Federal Rules of Evidence Explained

The law of criminal evidence governs how parties, judges, and juries offer and evaluate the various forms of proof at trial. In some ways, evidence is an extension of civil and criminal procedure. Generally, evidence law establishes a group of limitations that courts enforce against attorneys in an attempt to control the various events that the trial process presents in an adversarial setting.

In the United States, the federal courts must follow the Federal Rules of Evidence (hereinafter “FRE”). State courts, on the other hand, generally follow their own rules, which are generally imposed by the various state legislatures. The FRE is the most influential body of American evidence law. The FRE encompasses the majority of the laws of criminal evidence in 68 brief sections. Its language is accessible, easy to read, and mostly free of technical jargon and complicated cross-referencing. The FRE has been enormously influential in the development of U.S. evidence law. This influence in part is a result of its brevity and simplicity.

Before 1975, U.S. evidence law was mostly a creature of the common law tradition. The FRE was drafted and proposed by a distinguished advisory committee composed of practitioners, judges, and law professors appointed by the United States Supreme Court. Just 20 years after the FRE was adopted in the federal system, almost three-quarters of the states had adopted codes that closely resemble the FRE.

The FRE applies in all federal courts in both criminal and civil cases. Understanding some of the basic provisions of the FRE will enable most people to figure out what’s going on at trial, even if there are deviations between the FRE and applicable state laws criminal of evidence.

There are different types of evidence that can be used in a criminal trial, and a variety of rules that govern evidence. Some common concepts that come up when discussing the rules of evidence are:

Circumstantial Evidence: This isn’t what you would call “smoking gun” evidence, but rather some piece of information that strongly infers a set of circumstances. For instance, video surveillance showing that the defendant was on the same city block where a crime was committed at around the same time would be circumstantial evidence.

Corroborating Evidence: Evidence that strengthens another piece of evidence, even if it isn’t directly related to the crime. For example, a witness claims John was at the scene of the crime at a particular time. If another witness has proof that John failed to show up to work at that same time, then it could be considered corroborating evidence.

Hearsay: This isn’t given under oath or offered as official evidence, but merely stated out of court. For example, Fred says he heard that John was in a street gang; but without any evidence, Fred’s statement is merely hearsay (and not admissible).

Exclusionary Rule: This rule of evidence applies to that which was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Seizing property without a warrant often is considered a violation and thereby subject to the exclusionary rule.

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 LawyerSeattle 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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Stop and Frisk Laws

You are minding your business on a street corner, when suddenly a police officer comes forward and asks you something. When you hesitate in responding, he aggressively pushes you against a fence and does a pat-down search of your outer clothing to check for weapons, discovering a vial of cocaine instead.

Was the police officer acting within the law? It depends on whether the search could be characterized as a “stop and frisk.” But what is stop and frisk and how is it legal? This type of search happens when police officers stop you for questioning and pat down your clothing to see if you’re carrying a gun or knife, much like in the situation described above. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this practice, there are still boundaries that police cannot cross.

Let’s say an officer on patrol becomes suspicious of two individuals he observes repeatedly peering into a store window, who seem like they might be casing the store for a robbery. When he approaches to question them and one mumbles a response, can the officer forcefully spin him around and pat down his outer clothing to check for weapons?

These were essentially the facts in Terry v. Ohio, the precedent-setting 1968 Supreme Court case about stop and frisk. The justices held that a police officer who’s investigating suspicious behavior may lawfully pat down the outer clothing of someone reasonably believed to be armed and dangerous, in an attempt to discover weapons that might be used to assault the officer.

The Court concluded that stop and frisk does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Because of the landmark decision’s name, another common term for a stop and frisk is a “Terry frisk” or “Terry search.”

However, the police aren’t allowed to target people willy-nilly. While they don’t need probable cause to stop you, they must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Also, they can’t frisk you unless they reasonably believe that you may be armed and dangerous.

Importantly, any contraband that officers find during the weapons pat-down, such as illegal drugs, can usually be used against you in court.

The ongoing debate with stop and frisk is how to prevent police officers from engaging in racial profiling in deciding who gets stopped and frisked. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others have claimed that the police are unconstitutionally relying on people’s race in making judgments about who seems suspicious and dangerous.

Critics scored a major victory when a federal judge declared New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013 based on statistical evidence suggesting that officers were disproportionately targeting people of color. Although a federal appeals court blocked the judge’s decision from taking effect, the city’s mayor announced a plan to reform the controversial police practice to make sure that stop and frisk isn’t used in a discriminatory manner.

While civil rights activists have achieved some successes in challenging police department policies, stop and frisk remains lawful and widely used throughout the United States. However, officers must remain within constitutional boundaries and comply with local police guidelines.

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.

Can I Reverse a Criminal Conviction?

If you have been convicted of a crime and believe the guilty verdict or your plea was in error, you will want to pursue the reversal of that conviction. Reversing a conviction generally happens through appeals or at times, writs. Here we will discuss the basics of reversing a conviction, but it is important to keep in mind that each case is different and laws vary by jurisdiction and States.

Appeals judges generally defer to trial court findings, particularly findings of fact as opposed to matters of law. Courts rarely overturn lower court decisions and “perfect” trials aren’t guaranteed, although certain safeguards do exist in order to account for errors and oversights. An appellate court will overturn a guilty verdict only if the trial court erred in a way that significantly contributed to the outcome.

While most errors are deemed “harmless,” there are, of course, some types of errors that are so serious that they are presumed harmful, such as the use of a coerced confession. Appellate courts rarely interfere with sentences handed down by the lower courts. But in some cases where the law specifies a particular sentence, the appellate court may send the case back for re-sentencing if the court gets it wrong.

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

If you and/or your attorney have discovered errors in the way your case was handled, and believe it materially affected your conviction or sentence, you may file an appeal. But the appeal must pinpoint a specific aspect (or aspects) of the case and make a convincing argument that there may have been serious mistakes.

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

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

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

Scram Alcohol Monitoring

Many jurisdictions have started using SCRAM bracelets to monitor alcohol use following certain DUI convictions. SCRAM is short for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring. SCRAM bracelets attach to a person’s ankle and look for the presence of alcohol in sweat. SCRAM bracelet programs are a form of continuous alcohol monitoring with the benefit of not requiring frequent in-person check-ins to test for alcohol use. Alternatively, an offender may have his or her car outfitted with an ignition interlock device (IDD) to monitor behavior.

In a growing number of states, judges may order or allow use of a SCRAM bracelet as a condition of parole, probation, or early release of those convicted of driving under the influence. Most often, judges order SCRAM bracelets for repeat DUI offenders. For a long time, judges have ordered certain DUI offenders not to drink any alcohol, particularly those who have shown a severe problem with alcohol. Sometimes, a SCRAM bracelet is merely an option for the offender instead of in-person testing.

SCRAM bracelets and any other technology for continuous monitoring of alcohol levels allow for easier enforcement of orders not to drink. They also don’t require the frequent in-person alcohol tests which can be burdensome for everyone involved.

SCRAM bracelets detect even minute amounts of alcohol present in a person’s sweat. Often, the person’s alcohol levels are checked once per hour by the ankle bracelet. Through a SCRAM bracelet modem, or in some places through a periodic manual download, SCRAM bracelets report the measurements to a regional monitoring center. If the wearer’s sweat contains alcohol, or if the person has tampered with the bracelet, the regional monitoring center will contact the appropriate authorities.

In general, the offender pays for SCRAM bracelet services. This can include the purchase of (or a deposit on) the bracelet itself, as well as monthly monitoring services. SCRAM bracelets are not cheap. In some places, the total cost per month can be hundreds of dollars. Offenders who can prove an inability to pay may be able to have their fees covered.

Alcohol use by someone who has been ordered to avoid drinking can constitute a parole or probation violation, and may result in jail time. While SCRAM bracelet results have been accepts by many courts, they have also been successfully challenged. Some defendants have argued that SCRAM bracelets give some false positives. If the defendant can convince the court that the prosecution has not presented adequate evidence of drinking, the court may reject SCRAM bracelet results. Some defendants have countered with witness testimony that he or she was not drinking, as well as expert testimony that the SCRAM results show unlikely drinking behavior based on when alcohol was detected and how long it stayed in the persons sweat.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorneys. 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 Abandonment Laws

Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child’s physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of wholly abandoning the child, or in some instances, fails to provide necessary care for a child living under their roof.

While abandoning a child typically involves physical abandonment — such as leaving a child at a stranger’s doorstep when no one is home — it may also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment — such as when a “work-a-holic” parent offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time.

Unfortunately, abandoned children who do not get their needs met often grow up with low self-esteem, emotional dependency, helplessness, and other issues.

A person charged with deserting a child may face felony or misdemeanor penalties and other consequences.

The term “child abandonment” is broadly categorized and used to describe a variety of behaviors. Specific examples of abandonment vary, but common actions that may lead to charges include:

The laws vary from state to state. Many states include deserting a child within its child abuse laws and vice versa, while some states have laws specifically targeting the act of abandoning a child.

Most states classify abandonment as a felony, which may include situations where a parent or guardian physically abandons a child in any place with the intent of relinquishing all rights and responsibilities to the child.

Other states classify the desertion of a child as a misdemeanor (with lesser penalties), including situations that involve non-physical acts of abandonment.

In general, child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person has physical custody or control of a child and, when acting without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of the child:

Knowing leaves a child (typically under the age of 13) without supervision by a responsible person (typically over the age of 14); or Fails to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.

In the criminal context, child desertion is defined as physically abandoning a child, but may also include emotional abandonment such as failing to provide basic needs to a child. For example, in some states, a parent may be guilty of abandonment if they fail to provide necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical care for their child. In other states, however, parents are only punished for deserting a child with the intent to abandon the child.

Because abandoning a child is considered child abuse in some states, certain people may be required to report known or suspected cases of child abandonment to the proper authorities. Check your state’s child abuse laws to see if you qualify as a “mandatory reporter.”

Most jurisdictions have exceptions to child abandonment in the form of safe haven laws. Safe Haven Laws allow mothers to safely abandon their newborn infants in safe locations – such as churches, hospitals, and fire stations – without fear of being charged with the crime of child abandonment.

While it’s necessary in some instances to leave a child at home alone, states typically offer age guidelines to help parents avoid abandonment charges. Under some state statutes, leaving a child at home alone may constitute child abandonment, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the child, duration of time the child was left without adult supervision, and economic hardship or illness of the parent or guardian. Read tips on leaving a child home alone to better understand how to fulfill your obligations.

Depending on the state, a person charged with criminal child abandonment faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing options, depending on whether the state makes it a felony or misdemeanor. A court will take the factors listed above into consideration – but the penalties may include fines, termination of parental rights, supervised access to the child, and jail time.

In addition, a person may face reckless abandonment charges of a greater penalty if a child dies as a result of the desertion.

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.

Hacking Laws

There are several types of computer crimes, but some of the most high-profile examples involve hacking. With data breaches increasingly becoming daily occurrences, hackers have affected everything from the economical (including numerous retail businesses) to the political by invading every aspect of our lives.

However, hacking doesn’t always rise to the level of a crime. Due to the varying degrees of hacking and it’s increasing prevalence in our society, it’s important to understand where the lines are drawn. Read on to learn more about hacking laws and punishments and what remedies may apply to victims of electronic intrusions.

Hacking is broadly defined as the act of breaking into a computer system. Hacking isn’t always a crime as “ethical hacking” occurs when a hacker is legally permitted to exploit security networks. In other words, it’s when a hacker has the appropriate consent or authorization. However, hacking crosses the criminal line when a hacker accesses someone’s computer system without such consent or authority.

For instance, if an individual acts without consent or any lawful authorization (i.e. from law enforcement agency and/or a court order) and penetrates a business’ firewall to access private servers and cloud storage systems or uses phishing to install malware to desktop and laptop computers with the intent to monitor communications and activities, they can be charged with a crime.

There are several federal laws that address hacking, including: 1) The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA); 2) The Stored Communications Act (SCA); 3)  The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA); and 4) The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA).

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is the leading federal anti-hacking legislation that prohibits unauthorized access to another’s computer system. Although the law was originally meant to protect the computer systems of U.S. government entities and financial institutions, the scope of the Act expanded with amendments to include practically any computer in the country (including devices such as servers, desktops, laptops, cellphones, and tablets).

Although the CFAA’s penalties are mostly for criminal violations, the 1994 amendment expanded the Act to include causes of action for civil suits, in addition to criminal prosecution.

The Stored Communications Act mirrors the prohibitions of the CFAA and protects stored electronic communications and data or data at rest (including email, texts, instant messages, social media accounts, cloud computing and storage, and blogs/microblogs). There is a lot of overlap with the CFAA and often hackers will be in violation of both statutes.

The EPCA, a counterpart law to the SCA forbids intentional interception of electronic communications in transit or “data in motion,” rather than “data at rest.”

Although much of the focus is on federal laws, states have enacted hacking laws as well. While every state has computer crime laws, some states address hacking more specifically with laws that prohibit unauthorized access, computer trespass, and the use of viruses and malware.

For example, approximately half of the states in the country have laws that target the use of denial of service (DoS) attacks. In this form of hacking, an intruder floods the system or servers with traffic, denying access to legitimate users. Florida penalizes this more severely, categorizing this crime as a felony in the first degree.

Ransomware occurs when malware is installed on someone’s computer, denying access to the computer unless a ransom is paid. Several states, including California, have laws that specifically criminalize ransomware.

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 Dark Web Crimes

Ross Ulbricht was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013 for operating an online marketplace for illicit drugs called Silk Road. The site could be found on the so-called Dark Web where Ulbricht remained anonymous and thus shielded from law enforcement. Silk Road was not accessible through just any desktop browser, nor could buyers use their credit card for purchases of heroin, methamphetamine, or other substances.

As Silk Road was shut down, others filled the void. As the name would suggest, the Dark Web operates in the shadows of the internet, cloaked in encryption and reached only through certain encrypted browsers. Below, we’ll explain what the Dark Web is, how it differs from the Deep Web, the types of crimes it harbors, and how law enforcement tracks and prosecutes Dark Web crimes.

The Dark Web allows users to remain anonymous through encryption. This is attractive to anyone involved in illegal activity, such as child pornography, sex trafficking, illicit drugs, or counterfeit goods. But it also may be useful for anyone living in an authoritarian state wishing to communicate with the outside world, as well as providing a safe space for whistleblowers. So while it’s not illegal to visit the Dark Web, it provides access to illegal activities.

Web sites that exist on the Dark Web are encrypted (and thus difficult to track), most commonly through the Tor encryption tool. Therefore, most Dark Web users access those sites using the Tor browser. There are other encryption tools and corresponding browsers such as I2P (these are not universal, by design) and you have to know the exact URL in order to access the site. There’s no “Google” for the Dark Web because that kind of indexing would provide a breadcrumb trail for investigators.

Another layer of anonymity involves the way payments are processed. Silk Road, for example, only accepted payment via Bitcoin, which is an unregulated cryptocurrency. As with the Dark Web generally, there’s nothing illegal about using Bitcoin. But the anonymity of Bitcoin payments is attractive to those making illegal transactions.

The term “Deep Web” refers to web sites that can’t be found by search engines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re part of the Dark Web. For instance, the Deep Web includes things like web forums that require registration, news sites that exist behind paywalls, and other pages that aren’t necessarily secret but also not worth (or blocked from) indexing by search engines. The content management systems used by website operators to upload and manage content also are part of the Deep Web, for example.

But the Deep Web — by far the largest segment of the internet — also includes the Dark Web, since it also can’t be tracked or indexed by search engines. The terms are often interchanged, but they refer to distinctly different things. Also, keep in mind that the term “Dark Internet” is where raw data for scientific research is stored and isn’t synonymous with the Dark Web.

Due to the anonymous nature of the Dark Web, investigators have their work cut out for them. One of the main ways to catch criminals is by going undercover online, which can sometimes lead to real-life connections when, for example, an officer posing as a seller obtains the buyer’s mailing address. Also, the target of an investigation may slip up and reveal personally identifying information. In fact, an investigator with the Internal Revenue Service found an incriminating comment by Silk Road’s Ulbricht along with his email address, which would lead to his eventual arrest.

Since many of the transactions conducted via the Dark Web are completed by the U.S. Postal Service, police sometimes are able to match online clues with surveillance footage, handwriting analysis, and other clues. They may even find fingerprints on the package, potentially revealing the sender’s identity. Following the money also can be effective, even though the anonymous nature of Bitcoin makes that much more difficult. Still, the Department of Homeland Security has a dedicated task force focused on tracking money laundering via cryptocurrencies.

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 FIRST STEP Act

Have you been Keeping Up with the Kardashians? With the help of Kim Kardashian, in late 2018, Congress enacted its most sweeping prison reform legislation in a generation. Formally known as the First Step Act, the law’s purpose is to shorten sentences somewhat for particular crimes and improve conditions of incarceration for some inmates as well.

While momentous, the prison reform law deals solely with the federal criminal justice system and has no direct impact on the states, which house the vast majority of prison inmates. Nevertheless, the legislation will meaningfully affect defendants prosecuted for federal crimes, such as drug-trafficking and firearms offenses.

The 2018 prison reform law was a triumph of bipartisan efforts taking place over several years leading up to the law’s passage. Progressives and conservatives worked together to lessen the tough punishments imposed on nonviolent drug offenders, to address racial inequities in the system, and to ease the budgetary burden of mass incarceration. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were well aware of the embarrassing fact that the United States, with less than five percent of global population, holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prison inmates.

The 2018 law was part and parcel of a broader prison reform movement. A number of states, such as California and Florida, have already adopted far-reaching amendments to their own sentencing laws.

One of the new prison reform law’s most significant changes relates to automatic sentences. In previous decades the central thrust of criminal justice reform had been to make prison sentences tougher and more uniform. Congress had forced federal judges to sentence many defendants to at least a certain minimum number of years in prison, regardless of any extenuating circumstances that otherwise might have led to leniency.

The 2018 law doesn’t repeal mandatory sentencing laws, but it shrinks the length of the minimums. For instance, a defendant who previously would have been subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years might now face one of 15 years. In addition, the new legislation allows judges greater discretion to ignore the minimums in some circumstances.

Congress didn’t make the shortened minimums retroactive, so federal inmates already serving their time gain no relief from the change.

One group of federal inmates who will benefit dramatically from the new law are individuals prosecuted for crack cocaine offenses before 2010 and still serving prison time. This unlucky group wasn’t covered by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the enormous disparity between crack and powdered cocaine punishments, because that law wasn’t retroactive as originally passed. The 2018 prison reform law finally makes it retroactive and thus allows this group of crack cocaine offenders to petition for a reduction in their prison terms.

Among its other noteworthy reforms, the 2018 law includes provisions designed to: 1) Modify the way that good-time credits are computed for federal inmates; 2) Require inmates to be placed within 500 miles of their homes or families; 3) Increase the use of home confinement and halfway houses; 4) Prohibit the use of shackles or restraints on pregnant inmates, and provide female inmates free tampons and sanitary napkins; and 5) Make it easier for elderly or terminally ill inmates to obtain compassionate release. President Trump signed the bipartisan bill into law on Dec. 21, 2018.

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.

International Extradition Laws

Extradition laws give a nation the ability to hand over someone to another nation for purposes of criminal trial or punishment. A few years ago, drug king pin El Chapo was extradited from Mexico to the United States.  Whether someone can be extradited depends on the laws of the countries involved and whether there’s an extradition treaty in place. Extradition can also take place within the United States in a state-to-state extradition.

An extradition treaty is an agreement between two countries to extradite to each other persons who’ve been charged or found guilty of an extraditable offense. The United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries as well as with the European Union.

Extraditable offenses generally include crimes that are punishable in both countries by at least one-year imprisonment. These offenses include the attempt or conspiracy to commit an extraditable offense. Special inclusion for extraditable offenses are matters that involve taxes, custom duties, and foreign exchange offenses.

The treaties often exclude the extradition of a national of the requested state. For instance, the United States will not, in most cases, extradite one of its own citizens to another country. This non-extradition of a country’s own citizens explains why Roman Polanski was able to evade extradition. Polanski was convicted of having sexual intercourse with a 13 year-old in the United States, but he fled to France before sentencing. Since Mr. Polanski is a French citizen, France refused to extradite him.

There are other scenarios where extradition can be refused. Many nations may refuse to extradite people who may face torture or the death penalty in the requesting nation. For example, when serial killer Charles Ng fled to Canada after torturing, raping, and murdering at least 12 people, Canada struggled with whether or not to extradite Ng. They had abolished capital punishment and did not want to extradite someone who would be facing the death penalty in the country requesting extradition.

In the end, Canada decided to extradite him to California largely because they didn’t want to become a safe haven for murderers from the United States. Canada could have demanded that Ng would not face the death penalty, but they extradited him without such an assurance.

The extradition process is described in U.S. federal law (18 U.S.C. §3184). When the United States wants to extradite someone who is residing in a foreign country with an extradition treaty, a complaint is filed in any U.S. court stating the charges and the treaty requirements. A warrant for the persons apprehension will be prepared and given to the Secretary of State who will then contact the foreign government to begin the international extradition process.

The receiving nation then looks to its treaty obligations to the requesting nation and to its own laws on extradition, and decides whether or not to extradite. Many nations do not extradite individuals for certain political crimes. These can include treason, sedition, espionage and alleged crimes relating to criticism of political leaders.

In countries with no extradition treaty with the United States, it’s still possible to extradite someone. In these cases, the United States must negotiate with the non-extradition treaty country, but they can say no.

For instance, Edward Snowden faced theft and espionage charges in the United States for disclosing classified information, but fled to Russia. There’s no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia which, in effect, shielded him from prosecution.

This is also what happened with Julian Assange, who’d taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador does not have an extradition treaty with the United States and had refused to surrender him to U.S. authorities. Conceivably, Assange could have remained in the embassy until his death, but Ecuador became unhappy with his behavior and withdrew its asylum prior to his arrest by London police.

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.

Fair Trials Explained

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.