Unlawful Killings

The murder of George Floyd recently in Minneapolis, Minnesota by police officer(s) has brought up the question of unlawful killings. There are a numerous legal categories under the topic of the unlawful killing of another person:  felony first-degree murder, felony second-degree murder, (in some states third-degree murder), and that doesn’t even start on the issue of manslaughter.

While it’s not as serious as a murder charge in terms of legal penalties, manslaughter charges still arise after someone’s death. The difference in the definition of manslaughter, especially when compared to murder, lies in the defendant’s state of mind when the homicide took place.

Before we get into the difference between murder and manslaughter, we have to understand why state of mind is important.

In most cases, a person has to be intentionally doing something prohibited by law in order to be committing a crime according to the U.S. legal system. This state of mind is generally referred to as “mens rea,” which is Latin for “guilty mind.”

That means people typically can’t be convicted for simply being stupid or careless, but there is a limit on that. “Recklessness” or “criminal negligence” can create the necessary mens rea to be charged with a crime. That is the important distinction to make when talking about manslaughter charges.

Legally speaking, murder involves killing with malice aforethought or with some heinous intention behind the person’s actions. But with manslaughter, there is no malice and also, by definition, no premeditation.

Essentially, manslaughter charges indicate that the defendant had no intention to kill the victim and didn’t plan it beforehand. However, their actions were reckless or negligent enough to create mens rea and the reasonable belief that they could have avoided killing if they had acted appropriately.

Manslaughter is further separated into two categories, voluntary and involuntary. In voluntary manslaughter, the death happened “in the heat of passion,” often after the defendant was provoked or when self-defense gets out of hand.

The defendant has no prior malice towards to the victim and didn’t plan the killing at any point. But they did intend to cause serious harm in the moment, and that resulted in death.

With involuntary manslaughter, the killing is unintentional and could be called accidental. But the “accident” is caused by the defendant’s reckless behavior, such as drunken driving or DUI.

The law then serves to discourage that kind of unsafe action by punishing people who cause serious harm as a result. The charges penalize the inappropriate behavior, rather than punish the defendant for the unintentional killing.

That doesn’t mean persons convicted of involuntary manslaughter escape without punishment. But their sentence is often lighter than those convicted of murder, and they could be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

In the U.S., the law varies by state jurisdiction on most topics, including murder. Some states base their laws on the Model Penal Code, which is a set of model laws that were created to provide a standard and universal text to help states define criminal offenses.

Penalties for involuntary manslaughter, or second-degree manslaughter, generally include less than two years in prison. In some cases, incarceration is not part of the sentence at all. However, penalties vary by state.

The penalties for voluntary manslaughter, or first-degree manslaughter, are much steeper and often involve several years in prison. While this charge is not as serious as murder, the law still seeks to discourage losing control and engaging in reckless behavior in the way that voluntary manslaughter describes.

Murder may get more newspaper headlines, but manslaughter is also a serious offense. It’s still a charge you want to avoid.

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 Lawyerto 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.

Hiring a Criminal Lawyer

If you have been accused or charged of a criminal offense, it is a good idea to look into hiring the best criminal defense lawyer possible. You may have the ability to get a court-appointed lawyer if your income qualifies.

It is well known, that the legal system is designed to make competently representing yourself in criminal trials almost impossible. Even if you have an abnormally high IQ, the system does not work in your favor. Hiring an attorney to represent you in your criminal trial is a necessity.

Because no criminal case is exactly the same, criminal defense lawyers are trained to pick out the parts of each case that make them unique.

In essence, they use their knowledge to find subtle evidence and reasons why you should win the case.

Also, the best criminal defense lawyer for you may be able to spot certain arguments and factors that could mitigate or even negate any potential crime. Even if you are guilty and the evidence is against you, they may be able to help you reduce fines and jail time.

Criminal defense lawyers have many responsibilities which they must adhere to on a daily basis. These include: 1) Contacting clients through email, phone calls, video calls, or in-person meetings; 2) Reading case documents, evidence, and statutes (laws); 3) Taking notes on what would be helpful for the case and 4) Forming a strategy for the case

While these activities may seem boring, they are the essential building blocks to making a strong case.

Criminal attorneys often spend months preparing for a case. The preparation can take much longer than actually being in the courtroom. This way, when the case goes to court, things can move as quickly as possible, and there are no surprises in the case.

After the research and strategy are done, a criminal defense lawyer has many jobs. While in court, they will call witnesses in your defense and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.

They need to be dynamic and trustworthy, explain complex topics to a jury, and be prepared to discuss any aspect of the case. And this is just the beginning of the tasks ahead of them.

Your criminal defense attorney may work with you and the prosecutor to negotiate a “plea bargain.” A plea bargain can reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some of the charges brought against you. However, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants that represent themselves.

Your attorney will figure out a good sentencing program for your situation. If you’re found guilty, your criminal defense attorney may be able to change your sentence. Often, they are changed in a way that would prevent you from winding back in the criminal justice system.

For instance, instead of going to prison for ten months for a drug possession conviction, your criminal defense attorney may suggest a prison sentence of six months and then four months in a drug treatment facility. This approach aims to help you with the drug problem that landed you in trouble in the first place.

As hard as it might be to hear, an attorney has the experience and training to provide you with a reality check.

 

Defense lawyers know what’s going on much better than you will during your criminal trial. They also can predict how a case is going and what the judge or jury’s outcome may be.

Your defense attorney has the advantage of: 1) remaining objective throughout a proceeding and 2) offering realistic insights into how the trial is actually going

These assessments and reality checks are often essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a prosecutor’s plea bargain.

You can read books on criminal defense, but it takes years of study to grasp this area of law. Your attorney will point out important legal rules and regulations that you most likely wouldn’t find on your own. Many rules about criminal prosecutions are buried within regulations and laws, and even prior court decisions.

For example, if you were to represent yourself, you may never know if the search that the police conducted of your apartment was lawful or not. To know this, you must understand the many nuances and intricacies surrounding the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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 Covid-19 Impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads each day, many courtrooms are closing their doors to the public and postponing criminal cases. This is a situation that our country has not seen since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, so many legal professionals and courts are making emergency plans as they go.

During this time, it is very likely your case will face delays somewhere along the criminal justice process.

Many courts across the United States are suspending elements to criminal cases, which includes: 1) Jury selection; 2) Jury duty; 3) Jury trials; 4) New criminal trials; 5) Court hearings; 6) Oral arguments; 7) Non-employees entering the building and 8) In-person interviews.

The Justice Department has also asked for chief judges to detain people without trial. In emergency situations, this power would let them keep a person in jail indefinitely until the case could proceed as usual. Each court has implemented different policies and procedures so it is important that you reach out to your criminal defense lawyer to find out when your court date has been rescheduled for. .

Many defendants may wonder what this may mean for their criminal case? It is possible for a defendant to remain in prison or jail until your trial or appeal can take place. If you are on probation, then you will likely stay on probation. If you are out on bail and awaiting your trial to start, then the trial may be postponed. You will need to remain in the area on bail.

Criminal matters may be adjourned (stopped until later notice) if the person is not already in custody. If the person is in custody, some courts are using video calls to keep the process moving.

Unfortunately, closing some courts may push criminal cases back from weeks to years. This has further legal repercussions because the Sixth Amendment promises citizens a “speedy” and fair trial.

The federal Speedy Trial Act and your state’s laws determine what this timeframe is. There are also laws in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure stating that you should not face “unnecessary delay.”

Some people can waive their right to a speedy trial. The advantages of this are: 1) To give your side more time to develop the case or find evidence; 2) To get more time for an appeal and 3) To have more time before serious charges go to a jury.

Your attorney may advise you to take advantage of the delays. When the courts resume cases, you can choose to “waive time” and allow the case to move at a slower pace.

If your case is delayed, your attorney may have new defenses to use, such as due process arguments.

 

However, as states catch up to the pandemic and change their criminal process rules, these defenses could be taken away.

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.

Revoking Probation

A motion to revoke probation is a court filing that says you did something wrong while on probation for a criminal conviction or a diversion. Every probation has specific terms and conditions that must be followed. In a motion to revoke probation, the courts could try to send you to jail or prison or revoke a diversion agreement which would result in a guilty finding.

If your probation officer says any terms of your probation have been broken, then they may try to take your probation away. To do this, they will let the Prosecutors office know what happened. This starts the motion to revoke probation process. The Prosecutors will complete some paperwork and file it with the court where you had your charges filed. This is called the motion — it is the act of asking a judge for an order. It is the judge’s order that would take your probation away, not the motion itself.

Only your probation officer can start a motion to revoke your probation. They can decide to: 1) Follow the probation revocation process or 2) Handle minor issues themselves. Many times, small problems can be handled by your probation officer. They might extend your probation or make the terms more strict.

If there is a serious problem or you have broken probation multiple times, they may have no choice but to follow the legal process.

After a revocation hearing, a judge can honor the original amount of jail time you were given, or they can send you to jail for the max amount of time possible. They can also choose to increase the fines you originally had. An attorney is your best option for getting off probation but not getting an increased sentence or fines.

Revoking your own probation is different than a motion for early termination of probation. You can ask for probation to end early after a certain time frame has passed. Only a judge can end your probation at any time but typically depending on the jurisdiction a certain amount of time has to pass. Judges will also make sure all terms of your probation are met, including all fines, court costs, community service, and good behavior.

Some courts will set a bond for you. This means a bondsperson can pay for you to stay out of jail. But, you will owe them the money back, and they will make sure you don’t try to leave town.

From the start of the process to the judge deciding what happens to you, it can take a few days. If the reporting or filing is over a weekend, then the case will be pending for a few days longer. If you run from the police or try to hide, then it may take longer.

An attorney can help the process go smoothly. They are there to help you get the best outcome possible in a tough situation. Your attorney can try to make the judge see that you may have messed up your second chance, but that you are trying.

You always have the right to an attorney. There is no chance to be found innocent or change the penalties of your case because you were already charged with the crime. But, your attorney can try to keep you on probation or reduce your time in jail or prison.

Representing yourself is very difficult in these types of cases. If you are facing a motion to revoke probation, it is helpful to get professional help as soon as you can.

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 Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws

It is two o’clock in the morning and you are awakened by the sound of breaking glass from an intruder attempting to crawl through your window. You race down with your gun and think about possibly shooting him. Could you be charged with a crime and/or sued by the intruder for physical injuries?

The prime legal protection you may have for shooting an intruder is called the “Castle Doctrine”. There is also another doctrine called “Stand Your Ground” that may provide some protection depending on the state you live in. Both of these doctrines fall under the broader umbrella of self-defense.

So is it illegal to shoot an intruder? The answer depends on whether you were acting in self-defense and whether any of these doctrines apply.

The law gives everyone the right to defend themselves with a reasonable response. Self-defense is an affirmative defense to a charged violent crime. This means that if someone is charged with murder or assault, they can use self-defense as a legal excuse for the conduct if they can prove it in a court of law.

In order to use self-defense as a shield against a charge for a violent crime in most jurisdictions, you must: 1) Not be the aggressor; 2) Only use enough force to combat the threat and no more; 3) Have a reasonable belief that force is necessary; 4) Have a reasonable belief that an attack is imminent; and 5) Retreat (if possible).

The Castle Doctrine stems from old English Common Law that holds that your home is your castle and that you have a right to defend your castle. The doctrine is an offshoot of self-defense and eliminates the requirement to retreat. Most states have some variation of the Castle Doctrine in their laws.

The prime difference between self-defense generally and the Castle Doctrine is that there’s no duty to retreat and there’s a presumption that deadly force was necessary. Typically, state laws can allow for the use of deadly physical force and it’s legally presumed to be justified if an intruder is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a dwelling or residence. Some states even allow the use of deadly force if there is an unlawful and forceful entry into a business or occupied vehicle.

However, not all states have codified the Castle Doctrine. States like Vermont have justifiable homicide laws and then rely on the courts to determine if force was necessary to defend one’s home.

The general elements that would allow protection by the Castle Doctrine are: 1) There was a forceful and unlawful entry into one’s home, business, or occupied vehicle; 2) You were not the original aggressor; 3) You were not engaged in criminal activity; and 4) You have a legal right to be where you are.

 

There is a split amongst the states as to whether or not deadly force can be used. The majority of states hold that any degree of physical force, including deadly force, can be used by the occupant to protect against an invader. But there is a strong minority of states, including West Virginia, that requires a reasonable belief that the intruder intended to inflict serious bodily injury.

In many states, there’s a duty to retreat to safety, if possible, before using force. However, in many other states, there are “Stand Your Ground” laws that remove the duty to retreat and allow a person to claim self-defense, even if they made no attempt to flee. However, even in “Stand Your Ground” states there is no license to attack without cause, and the rules vary on the ability to use lethal force.

Stand Your Ground differs from the Castle defense, as it can be used in more places than just a person’s home, employment, or automobile. While the Castle Doctrine holds that there is no duty to retreat within one’s home, the Stand Your Ground doctrine eliminates the duty to retreat wherever you may feel threatened.

Self-defense, the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are powerful defenses that can prevent charges from being filed or civil suits being brought, but not in all cases and not in all states. Even in the states that do, there can be circumstances that sometimes make it difficult to determine if these defenses apply. If you’re facing criminal charges and you believe you acted in self-defense, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your specific situation.

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.

Criminal v. Civil

The legal system in the United States addresses the wrongdoings that people commit with two different types of cases: civil and criminal cases. Crimes are generally offenses against the state  or a city, even if the immediate harm is done to an individual, and are accordingly prosecuted by the state or the city prosecutors. Civil cases on the other hand, typically involve disputes between individuals regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe to one another. These cases are adjudicated through civil lawsuits. Although there is some overlap, there are several ways in which you can tell the differences between a criminal case and a civil case.

Here are some of the key differences between a criminal case and a civil case: Crimes are considered offenses against the state, city or society as a whole; Criminal offenses and civil offenses are generally different in terms of their punishment; The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case; Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury; A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney and the protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable

That means that even though one person might murder a particular person, the murder itself is considered an offense to everyone in society. Accordingly, crimes against the state are prosecuted by the state, and the prosecutor (not the victim) files the case in court as a representative of the state. If it were a civil case, then the wronged party would file the case.

Civil cases generally only result in monetary damages or orders to do or not do something, known as injunctions. Note that a criminal case may involve both jail time and monetary punishments in the form of fines. In general, because criminal cases have greater consequences – the possibility of jail and even death – criminal cases have many more protections in place and are harder to prove.

Crimes must generally be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”, whereas civil cases are proved by lower standards of proof such as “the preponderance of the evidence” (which essentially means that it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way). The difference in standards exists because civil liability is considered less blameworthy and because the punishments are less severe.

Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury. Civil cases do allow juries in some instances, but many civil cases will be decided by a judge.

A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney, and if they can’t afford one, the state must provide an attorney. Defendants in a civil case don’t have the right to an attorney, so if they can’t afford one, they’ll have to represent themselves.

The protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment). Many of these well known protections aren’t available to a defendant in a civil case.

Although criminal and civil cases are treated very differently, many people often fail to recognize that the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is the OJ Simpson trial. The same conduct led to a murder trial (criminal) and a wrongful death trial (civil).

In part because of the different standards of proof, there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to decide that OJ Simpson was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the criminal murder case. In the civil trial, however, the jury found enough evidence to conclude that OJ Simpson wrongfully caused his wife’s death by a “preponderance of the 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 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.

Open Container Laws

Every one with a driver’s license in the United States should know that drivers are not permitted to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other impairing drugs. The question that could arise is whether a passenger can drink alcohol in a car? The typical answer is generally no, but this does depend on specific state and local laws.

Most states have laws prohibiting the presence of open cans, bottles, or other unsealed containers of alcoholic beverages on sidewalks, streets, and inside vehicles. So by default, a passenger drinking an alcoholic beverage also is in possession of an open container. Some states allow unsealed containers of alcohol in secure locations only, such as a locked glove compartment or trunk.

A total of 43 states have open container laws in place, 40 of which conform to federal standards outlined in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which mandates open container laws and other traffic safety measures.

Drivers may be cited for an open container violation if they have the container on their person or within reach. But even if only the passenger is in possession of an open container, both the driver and the offending passenger may be cited for a violation. In any case, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of an offending passenger is irrelevant.

Seven states currently do not have open container laws, including Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, and Connecticut, even if local ordinances in some of those states do in fact prohibit open containers of alcohol. Three states have open container laws (Alaska, Louisiana, and Tennessee) that do not fully comply with federal TEA-21 standards.

But can a passenger drink alcohol in an automobile in the absence of laws banning open containers? The short answer is yes. As long as there are no local ordinances banning open containers in vehicles, passengers in states without such laws can in fact drink alcohol in a moving vehicle. Mississippi is the most permissive, even allowing drivers to drink as long as they remain under the legal BAC limit.

Some municipalities have carved out exceptions to open container laws in an effort to boost tourism, such as the French Quarter in New Orleans, but the majority of such ordinances do not allow open containers in vehicles (typically limited to streets and sidewalks). The French Quarter, infamous for its drive-through frozen cocktail vendors, allows both drivers and passengers to have open containers of alcohol in vehicles, as long as the driver is not drinking.

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.

Summarizing the Rules of Evidence

The rules of criminal evidence govern how parties, judges, and juries offer and then evaluate the various forms of evidence presented 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. 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.

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.

 

  • Corroborating Evidence: Evidence that strengthens another piece of evidence, even if it isn’t directly related to the crime.

 

  • Hearsay: This isn’t given under oath or offered as official evidence, but merely stated out of court.

 

  • 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 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.

Driving While High

If you think that Driving while under the influence of marijuana is harmless, you might want to think again. Two recent studies have concluded that car crashes tend to increase after states legalize marijuana.

The Highway Loss Data Institute found that collision-insurance claims increased by nearly 6% in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the first three states to legalize marijuana compared with neighboring states that had not legalized pot.

Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also limited their study to those three states, looking at police-reported accidents, and found a 5.2% increase.

While those somewhat scary statistics should probably guide your thinking on whether you should be driving stoned, you might take a bit of heart from another study. In 2017, the American Journal of Public Health looked at the impact of legalized marijuana on auto fatality rates and found no connection.

The consensus thus far, then, is that stoned drivers might be causing more car accidents, but not necessarily worse accidents.

It does seem clear, though, that pot-smoking drivers aren’t taking things seriously enough. A 2016 survey of drivers in Colorado and Washington who had used marijuana in the previous month found that 44% of them reported driving while high.

Some states have launched public-education initiatives to discourage driving while high on pot. In Colorado, for instance, the state’s Department of Transportation introduced The Cannabis Conversation, a statewide traffic safety campaign.

Perhaps public education campaigns will reduce the numbers of impaired drivers on our roadways, thus making the job of police a bit easier. But the police will still be stuck with the difficult job of determining when, exactly, someone is too stoned to drive.

Unlike the standard breath tests that can determine when someone has drunk too much booze, which are easy to administer and considered generally reliable, the way you measure pot in the system is with a blood draw. This is problematic for two reasons:

A roadside blood draw to detect THC levels from pot is difficult to administer and unreliable; it also requires a search warrant if the driver refuses to consent to the draw.

Unlike blood-alcohol levels, THC levels in blood can be extremely misleading because after THC remains in the bloodstream long after its effects wear off. A person could easily be driving in an unimpaired state and still test positive for the pot they smoked a week ago.

 

Some states have set thresholds on THC blood levels to determine when someone is too high on pot, but defendants have been successful in arguing that they were not impaired.

Researchers are trying to come up with roadside screening technology that will determine when a driver is too impaired on pot. But as it stands, police and prosecutors often have a hard time proving it.

The situation has given rise to a new type of law-enforcement officer called “drug recognition experts.” These officers take a two-week course to learn about how specific drugs affect the body and how to examine drivers when they’ve been stopped.

However, like THC levels in blood, evidence provided to courts by drug recognition experts is subject to serious challenge by defense lawyers. Earlier this year in Massachusetts, in fact, a judge said that a drug recognition expert’s evaluation of a man charged with driving under the influence of drugs could not be used.

Still, even though law enforcement needs better tools to detect when you’re too high to drive, it’s still wise to not get behind the wheel if you’re in that condition. You’ll be more likely to get in a crash. And if a cop thinks you’re too high to be driving, he can still send you to jail.

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.

Covid-19 or no Covid-19 – Can the Police Search Your Vehicle without a Warrant?

Times are tough right now due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but we here at SQ Attorneys are here to answer all of you criminal law questions, in case you get pulled over. One of the more important questions clients have asked us is whether the police can legally search your car if they have probable cause? The answer is yes. Police can legally search your car if they have probable cause.

The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure generally prohibits arbitrary vehicle searches by police. If the police search your car without a warrant, your permission, or a valid reason, they are violating your constitutional rights. Nevertheless, there are some limited situations in which police can search a car without a warrant or your consent.

When it comes to vehicle searches, courts generally give police more leeway compared to when police are attempting to search a residence. This is because, under the “automobile exception” to the search warrant requirement, courts have recognized that individuals have a lower expectation of privacy when driving a car than when they’re in their homes.

It’s also understood that while the U.S. Constitution sets the minimum level of protection for an individual’s rights, states are free to provide even more protections to an individual’s privacy rights. They could therefore pass laws placing greater restrictions on police when it comes to searching vehicles without a warrant.

Not every police search must be made under a lawfully executed warrant. The Supreme Court has ruled that warrantless police conduct may comply with the Fourth Amendment, so long as it’s reasonable under the circumstances.

So, when can police search your car without a warrant? Generally, under the following circumstances: 1) You have given the officer consent; 2) The officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle; 3) The officer reasonably believes a search is necessary for their own protection (a hidden weapon, for example); and 4) You have been arrested and the search is related to that arrest

Automobiles may be stopped if an officer possesses a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the motorist has violated a traffic law. If the reason for the stop is a minor traffic offense like speeding, the officer likely wouldn’t be permitted to search your car without more reason. However, if police arrest you for conduct arising out of a traffic stop, a search of your vehicle incident to arrest will usually be allowed.

If the police have towed and impounded your car, they have the authority to search your vehicle. This inventory search can be as comprehensive as the police wish, and will most likely include opening any locked compartments or boxes found within your car. The reason why your car was towed and impounded doesn’t matter. It could be for something as simple as a parking violation or as serious as a car theft.

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.