Friday, February 26, 2010

Defenses in a DUI case

After an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), one of the first things you should be doing is hiring a skilled Seattle DUI Attorney. A DUI conviction comes with harsh penalties, and if you want to avoid having a DUI conviction affect your life for many years, you must have a strong defense while your DUI case is pending. It takes a skilled attorney to come up with a viable defense strategy. Police officers and judges have heard every denial and excuse under the sun, and it just won’t hold a lot of weight in court. Hiring a good Seattle DUI lawyer is essential in order to present a realistic defense in court.

DUI lawyers often challenge the evidence presented in court by the arresting officer. This evidence may include testimony about how you were driving before you were pulled over, including symptoms such as weaving or swerving. Then, you can expect the police officer to testify about the results of field sobriety tests such as walking a straight line, standing on one leg, or the gaze nystagmus test. These subjective observations are one of the main reasons you should not submit to field sobriety tests if asked, but if you already have, a skilled Seattle DUI attorney may be able to fight them and suppress much of the evidence. There are very specific procedures which must be followed in order to administer a field sobriety test; if these rules are not followed precisely, the results are considered invalid and may be thrown out from the case.

It is more difficult for a DUI lawyer to fight the results of a blood or breath test, although it can be done. These tests are used as a more objective standard by which to judge a person’s level of intoxication. It is prohibited to drive anywhere in the country with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. DUI defense lawyers can dispute the validness of this test based on the testing equipment used, as well as the time of the test in relation to the time you were pulled over, as both can affect the results. Many DUI cases are suppressed after it is argued that the device used to test BAC has a weak track record.

In addition to arguing that the machine itself resulted in an improper BAC reading, Seattle DUI defense lawyers may also argue that the breath or blood exam results were incorrect for other reasons. Many DUI lawyers in Washington carefully examine the facts presented within the police discovery and ensure that the arresting officer follow proper procedure prior to conducting the arrest. For example, a Seattle DUI attorney may get a breath test suppressed based on the fact that the officer failed to observe the defendant for at least 15 minutes prior to conducting the breath test at the station, or the defendant may have placed something in his mouth prior to the test, which would result in an invalid reading of the test. Furthermore, burping prior to a breath test may raise the amount of alcohol detected on the breath and the DUI attorney in Washington may file motions to suppress that particular breath test. Some medical conditions can also raise the amount of alcohol detected on the breath and result in the suppression of a breath test.

DUI attorneys can also be expected to bring up arguments about the way other evidence was collected. Police offers must observe and follow proper procedures prior to conducting a DUI arrest. If this proper legal basis is not followed, the evidence collected during the stop may be inadmissible in court.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How Much Will My Defense Cost?

The cost of a hiring a Seattle criminal defense lawyer or a Seattle DUI attorney can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed against the defendant. A Washington criminal defense lawyer will typically require a greater retainer fee for a complex and/or more serious case than for a simple case. It is possible for a Seattle criminal defense attorney to require a higher retainer fee for a minor charge, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses, or whether travel is involved to other counties.

As previously stated, in a misdemeanor case, typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a Seattle DUI lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $10,000 - $15,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious violent felonies, such as sexual assault cases or a serious violent felony. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase the retainer.

Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is important the Washington criminal defense attorney discusses all of the costs with you prior to being retained on the case. If you do decide to enter into an agreement with a Seattle criminal lawyer whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Private Defense Counsel or Appointed Counsel?

Individuals who are charged with a crime, may be eligible for appointed counsel or for assistance through a public defender's office. When a defendant petitions for a court-appointed lawyer, the trial judge will typically make an analysis of the defendant's resources to determine if the defendant will qualify for an appointment of a lawyer or whether the defendant must hire a Seattle criminal defense lawyer. Some courts require that you be screened outside of the courtroom by professionals whose sole purpose is to determine whether you qualify for a public defender. If an appointment is made, the defendant may be ordered to repay certain attorney fees following a guilty plea or conviction.

Many assume that a public defender will offer services which are inferior to a privately retained Seattle criminal defense attorney. While it is certainly true that some public defenders, and even some private WA criminal defense lawyers will prove to be insufficiently skilled or dedicated to their respective case to provide an effective defense, it is generally believed to be true that the average public defender will provide sufficient representation and guide you through the criminal process effectively. Public defenders have a tremendous amount of experience in that particular courtroom, are typically more familiar with the respective prosecutors and judges, and have much more trial experience then the average criminal defense attorney. The Seattle criminal defense lawyers at SQ Attorneys, consist of a former prosecutor and a public defender, both of whom have extensive trial experience. Based on their past experiences, the SQ Attorney team does not hesitate to take any case to trial if the need arises. The Seattle criminal lawyers at SQ Attorneys have the ability to collaborate with each other based on their respective experiences, and based on resources available to them, are able to provide an effective and efficient defense for all of their clients.

In short, if you are able to hire an effective Seattle criminal defense lawyer you should not hesitate to do so immediately upon receiving notice that you are being charged with a crime. If your means are limited, you should certainly not hesitate to screen for a public defender, and should not fear that you will receive ineffective representation just because your lawyer has been appointed.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Assert and Protect your Constitutional Rights

The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights of our United States Constitution clearly states that the rights of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights of our United States Constitution clearly states that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor shall he be deprived of life, liberty or property, without the due process of law.

In essence, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are the bedrock by which all persons within the United States of America are protected from overly intrusive law enforcement activities. If law enforcement violates these constitutional protections all evidence obtained, or otherwise discovered, by way of the violation has the potential of being suppressed in a court of law. A savvy Seattle criminal defense attorney will most assuredly make efforts to keep any “tainted” evidence out of all court proceedings by filing a Suppression Brief. If successful, the Seattle criminal defense lawyer can seriously reduce the amount of incriminating evidence the government has in its arsenal, and in certain circumstances can even cause criminal allegations to be dismissed.

The following are some fundamental rules to protect your rights. First, although law enforcement must obtain a warrant before it can conduct a privacy-invading search, anything “in plain view” from a non-intrusive vantage point is subject to confiscation, and can even be the basis for the issuance of a warrant. Second, if law enforcement asks for permission to search, it is likely because there is not enough evidence to establish a basis for the issuance of a warrant. If you “consent” to a search, law enforcement may search and even seize items without further authorization, and if they find “contraband” you will most assuredly be arrested. Conversely, if you do not consent to a search, law enforcement must go through the hassle of applying for a warrant, which can only be issued with sufficient probable cause supported by an oath or affirmation by law enforcement. It is also important to understand that refusing to consent does not in and of itself provide law enforcement with the legal grounds to obtain a warrant or even to detain you.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement which sometimes authorizes law enforcement to search an area without a warrant or even consent. With that said, it is abundantly important to remember that it is never a good idea to consent to a search, or talk with law enforcement without a Seattle criminal defense attorney present. If you find yourself in a situation in which law enforcement asks to search you, an area belonging to you, or an area which you are authorized to control, you should: (1) refuse the request, (2) immediately assert your right to remain silent, and (3) contact a Seattle criminal defense lawyer.

Unless you are being “detained” by law enforcement, you have the right to terminate an encounter with law enforcement. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to ascertain if the contact is a “detention”. Law enforcement is extremely versed in blurring the lines between an actual detention and a person’s freedom to terminate a law enforcement encounter. If you cannot determine your “freedom of movement”, it is okay to ask, “Am I under arrest or detained; am I free to leave.” Law enforcement is then bound to clarify your status. If you are free to leave, you should: (1) assert your right to remain silent, (2) terminate the contact, and (3) immediately contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney. Conversely, if you are not free to leave, you should: (1) assert your right to remain silent, and (2) immediately request to speak to a Seattle criminal defense lawyer.

When asserting your Constitutional Rights always be polite; there is no reason, or benefit, to being rude, even if you feel that law enforcement is harassing you. Remain calm, cool and collected. Always be cognizant that law enforcement personnel are trained professionals, and use certain strategic tactics to get people to waive their Constitutional Rights. Don’t be fooled, contact a skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney.