The Law of Civil Forfeiture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Types of Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrorism

Terrorism has been a grave concern throughout the United States and around the world. Whether perpetrated by foreign nationals with a vendetta against the U.S. government or radical groups within the country, political violence seems increasingly common. Regardless of its source, terrorism involves acts meant to inflict terror on a particular group of people through deadly and provocative means.

Federal laws prohibit terrorism and terroristic threats (threatening to detonate a bridge if your demands aren’t met, for instance), while most states also have anti-terrorism laws and procedures in place.

Terrorism is different from other crimes. Most crimes punish an act itself. The intent of the person carrying out the act may affect the defenses available or the severity of the punishment, but in the case of terrorism the intent of the person is critical to the definition of the crime because of its very nature. To commit terrorism is to intend a particular goal through causing fear in others.

Terrorism, as defined in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 113B, involves acts of violence that appear intended to:

Intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

Influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

Affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

Most acts of terrorism or terroristic threat would be considered a crime regardless of the intent of the person responsible. These acts, such as shootings, bombings, and other acts of violence would result in criminal liability regardless of the intent or purpose of the perpetrators. These crimes become terrorism when they are intended to intimidate civilians and the government.

In many circumstances, intent is difficult to prove. Normally, the burden of proving intent is on the prosecution, but in the case of terrorism, acts that “appear to be intended” to intimidate or coerce may still qualify as terroristic crimes without additional evidence.

U.S. Code defines both foreign and domestic terrorism roughly the same, hinging on the perpetrator’s intent. The coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for instance, were considered acts of international terrorism because they “transcend[ed] national boundaries in terms of the means by which they [were] accomplished,” per the legal definition.

However, despite “domestic terrorism” being defined by U.S. Code, there are no specific penalties prescribed for acts of domestic terrorism. Inclusion of the term allows the federal government to investigate such crimes, but they’re charged as murder, assault, or other related crimes. In other words, there is no “substantive offense” for domestic terrorism under federal law.

One prominent example of a domestic terrorism-related conviction involved Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building in 1995. McVeigh hoped the bombing would lead to a revolution. He was convicted for his use of weapons of mass destruction and for the murders for which he was responsible and put to death by lethal injection, but he wasn’t charged with “terrorism” per se.

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

Appealing a Criminal Conviction Explained

The right to a trial by jury is the most fundamental constitutional right a criminal defendant is granted. Upon a conviction after a trial, a defendant has the right to appeal a finding of guilt. In order for a court of appeals to hear an appeal from a lower court the aggrieved party must demonstrate to the appellate court that an error was made at the trial level. The error must have been substantial. “Harmless errors,” or those unlikely to make a substantial impact on the result at trial, are not grounds for reversing the judgment of a lower court. Any error, defect, irregularity, or variance, which does not affect substantial rights is disregarded.

Assuming that there was no harmless error, there are two basic grounds for appeal: 1) the lower court made a serious error of law (plain error) and 2) the weight of the evidence does not support the verdict.

Plain error is an error or defect that affects the defendant’s substantial rights, even though the parties did not bring this error or defect to the judge’s attention during trial. Of course, some plain errors or defects affecting substantial rights may be noticed although they were not brought to the attention of the court. In any event, plain error will form a basis for an appeal of a criminal conviction.

It is much more difficult to prevail in an appeal based on the alleged insufficient weight of evidence. Although appellate courts review the transcripts of trials, they almost never hear actual testimony of witnesses, view the presentation of evidence, or hear the parties’ opening and closing arguments. Consequently, they are not in the best position to assess the weight of evidence in many cases. For this reason they place much confidence in trial courts’ decisions on issues of facts. In an appeal based on an alleged insufficient weight of evidence to support a verdict, the error or misjudgment of evidence must truly be egregious for a defendant to expect to prevail on appeal.

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

Defending Yourself

In order to convict you of a criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a pretty lofty standard, and during any trial the defendant may present a defense in order to raise such a reasonable doubt. Most defenses break down into one of two categories: (1) I didn’t do it or (2) I did it, but I shouldn’t be held responsible. The most basic defense to any criminal charge is to simply prove that you didn’t do it.

One of the hallmarks of the American legal system is the presumption that you are innocent until proven guilty. This is not just an ideal, it’s an actual legal presumption, which means the judge and jury must assume you’re innocent until they are shown otherwise. This is why a defendant can “plead the fifth,” remain silent, and not offer a shred of evidence to support his or her claim of innocence and still prevail. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove a defendant is guilty, not a defendant’s job to prove that he or she is innocent. So what does a prosecutor have to show?

The prosecutor must demonstrate to the judge or jury that there is no reasonable doubt of your guilt. If any reasonable doubt can be shown, any at all, then the prosecutor has failed and you should be found innocent. Because this standard is so high, most defendants concentrate on raising some reasonable doubt to the prosecutor’s allegations.

One of the primary ways defendants prove that they didn’t do it is to demonstrate that they couldn’t have done it. An alibi defense is evidence that you were somewhere else, often with someone else, and thus couldn’t have been the perpetrator. By demonstrating to a judge or jury that it is likely that you weren’t present at the crime scene, you are creating a reasonable doubt of your guilt.

Many defendants admit that they did the act, but claim for one reason or another, that they shouldn’t be held responsible. Here are a few examples of this type of defense:

This is a common defense when someone is charged with causing some form of physical violence (assault, battery, etc). The defendant flips the story, and demonstrates that rather than being the aggressor, he or she was actually the victim and was acting to protect themselves from harm.

Self-defense is an ancient defense that exists in most legal systems, and is predicated on the belief that people have a right to defend themselves from physical injury. Proving such a defense can be tricky since a defendant will generally have to demonstrate that self-defense was necessary, the belief of physical harm was reasonable, and that the response was reasonable. For example, responding to an assailant’s threat to punch you by shooting them is almost certainly an unreasonable response.

Although it makes for fascinating TV dramas, in real life defendants rarely plead insanity as a defense. Judges and jurors are very skeptical of these claims, and because of the abstract nature of this defense, it can be very difficult to actually prove.

The theory behind an insanity defense is the notion that in almost every criminal law, there is a “mental” or “intent” element. Often, the required mental state is that you must have intended to perform the criminal act. If a defendant is precluded from an understanding of what they’re doing because of mental illness, then they can’t possess the mental state that the criminal charge requires. From a policy standpoint, we also tend to think that it would be more appropriate to send someone who is truly insane to psychiatric care, not to prison. Thus, even if a defendant is successful in an insanity defense, they will be sent to a psychiatric institution, not set free.

So how do courts define “insane”? The most popular definition is the McNaughten test which defines insanity as “the inability to distinguish right from wrong”. To successfully win an insanity defense, a defendant will rely on testimony from a psychiatrist, and will undergo extensive psychiatric testing which can be painful and humiliating.

Related to the insanity defense, some defendants defend themselves by claiming that they were under the influence of drugs, and could not have had the mental state necessary to commit the crime. In other words, they were too high to really know what they were doing. Only a few states allow this defense, and even then, it is only a partial defense. At best, it will lower the crime you are convicted of to a lesser crime.

An entrapment defense is appropriate when an official induces you to commit a crime. Common examples of this are prostitution stings or drug sales. The theory is that the government shouldn’t be allowed to push you into committing a crime and then convicting you for it.

This defense won’t be successful if the judge or jury believes you were predisposed to committing the crime, however. So even if an undercover officer offered to sell you illegal drugs, if you have a history of drug use, then an entrapment defense isn’t likely to be successful.

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.

Crime and Punishment

After a criminal defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, a judge will decide on the appropriate punishment during the sentencing phase of a criminal case. In some circumstances, the judge is able to enhance or reduce a sentence based upon factors specific to the crime and the defendant. A sentence may include fines, incarceration, probation, suspended sentence, restitution, community service, and participation in rehabilitation programs. Learn more about sentencing, the kinds of sentences possible in criminal cases, and the factors considered by judges when determining a sentence.

Some states and all federal criminal statutes include mandatory sentencing guidelines that require judges to impose sentences uniformly. Mandatory sentencing schemes are intended to eliminate inconsistency in sentencing practices and often address a public perception of judicial leniency. “Three Strikes” laws are another sort of mandatory sentencing that has been put in place in the federal laws and about half of the states.

These laws provide for mandatory life imprisonment of felons convicted of three crimes where at least one was a serious violent felony. Mandatory sentencing systems and “Three Strikes” laws especially have been the subject of extensive debate. Questions have been raised about the effectiveness and fairness of these laws and challenges to their constitutionality have been brought, though to date none have been successful.

A judge may opt to sentence the defendant to probation or issue a suspended sentence. Probation is usually only available to first-time or low-risk offenders. The defendant is released into the community but must satisfy certain conditions and abide by certain rules. If the defendant fails to comply with the terms of probation the judge may then revoke the probation and send the defendant to jail instead.

Similarly, with a suspended sentence a judge may postpone the imposition or execution of a sentence. If the suspended sentence is conditional this is dependent upon the defendant’s fulfilling certain conditions, often enrollment in a substance abuse program. Learn more about probation, suspended sentences, the rights of those accused of violating the terms of the programs, and other issues that commonly arise in diversionary or alternative sentencing programs.

Another alternative to incarceration involves the defendant paying their debt to society a little more literally. Fines are payments made to the court. A criminal fine serves to punish the offender, help compensate the state for the costs of prosecution, and deter future criminal acts. Sometimes fines are given in place of jail time, particularly for minor crimes and first offenses.

At other times they may be ordered in addition to a jail term. Restitution is another kind of money payment made by the convicted, but in this case the money is paid to a victim in order to compensate for the damage they suffered. For example, a speeding ticket results in a fine collected by the court, while a graffiti artist is ordered to pay restitution to the owner of the building they defaced so that it can be repainted.

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.

Investigating Minors

Everyone knows the iconic phrase “you have the right to remain silent.” It’s usually the first thing that police tell someone when taking them into custody, and it makes up one of the several rights commonly known as “Miranda rights” – that people have when in police custody.

Police must notify a person of their Miranda rights before taking them into custody or interrogating them. If they don’t, they risk having a judge throw out any statements or admissions that the person in custody might make.

Determining the exact point when officers have taken someone into custody can be difficult. Obviously, an arrest constitutes police custody, but other situations can amount to custody even without a formal arrest.

To determine whether law enforcement have placed a person in custody, courts examine the facts of a case based on a “reasonable person” standard. If a reasonable person would feel unrestricted in the scenario, then they haven’t been subjected to custody. If a reasonable person would not feel free to leave, then the police have placed the individual in custody and must notify them of their Miranda rights.

The same rules apply when the situation involves the questioning of minors. The Supreme Court expanded on those rules when it decided that the police must take a person’s age into account when determining whether the circumstances of a case merit a Miranda notification.

The case the Court ruled upon involved a 13 year-old boy possibly linked to two burglaries. A police officer went to his school, removed him from class and placed him in a conference room with the door closed and two school administrators present.

The officer didn’t give the boy a Miranda warning or inform him that he could leave the room at any time prior to the questioning. After the boy admitted to participation in the burglaries, the officer told the young man that he could refuse to answer questions and leave whenever he wanted; the boy stayed and provided further detail about the crimes.

The Supreme Court held that it was improper to deny the request to throw out the boy’s statements to the police because he didn’t receive proper Miranda warnings.

The Court reasoned that because of their relative immaturity and lack of experience, children “cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults.”

Since minors’ comprehension of their situation differs from that of adults, their understanding of when a questioning constitutes a custody will also differ.

Minors may experience more compliance to authority, and therefore may require Miranda notifications in situations that wouldn’t trigger the Miranda requirement for adults.

The Court didn’t decide that the trial court should grant the boy’s request, but only stated that the court improperly denied the request when it failed to consider the boy’s age. The Court ordered the trial judge to reconsider the question, using the boy’s age and surroundings as factors in the decision.

The case results in requiring police officers to exercise more care during the questioning of minors. Since the Supreme Court has determined that courts must consider a person’s age when deciding whether or not that person was in police custody, police officers will need to employ methods that balance an interview subject’s age against the other circumstances of the case, such as where the interview takes place and who else is present in the room.

The decision doesn’t require a Miranda notification for every police questioning of a minor, but it does indicate that courts will scrutinize police interviews of juveniles more carefully in the future.

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

The advent of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) evidence is one of the best examples of how much technology has altered the criminal justice landscape, particularly its use exhonerating the falsely convicted. DNA evidence technically doesn’t pinpoint a single suspect, but rather narrows it down to just a few possibilities within the human population. However, it’s extremely accurate and useful as long as it is handled and analyzed properly.

DNA is the basic building block of life. The information encoded in an organism’s DNA acts as a blueprint for the organism’s biological development and functioning. DNA exists in the cells of all living organisms, and by testing the DNA found in a person’s cell, scientists can come up with a DNA profile for that individual. Only one-tenth of 1 percent of human DNA differs from one individual to the next and, although estimates vary, studies suggest that forensic DNA analysis is roughly 95 percent accurate.

DNA profiling of individuals didn’t even exist, however, until the mid-1980s, when an English scientist, Dr. Alec Jeffreys, discovered that certain areas of the DNA strand contain patterns that repeat many times. The number of these repetitions varies between individuals (except for identical twins, who have the exact same DNA), and Dr. Jeffreys developed a test to measure the variation in length of these repetitions. Using this test, Dr. Jeffreys found that he was able to identify individuals by comparing samples of their DNA. This test that Dr. Jeffreys developed became known as restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP).

RFLP is an accurate and reliable test, but it requires a relatively large amount of DNA to work. Laboratories now use tests based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, which allows for testing on very small amounts of DNA from biological samples.

Investigators can collect DNA evidence from a number of different sources. Almost any biological evidence can contain DNA, although not every sample contains sufficient amounts of DNA to enable DNA profiling.

Forensic investigators will analyze the biological samples to get a DNA profile of the individual(s) that the samples came from. If investigators already have suspect(s) in mind, they can collect samples to compare to the evidence collected at the scene. There are also databases of DNA profiles that investigators can use to identify suspects by comparing the database information to the DNA profile obtained from the biological evidence.

Assuming that investigators properly collect and handle biological evidence and that the forensic scientists employ accepted methods and conduct the analysis correctly, DNA evidence is extremely accurate. The chances of one individuals DNA profile matching another persons are extremely small — about one in a billion by some estimates (but there is quite a bit of debate about this).

Compared to fingerprinting or eyewitness testimony, which both have inherent flaws and inaccuracies, DNA evidence is a highly effective way to match a suspect to biological samples collected during a criminal investigation.

Because of its accuracy, criminal lawyers increasingly rely on DNA evidence to prove a defendants guilt or innocence. DNA evidence has also exonerated people through postconviction analysis of biological samples. Since DNA analysis didn’t exist until recently, a reexamination of evidence collected during older investigations can reveal that the DNA profile of the person convicted of the crime does not match the DNA profile from biological samples collected at crime scenes.

DNA evidence is not unassailable, however. Errors in the collection and/or handling of the biological samples used for the DNA analysis can result in the exclusion of DNA evidence at trial. Similarly, if a lab contaminates the biological sample or is found to use unreliable methods, a judge may reject the DNA evidence at trial.

When challenging DNA evidence, defense attorneys will usually focus on the behavior of the investigators and forensic analysts in an attempt to cast doubt on the results of DNA profiles, rather than attack the reliability of DNA profiling as a whole. A well-known example of this is the defense strategy used in the O.J. Simpson trial.

Additionally, each state has difference rules regarding evidence, and any failure to comply with the particulars of each states requirements can result in a refusal of the court to examine DNA evidence.

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 LawyerD 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.

Number of Criminal Appeals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification of Crimes

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

Infractions: In general, these are the least serious type of crime. Typically, a police officer will see someone doing something wrong, write a ticket and hand it to the person. The person then has to pay a fine. Infractions usually involve little to no time in court (much less jail), and include things like traffic tickets, jaywalking, and some minor drug possession charges in some states. However, if infractions remain unaddressed or unpaid, the law typically provides for an increasing range of fines and potential penalties.

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

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

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