Thursday, July 30, 2015

Plea Bargain 101



The majority of criminal cases are resolved through a "plea bargain", usually well before the case ever reaches trial. Many have heard this term, but only a few have a good understanding of what a plea bargain actually is. So what is it?

In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge than one for which the defendant could stand trial, in exchange for a more lenient sentence. A lenient sentence may include the government agreeing to suspend all of the jail time on a particular charge, in exchange for a defendant agreeing to engage in some sort of treatment (i.e. alcohol/drug treatment, mental health treatment etc.), community service or other court ordered conditions. Many times a plea bargain includes an agreement in which the government agrees to dismiss certain related charges. For both the defendant and the government, the decision to enter into a plea bargain is based on the seriousness of the alleged crime, the evidence in the case, and the likeliness of a guilty verdict at trial. Plea bargains are generally encouraged by the courts and are necessary due to the sheer number of criminal cases that are filed each year.  

A plea bargain in itself is essentially an agreement in a criminal case between the defendant and the prosecutor, which usually involves the defendant pleading guilty to a crime in order to receive a lesser sentence. In most cases, judges are respectful and appreciative of the fact that the parties involved have worked out a resolution without having to go through a costly trial. Therefore, a judge will typically follow the recommendation made by the parties at the time of sentencing, unless a plea involves a non-agreed sentencing recommendation.  

The question of whether a plea bargain actually benefits society is often asked, but there are many justifications for the reason why the majority of the criminal cases are resolved by way of a plea. These justifications include the fact that the courts are crowded and if plea bargains were not allowed, it could overwhelm the entire court system. Additionally, prosecutors' caseloads are also overloaded and less trials means that the prosecutor can effectively prosecute the most serious cases that come through the system. Last, defendants save time and money by not having to defend themselves at trial and most times gain certain benefits by accepting a plea offer.

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.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Am I Insane? Insanity Defense Explained



Last week, Christopher Monfort, a criminal defendant who shot and killed a Seattle Police Officer was sentenced to life in prison after the jury unanimously voted against the death penalty at the King County Superior Court. During his trial, his legal team argued that at the time of criminal conduct, Mr. Monfort was “insane” and put up an insanity defense throughout the trial. After jury deliberations, the jury rejected the insanity defense, and found Mr. Monfort guilty of murder and attempted murder. One may wonder what an insanity defense is, and how courts determine whether a defendant falls within the parameters of being legally insane?

A criminal defendant who is found to have been legally insane when he or she committed a crime may be found not guilty by reason of insanity. In some cases, the defendant may be found guilty but sentenced to a less severe punishment due to a mental impairment. In states such as Washington, that allow the insanity defense, defendants must prove to the court that they did not understand what they were doing; failed to know right from wrong; acted on an uncontrollable impulse or some variety of these factors.

Insanity defenses to a criminal charge were first recognized in 1581, in an English legal treatise, which stated that, if a mad man, or a lunatic at the time of his lunacy kills someone, they cannot be held accountable. English courts came up with the wild beast test in the 18th Century, in which defendants could not be convicted if they could not understand the crime, no better than a wild beast, a brute or an infant.

Current laws allowing for the insanity defense follow a similar logic, although terms such as “lunatic” or “wild beast” are no longer used. In the mid 19th Century, the M’Naughten Rule was introduced and codified in to the British law, and is now used in the majority of the U.S. states, including Washington.
The M’Naughten rule simply states that a defendant did not understand what he or she did, or failed to distinguish right from wrong because of a “disease of mind.” This can be established by a mental competency evaluation, or be argued at trial by the defendant, in hopes of convincing a jury that an insanity defense would apply.

Another test commonly used by many states is the Model Penal Code test for legal insanity, which states that due to a diagnosed mental defect, the defendant either failed to understand the criminality of his acts, or was unable to act within the confines of the law.

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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Know The Difference: Felony v. Misdemeanor



All crimes in the State of Washington are enumerated in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). These codes define what a crime is, lay out the elements of each crime and, in many cases, provide sentencing guidelines for the specific criminal act. Crimes are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors, and are further divided into simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. All misdemeanor cases are heard in Municipal and District Courts; and the Court is determined by the law enforcement agency that conducts the investigation and the Prosecutors office assigned to the particular jurisdiction. The more serious offenses are known as a felony. Felonies are categorized into classes A, B, or C in descending order of seriousness. All felony cases are heard in the Superior Court of the particular county the crime is alleged to have occurred.

A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. Examples of simple misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, driving while license suspended in the third degree and solicitation of a prostitute. A simple misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A gross misdemeanor is a much more serious offense. Driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs is a gross misdemeanor as well as an assault in the 4th degree charge and theft in the 3rd degree. These offenses carry penalties of up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Some misdemeanors such as a driving under the influence offense carry mandatory punishments per the RCW. Penalties often depend on the nature of the offense, any aggravating factors involved, and the prior criminal history of the offender.

Felony crimes are much more serious than misdemeanors. A felony crime includes offenses such offenses as murder, robbery, rape, burglary, and sales or distribution of illegal drugs. Class A felonies are the most serious offenses and are punishable by prison sentences which can include life, as well as fines of up to $50,000. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The Washington State sentencing guidelines further classifies each felony crime by assigning specific standard ranges for each charge. These standard ranges are used to determine the amount of time a defendant could be incarcerated for if convicted of a particular felony charge. Fifteen seriousness levels exist from Level I to Level XV which carry corresponding sentencing ranges for each level. At the time of sentencing on a felony charge, a pre-sentence report is typically required by the respective sentencing judge who makes the final determination of the exact sentence that the defendant will receive. These pre-sentence reports often time include information such as criminal, family, and employment history, psychological assessments, statements from victims, and often times will include each parties recommendation to the Court of what they believe would be a fair and just sentence. 

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.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How Does Washington Define Domestic Violence?

Washington State law defines domestic violence offenses as virtually any criminal act committed by one "family or household member" against another. Municipal and District courts hear misdemeanor domestic violence offenses including: assault, property destruction, harassment and telephone harassment, intimidation with a weapon, reckless endangerment and violation of no contact or domestic violence protection orders. Felony domestic violence offenses, such as a No Contact Order violation involving an assault, a third violation of a No Contact Order, assault with a deadly weapon, or even murder, are heard in Superior Court. A "family or household member" includes persons who are now or have been married or resided together, who have been or are presently in a dating relationship so long as both parties are at least sixteen years of age, and persons who have a child in common. In addition, parent-child and step-parent, step-child relationships, grandparent-grandchild (including step-grandparents) and siblings come within the definition of a "family or household" relationship.
Domestic violence offenses charged as misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, or gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony domestic violence offenses are punishable by more than one year in jail.


A person who has been convicted of a domestic violence assault cannot possess a firearm or get a concealed weapons permit in the State of Washington. Violation of this provision is a felony.

Many times, an individual who is alleged to have committed domestic violence, may also be charged with interfering with reporting domestic violence. Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence occurs when a person prevents or attempts to prevent a victim or witness from calling 911, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.

Interfering with reporting is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The law requires a police officer responding to an incident of domestic violence to make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic violence assault or other serious domestic violence offense was committed within the previous four hours.

If the officer determines that family or household members have assaulted each other, the officer will arrest only the person he or she believes to be the primary aggressor. State law also requires mandatory arrest for violations of No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders.


A person arrested for a domestic violence offense will usually be held in jail until he/she appears before a judge, usually the following day. The Court may require a defendant charged with domestic violence to sign a No Contact Order as a condition for release from jail prior to trial.

Prior to arraigning domestic violence defendants, Court probation counselors attempt to contact victims to determine whether they wish a No Contact Order to be issued. Probation staff in the jail can also determine whether or not a defendant has been released from jail.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a domestic violence change, 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 domestic violence charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for domestic violence should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Domestic Violence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a domestic violence in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

One Year Later, Taxes on Weed Legalization is Yet to Yield Big Tax Benefits

Before Washington voters could decide on legal weed, the State government had to determine whether such legalization would benefit the State through the revenue earned through tax. The governments financial forecasters looked into their data collected and determined that the state’s take from pot taxes in the first year of sales could be nothing — or could be as much as $249 million. That was the uncertain future facing an untested state-regulated system operating in defiance of the federal ban on all marijuana.

A year since legal sales began, the maximum windfall, touted by Initiative 502 campaigners, hasn’t yet materialized — neither have the horrors predicted by legalization opponents.

Year One of legal pot business started more frustrating than giddy. Stores were slow to open and supply was scarce. But the inaugural year ended with prices dropping and sales climbing in June to a daily average of $1.5 million.

The bigger story is that Washington’s system, with its underage-buyer stings and evolving regulations, passed muster with the Obama administration. The feds have let Washington and Colorado carry on their experiments, charting a course for Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., where voters legalized weed last year. Five more states, including California, are likely to vote on legal pot next year.
According to the ACLU several other jurisdictions have followed suit, and Washington has become an example of a public-health approach to legalization which has sparked change at the federal and international level.

The march into other states suggests that legal weed’s impact on public health, driving and other concerns has not been drastic — or even detectable. Youth use in Washington, for instance, did not increase in 2014, according to a survey of more than 25,000 students. Nor did the number of young people involved in fatal car crashes but it certainly would not be wise to draw conclusions from those numbers yet.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a drug DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a drug  DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kentucky Man Turns Himself in After Drving Drunk

Authorities say a man drove under the influence of alcohol to a small-town Kentucky police station, where he requested that officers arrest him.

26-year-old Christopher L. Stewart drove to Tuesday night to the station in Hopkinsville, near the Tennessee border, and slammed on his brakes, nearly hitting a police cruiser. The newspaper reports that Stewart approached officers and said he was ready to go to jail for DUI.

The paper says he told police he drank a pint before driving to the station. Police say Stewart also attempted to drink a closed bottle of fuel injector cleaning fluid, but officers stopped him.
He was charged with driving under the influence. It was unclear whether he had a lawyer to contact for comment on the case.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

State's Official New Liquor and Cannabis Board

Big changes are coming to the state Liquor Control Board, including a name change.

The same law that will change the Liquor Control Board's name July 24 to the "Liquor and Cannabis Board" also directed the agency to decide which unlicensed medical-marijuana shops and grow operations to legitimize by July 1, 2016.

The process will involve a merit system, the Olympian reported.

The agency assumes 825 unlicensed medical shops will apply for a license and half will receive one.

First dibs would go to people who have been in the medical-marijuana industry since before 2013, have paid their taxes and applied for one of the recreational licenses. Next up are applicants who didn't apply for a recreational license but meet the other requirements. Everyone else falls into a third tier.

Research the agency is doing now will help decide for sure whether a lottery is needed. It will also help decide if sellers should be able to apply at any time for a marijuana license, as they may for a liquor license, rather than within only a short window.

Many of Washington's more than 1,000 - maybe more than 2,000 - unlicensed medical marijuana shops won't qualify for special consideration because they are too new.

Regulators should license as many new growers, processors and retailers as possible that have a history of good behavior, said Alex Cooley, vice president of Seattle medical-marijuana grower and processor Solstice and a supporter of the law.

"Many people have been doing this for up to 10 years now and have been serving their communities and taking care of many sick people and doing it in a compassionate way," Cooley said.

Much of the work to implement the law falls to the state Department of Health. The agency will define what qualifies as medical-grade marijuana and choose a contractor to set up a registry for patients. People who join the registry will get protection from arrest and less stringent limits on how much marijuana they can possess.

The health department will complete at least two tasks by July 24, when some parts of the law take effect, said Chris Baumgartner, who leads a unit of the agency that deals with medical marijuana. It will develop a form for medical providers to authorize marijuana use and tell providers how to report numbers of authorizations.

The law calls for providers who write more than 30 authorizations in a month to report the number to the department.

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