Extradition Laws and Procedure

Fleeing from one state to another does not necessarily mean that a criminal will evade punishment if  he or she were to be caught. States and the federal government can seek to bring state-hopping criminals to justice through a process called extradition. Extradition laws give a state the ability to hand someone over to another state for purposes of criminal trial or punishment.

Extradition can occur between two states or between two countries. Both operate under similar principles, but the processes and procedures are different. This article focuses on extradition between states and will cover its legal basis, the applicable process, and what defenses may be available to prevent extradition.

Within the United States, federal law governs extradition from one state to another. The Extradition Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV Section 2) requires that:

A person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

In addition to the Constitution, federal law (18 U.S.C § 3182) provides requirements for extradition. Requirements and guidelines can also be found in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). The UCEA is not mandatory and not all states have adopted it. States that haven’t adopted the UCEA have their own extradition laws that comply with the federal statute.

Whether or not a state has adopted the UCEA, the extradition process will be similar. The process begins when there’s probable cause to issue an out-of-state arrest warrant. Typically this occurs when a person fails to show up for a court date or if there’s reason to believe the person has fled.

When the out of state warrant is issued, the information is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a nationwide database that law enforcement uses to access warrant information in other states. If the person sought is arrested in the new state, the arresting authorities will notify the first state that issued the warrant. For instance, if a crime is committed in California, and the person flees to New York, the New York police will be able to see the California arrest warrant and will notify California of an arrest in New York.

The original state may make a request for the return of the fugitive, but they don’t always do so. If the crime is a misdemeanor or something other than a violent felony, there may be no request for return. However, if such a request is made, the fugitive has the option of waiving extradition or attempting to fight extradition through a writ of habeas corpus.

If the fugitive refuses to waive extradition, the original state prepares a request to have the fugitive returned. Extradition requests are made from the office of one state’s governor to the other. If the request is approved by both governors, an extradition hearing will be held and a court in the state with the fugitive will make a decision to grant or deny extradition.

States, in deciding whether to extradite, generally may not go into the underlying charge behind an extradition request. However, the U.S. Constitution (Sixth Amendment) requires the accused “be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.” This means that states will inform the fugitive of: 1) the extradition request; 2) the underlying criminal charge; and 3) the individual’s right to seek legal counsel.

Once the request for extradition has been granted, the fugitive will be offered to the demanding state. The fugitive can still fight extradition by filing a writ of a habeas corpus. If the habeas corpus petition is denied, the original state will make arrangements to transport them back to the demanding state. If the habeas corpus petition is granted, the fugitive will be released.

There are not many defenses to extradition. As long as the process and procedure found in the U.S. Constitution and federal law have been followed, the fugitive must be surrendered to the demanding state. However, there are a few defenses that have been identified by the Supreme Court, such as: 1) whether the extradition request documents are in order; 2) whether the person has been charged with a crime in the demanding state; 3) whether the person named in the extradition request is the person charged with the crime; and 4) whether the petitioner is, in fact, a fugitive from the requesting state.

If the fugitive’s petition or writ for habeas corpus is unsuccessful, the arresting state must hold them for the demanding state. The demanding state then has 30 days to retrieve the fugitive. If they do not, the arresting state may release them.

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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What is a “Fair Trial”?

The term “fair trial” is often discussed as a necessary element to ensure that justice prevails in society. Although the American criminal justice system is intended to provide a criminal defendant with a fair trial, it can be difficult to ascertain what this means in practice. To answer the question “what is a fair trial?” it’s important to understand that the concepts of fairness are primarily established by constitutional protections.

The U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights (under the Sixth Amendment) guarantees the right to a speedy trial with an impartial jury for criminal defendants in federal courts. The 14th Amendment’s Due Process clause extends these rights to state courts.

While the Constitution expressly outlines the right to a jury trial, it doesn’t explicitly include the right to a “fair trial.” However, in guaranteeing other trial rights, the Constitution provides the safeguards for a fair trial. Such rights include: 1) The right to an impartial jury; 2) The right to due process of law; 3) The right to confront/call witnesses; and 4) The right to legal counsel.

When any of these rights are violated, it can lead to the determination that a trial was unfair and can result in the reversal of a verdict or the granting of a new trial.

A criminal defendant is entitled to have a trial with an impartial jury of their peers. The specific meaning of “impartial jury” isn’t defined in the Constitution; rather, it was established via tradition and case law and has evolved over time. Generally, it refers to jurors not having a stake in the outcome of the case and not approaching the case with any bias against the defendant.

Part of the “impartiality” of jurors has also been tied to having twelve jurors, although the Supreme Court suggests that this specific number is a “historical accident” and less of a strict requirement. However, because of the tradition and reliability of having a jury of twelve, it certainly contributes to the appearance of fairness in a criminal trial.

The connection between media and the judicial system can also factor into a jury’s impartiality. While a media presence in courtrooms can threaten judicial fairness in general, it can have an especially troublesome impact on securing a jury who doesn’t have a bias or prejudice against a defendant shaped by media reporting.

The right to due process prevents the government from arbitrarily infringing on an individual’s rights without some type of formal procedure. This is a broad area because due process includes many different rights and requires the government to respect the legal rights that the defendant is owed. In the context of criminal trials, the Supreme Court has found that a denial of due process occurs when there’s an absence of fairness such that it “fatally inflicts the trial.” For example, when the accused is compelled to appear before the jury clothed in prison garb because the appearance in that attire might damage the accused’s presumption of innocence with the jurors.

The U.S. Constitution gives criminal defendants the right to confront their witnesses and cross-examine them, but it also gives them the right to present evidence and call witnesses who support their case. Sometimes there’s a conflict between infringing on the rights of the accused and following the rules of evidence or trial procedure. For example, a defendant may be denied the ability to present testimony of witnesses about matters that were revealed out of court on hearsay grounds, but the Supreme Court ruled that this could constitute a denial of the defendant’s rights.

Anyone facing criminal charges has the right to legal counsel. This means that they can contact an attorney to find out about their rights and to have the attorney represent their legal interests. Not only does the defendant have a right to have an attorney, but also the right to an adequate defense. An attorney can fail in their duties by not providing representation that is sufficient to ensure a fair trial, like failing to present exculpatory evidence or being under the influence during trial.

Fair trials are an essential part of the U.S. judicial system that help to prevent miscarriages of justice. After contemplating what constitutes a fair trial, you may still have important questions about how the law impacts you or someone you know who’s facing charges. Contact a local criminal defense attorney today for helpful insight.

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.

Is Collusion a Crime?

The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines collusion as “secret cooperation for an illegal or dishonest purpose,” but Webster’s New World College Dictionary calls it “a secret agreement for fraudulent or illegal purpose; conspiracy.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, collusion is “a deceitful agreement or compact between two or more persons, for the one party to bring an action against the other for some evil purpose, as to defraud a third party of his right.”

Definitions offered by the latter two sources suggest illegal acts, but Merriam-Webster’s definition is more vague (i.e. simply being dishonest is not necessarily a crime). However, despite its “legalistic” tone, the term collusion has no specific legal meaning in criminal law; there’s no such criminal charge called “collusion,” nor does the term necessarily signal a criminal offense.

We know that collusion has a few different definitions and that “collusion” is not an actual criminal charge, but when are acts that can be characterized as collusion considered crimes? Even though collusion is not a legal term, quite a few offenses are characterized by collusive acts. Similarly, the simple act of lying is not itself a crime, but it becomes a crime in specific situations, like when lies are told under oath (perjury) or to gain something of value (fraud).

The following are examples of situations where acts of collusion amount to crimes:

The legal definition of conspiracy, which is a criminal charge, perhaps most closely mirrors the various definitions of collusion. The term is defined as “an agreement between two or more people to commit an act prohibited by law or to commit a lawful act by means prohibited by law.” The underlying crime is not as important as the intent to commit a crime and acts taken to plan for the crime. For instance, you and your co-conspirators can be charged with conspiracy to rob a bank even if the robbery is never actually attempted.

To commit treason is to “levy war against” the United States, “adhere to its enemies,” or give its enemies “aid and comfort.” This doesn’t necessarily require an act of collusion, since an individual may choose to commit treason on their own, but traitors often work directly (or “collude”) with the enemy. For example, U.S. citizen Mildred Gillars (aka “Axis Sally”) colluded with the Third Reich by broadcasting Nazi propaganda during World War II. She was convicted of treason and served a prison sentence.

Racketeering activity is broadly defined under federal law, including such crimes as murder, kidnapping, gambling, robbery, bribery, and extortion. The “racket,” therefore, is much larger than any one of the specific crimes or operations it may encompass.

Rackets, or criminal organizations, often utilize legitimate businesses to launder (or hide the source of) money received from illegal operations. Since rackets typically require the coordination of multiple players (often including corrupt insiders), they almost invariably involve collusion. These crimes are prosecuted at the federal level under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (or “RICO”) Act, which enables prosecutors to more easily connect the dots of such rackets.

Federal and state governments have antitrust laws in place to thwart actions that would restrain trade or create an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Antitrust laws often are invoked when large companies merge and squeeze out other, smaller competitors. But since competition generally results in lower prices and thus benefits consumers, large companies may be tempted to collude together instead by agreeing not to go below a certain price point. This illegal activity is called “price-fixing.”

All states now offer some form of no-fault divorce, whether it’s “irreconcilable differences” or an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Therefore, couples no longer have much incentive to fabricate grounds for divorce. Still, there’s plenty of case law regarding couples who colluded in order to falsify grounds for divorce in states that once didn’t offer the option of no-fault divorce.

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.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Prosecutors have the power to decide whether or not to charge a particular defendant and which charges to file. This rather broad power is called “prosecutorial discretion.” Under this power, prosecutors also have the authority to enter into plea bargains with a defendant, which can result in the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge or receiving a lesser sentence for pleading guilty to the original charge.

Prosecutors may have a variety of reasons for using prosecutorial discretion. One reason that a prosecutor may decide not to file charges against a defendant is lack of evidence. A prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any charges they file against a defendant, so if the evidence isn’t there or it’s shaky, they may decide against filing the charges.

Prosecutorial discretion also allows prosecutors not to file charges, to drop charges or to offer a plea deal when the circumstances surrounding the “crime” warrant it. For example, if the facts and evidence indicate that a killing was actually in self-defense (which can be a close call in some cases), the prosecutor may reduce the charges from murder to manslaughter, or even drop the charges entirely.

Probably one of the biggest advantages of allowing prosecutorial discretion is that it promotes judicial economy. There’s only so much time available on a court’s calendar, so a prosecutor’s ability to decide when to charge a defendant as well as their ability to plea bargain with a defendant allows prosecutors to ease the burden not only on themselves but also on courts and judges.

Prosecutorial discretion also allows prosecutors to secure cooperation of witness defendants by allowing them to offer reduced sentences or charges in exchange for testimony against another defendant. For example, a prosecutor may offer a low-level drug dealer probation in exchange for testifying against a serious drug trafficker.

Probably the biggest downside of prosecutorial discretion is that it creates the potential for prosecutorial misconduct that can be seen in cases of selective prosecution. Because of the inherent subjectivity of a prosecutor’s discretion, their personal beliefs and biases – whether conscious or unconscious – can creep into their decisions. This can lead to prosecutors filing charges based on a defendant’s race or social status.

Selective prosecution isn’t just societal problem, it’s actually a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, a defendant can use it as a defense, although it can be difficult to prove. In order to succeed, the defendant must prove that the prosecutor’s policy: 1) was motivated by a discriminatory purpose; and 2) had a discriminatory effect.

In proving a discriminatory effect, the defendant would need to show that similarly situated individuals of a different race, class, etc. weren’t prosecuted for the same or similar crime. Given that most cases have a unique set of facts, there are any number of ways that a prosecutor could argue that certain facts warranted prosecution while others did not.

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.

Explaining Statutory Rape

Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People who are underage cannot legally consent to having sex, so any form of sexual activity with them violates the law. This is true even in situations where they signal their agreement.

While the crime is popularly called statutory rape, many states don’t use that term officially but instead classify it as sexual assault, corruption of a minor, or carnal knowledge of a child. Most laws on this subject are state rather than federal ones.

Usually people think of the word “rape” as meaning a forcible sexual encounter. However, with statutory rape, no force is required to be in violation of the law. The crime typically involves an underage participant who willingly engages in sexual relations. However, because the individual is too young to legally consent to sex, it’s a crime whether or not force is involved. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender on charges such as child molestation or aggravated rape.

The age at which a person can legally consent to have sex varies from state to state. In most places it is 16 years old, but some set it at 17 or 18. In the eyes of the law, people below this age are simply too immature to make a decision that could have consequences such as a pregnancy. Society protects them by making it a criminal offense to have sex with them. Note that “age of consent” is a different legal concept from “age of majority,” which refers to becoming an adult for general purposes, such as being able to enter into contracts.

Historically, statutory rape was a “strict liability” offense, meaning that it didn’t matter whether the actor knew that the other person was too young to consent to sex. Some states now permit a defense of honest mistake. Basically, the actor argues “I honestly thought she was old enough because….” However, other states do not recognize this defense.

The usual punishment for statutory rape is imprisonment, sometimes along with a hefty fine and an order to register as a sex offender. A number of factors affect the severity of the sentence in a particular case. One is the age of the victim: the younger, the more serious the crime. Other factors that can impact a sentence include: 1) the age difference between the two people; 2) whether the actor and victim are members of the same household; 3) whether the actor is a teacher or other employee at the victim’s school; and 4) the actor’s past sex offenses, if any.

To address potential statutory rape situations where two people are close in age, a number of states have enacted what are sometimes called “Romeo and Juliet laws.” These laws carve out a different set of rules where the offender is only slightly older than the minor.

For example, in New Jersey, having sex with an underage person is sexual assault only if the actor is four or more years older. Thus, a 22-year-old who has intercourse with a 15-year-old commits a felony, but an 18-year-old who does the same thing does nothing unlawful. In some states, such as Georgia, closeness in age is not a complete defense but rather lowers the offense level to a misdemeanor.

States impose a duty on certain classes of professionals to report any suspicion of child abuse, which can include statutory rape. Generally, they types of professionals designated as mandatory reporters are those with access to children (such as teachers or medical professional) or in service positions (such as public employees and clergy). Mandatory reporting requirements are outlined in state laws, so the people designated as mandatory reporters, and the circumstances in which they must report suspected child abuse, will vary from state to state.

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 of Peers

While it isn’t specifically stated anywhere in the Constitution, criminal defendants generally have the right to be tried by “a jury of peers.” You may be wondering what exactly that entails. Contrary to popular belief, defendants are not entitled to a jury containing members of their own race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. So what exactly is a jury of peers and what are defendants’ rights in this respect?

The phrase “a jury of peers” dates back to the signing of the Magna Carta in England. At that point, the provision ensured that members of the nobility were tried by a jury comprised of fellow nobles, rather than being judged by the king. Now, however, this phrase more accurately means “a jury of fellow citizens.”

While courts don’t have to ensure that a defendant’s race, gender, or age group is represented in the jury pool, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts may not remove a potential juror based solely on their race or gender. In practice, however, potential jurors often are removed for what appears to be their gender or race, even though the removal is for other stated reasons (or for no particular reason at all).

The state puts together “a jury of peers” by first randomly selecting local citizens for the jury pool. The pool is then shaped during the jury selection, or voir dire, phase of the trial. During jury selection, the judge, prosecution, and defense question each potential juror in order to determine whether there’s anything in the juror’s background that may prejudice their judgment in the case.

The prosecutors and defense attorneys may then object to the inclusion of certain jurors. Attorneys have two types of objections to potential jurors: challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. While attorneys must have a legitimate reason to exclude a juror when making a challenge for cause, they typically don’t need to give reasons for peremptory challenges.

In the past, prosecutors and defense attorneys may have used peremptory challenges to exclude jurors who were either of the same or different race or background as the defendant. In a number of recent decisions, however, the Supreme Court has placed restrictions on attorneys’ ability to use peremptory challenges based on a juror’s race, gender, or other attributes.

While courts aren’t required to include members of a defendant’s race to create “a jury of peers,” attorneys can’t exclude a juror based on race during jury selection. In Batson v. Kentucky, James Batson, an African American man, was on trial for burglary and receipt of stolen goods. The prosecutor in the case used peremptory challenges to exclude all four African American members of the jury pool, effectively creating an all-white jury.

After being convicted of the crimes, Batson appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the removal of the black jurors violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court ruled in Batson’s favor. It found that while a defendant has no right to a jury composed, in whole or in part, of persons of their race, the State can’t exclude jurors simply because they’re of the same race as the defendant.

Courts aren’t only prohibited from removing a juror on account of their race, they also may not exclude a juror on the basis of gender. The Supreme Court has ruled that challenges based solely on the sex of a juror are unconstitutional. As a result, attorneys may not challenge a potential juror merely because the juror is a man or a woman.

While race and gender are off-limits, there are a few other traits that attorneys may use as the basis for challenging a potential juror. For example, attorneys may use a peremptory challenge on the basis of a juror’s age. Some attorneys may feel that a juror who is either very young or elderly, for instance, may have a harder time keeping track of the details involved in a complex case.

In addition, courts have not yet deemed challenges based on a juror’s sexual orientation unconstitutional. As a result, attorneys may be able to use peremptory challenges to remove a juror based on their sexual orientation.

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.

DNA Evidence Explained

One of the most reliable forms of evidence in many criminal cases is in our genes, encoded in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA evidence can be collected from blood, hair, skin cells, and other bodily substances. It can even be used to solve old crimes that occurred prior to the development of DNA-testing technology. Similar to fingerprints, each individual has a unique DNA profile (except for identical twins, who share the same genetic code). But unlike fingerprints, only a minuscule amount of genetic material is needed to identify a suspect.

The science of DNA testing was developed in 1985 by British scientist Alec Jeffreys. Genetic evidence was first tested using his method one year later to solve a double homicide in England and to link the suspect to other previously unsolved rapes and murders in the area. In 1987, a Florida rapist became the first criminal defendant in the United States to be convicted through DNA. Genetic material collected at crime scenes and preserved in evidence lockers also has become an important factor in exonerating those who were wrongly convicted of violent crimes.

As DNA became the gold standard for identifying criminal suspects, the FBI and police departments throughout the U.S. started assembling databases. Additionally, sex offenders in all states are now required to submit DNA samples to their local police department. Unfortunately, many crime labs are overwhelmed with backlogs of genetic samples and may be unable to process them in a timely fashion.

A sufficient amount of DNA may be found in virtually any type of biological evidence. For violent crimes, such evidence typically comes from blood or other bodily fluids. Hair and skin cells left at the crime scene also may provide investigators with enough DNA for testing purposes.

DNA evidence is analyzed using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, which allows for very small samples to be tested and identified. Once the sample is tested, it may be cross-referenced with DNA profiles already in a database or with genetic data provided by a suspect.

While DNA testing is not completely foolproof, it is more than 99 percent accurate (in fact, there is only a one in one billion chance that the DNA of two individuals will match). Typically, errors in testing are the result of mix-ups in the lab or the contamination of samples. Additionally, each state has specific rules for DNA sample collection and handling. Courts might not allow the use of genetic evidence in court if these requirements are not met.

In addition to criminal investigations and trials, DNA can also be used to exonerate wrongly accused individuals. This is particularly important for those convicted of serious crimes solely on the basis of eyewitness testimony, which is not always reliable. More than 250 people have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA tests, according to the Innocence Project.

Also, DNA can be used to determine paternity in child support cases; to identify the remains of crime and accident victims; and to conduct genealogical research.

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.

Search and Seizure Laws

A police officer conducting a traffic stop may search your vehicle and seize evidence without  a warrant under certain conditions. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, but interpretations of “reasonableness” have changed throughout history. Under the exclusionary rule, the prosecution cannot use any evidence or information obtained from an illegal vehicle search.

The line between lawful and unlawful vehicle searches can seem a bit blurry, and is frequently redefined by courts, so understanding the law is in every motorist’s best interests. This article provides the basics of vehicle search and seizure laws after a traffic stop.

Generally, an officer may conduct a search of your vehicle under one of the following conditions: 1) You consent to a search; 2) The officer has probable cause to suspect the existence of incriminating evidence in your vehicle; 3) The officer reasonably believes that a vehicle search is necessary for his or her own protection such as an officer having suspicion that a suspect may be armed and dangerous; and/or 4) You have been arrested.

An officer may ask to search your vehicle without a warrant even if he or she is not authorized to do so. But motorists always have the right to say no, and illegal searches can be challenged later in court. If you consent to a search, however, any evidence obtained may be used against you.

In most states, search and seizure rules pertaining to automobiles are not as strict as those relating to one’s home. For example, an officer may conduct a warrantless search of those areas immediately within the driver’s reach, which includes the glove compartment and the vicinity of the front seat, if the officer suspects weapons or other potential immediate threats.

An officer who stops a motorist for a minor infraction, such as a speeding violation, generally may not conduct a search.

Under the plain view doctrine, officers may lawfully seize evidence of a crime without a search warrant if it’s in plain view. For example, if an officer sees a glass pipe with what appears to be drug residue in the backseat after stopping a motorist for running a red light, the officer may seize the pipe. The officer may also lawfully conduct a warrantless search for other drug-related items in the automobile after finding the glass pipe, since it provides probable cause that other incriminating evidence may be present.

The officer may not, however, search the vehicle indiscriminately. For example, an officer who sees an illegal weapon in plain view and subsequently finds a small packet of drugs in the motorist’s wallet likely has overstepped his or her boundaries. The search following the discovery of the illegal weapon must be weapon-related, so it’s unreasonable to search someone’s wallet because it could not reasonably contain a weapon.

The plain view doctrine also extends to evidence that an officer or drug-sniffing dog smells or hears after a traffic stop.

An officer is permitted to conduct a frisk, in which an individual’s clothing is patted down, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver or passengers are armed or otherwise pose a threat. The purpose of the frisk is to ensure the officer’s safety; it is not considered a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

However, an officer conducting a frisk for weapons may not manipulate objects in pockets or otherwise investigate further. To do so would be considered a search.

For example, if an officer conducting a frisk comes across an object that feels suspiciously like a hypodermic needle, he or she may pull it out of the suspect’s pocket and seize it. But if the officer conducting a frisk were to poke a finger into an otherwise unassuming bulge, thus discovering a powdery residue resembling heroin, that evidence would be inadmissible.

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.

Manufacturing and Cultivating Drugs

Cultivating or manufacturing illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine or marijuana, is illegal under federal and state laws (with limited exceptions for marijuana in states such as Washington, Colorado and several other states which are beginning to legalize marijuana). Drug “manufacturing,” in a criminal law setting, occurs when an individual is involved in any step of the illicit drug production process. Those who sell certain precursor chemicals, specialized equipment, or simply offer to help produce drugs also may be charged with the crime.

The production of drugs typically is charged as a felony, with sentences including prison time, steep fines, and probation. Prison sentences and fines may be doubled for those convicted of manufacturing illegal drugs near schools and playgrounds.

Broader RICO charges could be applied when the manufacture of drugs is part of a larger operation under a federal statute.

In order to be convicted of manufacturing (or intending to manufacture) illicit drugs, prosecutors must typically prove the elements of both possession and an intent to manufacture. In many cases, the tools and materials used to create illegal drugs aren’t considered contraband in and of themselves.

For example, pseudoephedrine was once a popular cold medication. But it’s also used to make methamphetamine. If police were to find a box of the now-banned substance in an individual’s car that may not be enough standing alone to prosecute for a manufacturing offense. If the officer also found laboratory equipment commonly used to cook meth in the backseat, it could establish the probable cause needed for an arrest.

Similarly, the possession of marijuana seeds alone is not necessarily an indication of an intent to cultivate but if officers also found indoor grow lamps and hydroponic equipment, it may trigger an arrest in states that don’t allow the cultivation of cannabis.

A permit or authorization to possess certain items otherwise used to make illegal drugs may be a defense, however. For example, pharmacists have access to a wide array of substances that may be used to manufacture illicit drugs. Also, certain chemicals and industrial supplies commonly used to make illegal drugs may also have legitimate uses that would require a permit.

While there is generally little difference among state and federal drug manufacturing laws, marijuana has carved out a special exception. The federal government treats marijuana cultivation similar to the manufacture of other Schedule I drugs with respect to charges and sentencing, but generally has had a “hands-off” policy toward state legalization efforts.

Under federal law, cultivation of less than 50 marijuana plants can result in up to five years in prison, or up to a possible life sentence for 1,000 or more plants. Individuals in states that have allowed for the medical use of marijuana or legalized its recreational use aren’t exempt from federal enforcement, but it’s not clear how enforcement of federal laws will be carried out.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but of the two only Colorado allows non-medical users to cultivate the plant (six or fewer). States that allow the use of medical marijuana differ on whether (and how much) marijuana may be cultivated by approved patients. Patients in Hawaii may grow up to seven plants, but Connecticut doesn’t allow cultivation by patients.

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

The Juvenile Process

The procedure of the juvenile court system is different from the adult system. For example, after committing an offense, juveniles are “detained” rather than arrested. Next, a petition is drawn up which is the official charging document or otherwise known as the criminal complaint. This petition outlines the jurisdiction authority of the juvenile court over the offense and detained individuals, gives notice for the reason for the court appearance, and serves as notice to the minor’s family.

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 doesn’t follow them for life. Juvenile records may also be expunged upon the juvenile’s eighteenth birthday provided they’ve 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. This legal concept 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.

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.

The juvenile court procedure will usually vary depending on the type of case. There are three basic types of juvenile cases:

Juvenile Delinquency Cases: These are cases involving minors whose actions, if they were adults, would be considered crimes and would result in a case in criminal court. Juvenile punishment, and the procedures used in juvenile delinquency courtrooms, differs significantly from adult criminal courts. The focus in juvenile proceedings is generally focused on rehabilitation and avoiding long-term negative repercussions.

Juvenile Dependency Cases: These cases involve minors that have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. Cases of this sort focus on protecting the child’s safety. They have some similarity to family court cases.

Status Offense Cases: These cases involve status offenses that apply specifically to juveniles. This may include underage drinking or driving, curfew violations, runaways, or truancy.

 

The organization model varies state by state, and some states, for example, Alabama, allow each county and city jurisdiction to decide which is the best method of organization. Where the juvenile court sits has profound implications for the juvenile process.

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.