession made by the defendant should be excluded, because it was made to a police officer who failed to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights. The defense argues that Breathalyzer test results should be excluded, because the testing procedure used by the arresting officer was clearly flawed.

A pretrial motion could allow you to gain access to an arresting officer’s personnel file to determine if the officer has received any prior complaints regarding her conduct. Remember that police officers must follow very strict guidelines when obtaining evidence. The arresting officer’s personnel file may be used to show that, because the officer has a history of misconduct, it is likely that you were not properly treated. And, if so, then evidence against you could be kept out of court. Complaints that you might look for in an officer’s personnel file include those about racial bias, excessive force, false arrest, planting evidence, discrimination, harassment, or criminal conduct.

However, in order for access to a personnel file to be granted, something must have happened that led you to and your attorney to believe that the officer’s past conduct should be called into question

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.

DUI and Background Checks

A DUI conviction, or even an impaired driving charge that does not end in a conviction, may negatively impact one’s career, particularly if an offender holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or is required to drive as part of his or her job.

An employer may choose to conduct background checks on current or prospective employees for any number of reasons, some more valid and legal than others. Depending on how the background check is conducted, it may expose a DUI charge or conviction. But the limits of an employer’s ability to conduct such checks, and whether or not a DUI offense should be considered in a hiring (or firing) decision, is governed mostly by state laws.

All states are subject to the provisions of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which applies to background checks performed by outside companies but not those conducted in-house. While the FCRA prohibits the reporting of criminal arrests after a period of seven years, criminal convictions (including DUIs) may be reported indefinitely. Also, reporting restrictions imposed by the FCRA only apply to jobs with a yearly salary of $75,000 or less.

However, federal courts have often ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from barring employment of individuals with convictions unless they can prove a compelling business reason to do so. Still, this interpretation of the Civil Rights Act comes into conflict with some state laws. And most applicants have no way of knowing what goes on behind the scenes when they apply for a job.

Most states allow employers to refuse employment to anyone with a conviction record and many even allow employers to refuse applicants with an arrest record, mainly due to a lack of regulations in this area. At least 14 states have legal standards requiring an employer to prove the job relevance of a given conviction, including Colorado, Florida, Kansas, and New York. But only Hawaii, Kansas, New York, and Wisconsin apply these regulations to private employers as well.

California and eight other states offer certificates of rehabilitation for employment purposes to those convicted of a DUI or other crimes, lifting some barriers to employment. California Labor Code 432.7 states that employers cannot ask about an arrest that did not result in a conviction. And if you successfully complete a probation for a DUI in California, you can file a motion to withdraw your plea or set aside the verdict; this will show in your records that the case was dismissed.

Those running for public office or applying for a professional license in the state must disclose a DUI or any conviction from the past 10 years; the same is true for direct questions on an application regarding criminal convictions.

Most states require background checks for certain types of jobs, including anyone who works with children, the elderly or the disabled. This doesn’t necessarily mean a DUI record will preclude such an applicant from consideration, but it could factor into an employer’s hiring decision as a perceived character flaw. Also, many state and federal jobs require a background check; but this may depend on the kind of job, such as those requiring a security clearance.

Commercial drivers who commit a DUI on the job, or even in their personal vehicle, are prohibited from driving in a professional capacity for a certain period of time. As of 1999, convictions for major violations committed in a commercial vehicle (including a DUI) remain on one’s CDL record for 55 years.

Roughly 20 different types of information may be included in an official background check; these may include driving records, vehicle registration, criminal records, court records, character references, neighbor interviews and incarceration records. Some of this information may be gleaned from a pre-employment questionnaire or the job application itself. While most such questions are limited to whether or not the applicant has committed a felony, some states allow much broader questions about past charges for crimes.

As a rule of thumb, it’s usually best to tell the truth; while employers may overlook the admittance of a DUI offense, being caught in a lie usually removes the applicant from consideration for the job.

But the internet has proven to be a powerful tool for more informal background checks of job candidates, including online public records and social networking sites such as Facebook. For example, a steadily increasing percentage of employers admit to using Facebook to review job candidates, which could turn up information about a DUI arrest that otherwise might not show up (maybe you or a friend commented on the arrest). In this respect, an applicant who otherwise does not consent to a background check may be subject to one without even knowing.

While it’s not always an option, often dependent on specific state regulations, a DUI offender may choose to expunge his or her record. Expungement is a court-ordered process which effectively “seals” a record of arrest or a criminal conviction.

Many states limit expungement to just arrests that do not result in a conviction. The charge or conviction is not completely “erased,” per se, but is sealed for most purposes, including most employment-related background checks.

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.

General DUI Overview

A DUI arrest is always preceded by a traffic stop, whether the police officer suspects drunk driving or has stopped a motorist for an unrelated reason, such as a burned-out taillight. While the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure, refusing to cooperate with an officer typically is not in the best interests of a stopped motorist. Nevertheless, there are still ways to protect your rights when a police officer stops you for a DUI. FindLaw’s “DUI Stop” subsection covers DUI defenses during and after a traffic stop, your rights under the Fourth Amendment, the legality of sobriety checkpoints and more.

In some states, if you have ever driven around late at night, you may have come across a DUI checkpoint. A few police cruisers might block a portion of a road and one officer will ask simple questions of each driver. Washington state does not allow DUI checkpoints as they have been deemed unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court.

Once the police pull you over and suspect you of drunk driving, they will most likely ask you to take a breath test. Read this article to find out whether you can refuse this test, and when it might be a good idea to refuse the test.

Police have broad discretion in determining when and whether to pull someone over, but they cannot just stop any random person and start conducting field sobriety tests. Find out the minimum standard police must satisfy before conducting a DUI stop.

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

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.

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.