Sunday, September 20, 2015

I'm Not Going To Jail! But I'm On Probation?



You have just pled guilty to a criminal charge and the Judge has suspended all of the jail time but has placed you on active probation. Congratulations! You are not going to jail but are you wondering what probation is?

Probation is the suspension of a jail sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime a chance to remain in the community, instead of going to jail. Probation requires that you follow certain court-ordered rules and conditions under the supervision of a probation officer. Typical conditions may include performing community service, meeting with your probation officer, refraining from using illegal drugs or excessive alcohol, avoiding certain people and places, and appearing in court during requested times. More likely than not, you may be ordered to perform some sort of evaluation (i.e. alcohol drug evaluation, domestic violence etc.) and follow the treatment program recommended by the State certified evaluator. Now you may be wondering, how long is this probation going to last?
The amount of time you are on probation depends on the offense and laws of your state. Typically, probation lasts anywhere from one to five years on misdemeanor cases, but can last longer and even up to life depending on the type of conviction, such as drug or sex felony offenses.

The conditions imposed while on probation relate to the type of criminal offense. For example, a judge may require you to submit to periodic drug testing or attend a drug rehabilitation program for a drug-related offense. Similarly, a judge may require that you avoid specific people or group members for a gang-related or battery type of offense. Most understand what is required of them while on probation because the Court typically makes it very clear what conditions the defendant must follow. Moreover, the assigned probation officer usually will review all of the conditions once the defendant is placed on probation. The defendant would also receive all of the conditions of probation in writing. The majority are able to get through probation successfully but what happens if you violate the conditions of probation?

Probation violation occurs when you break any of the rules or conditions set forth in the probation order at any time during the probation period. When a potential violation is discovered, your probation officer has the discretion to simply give you a warning, or require you to attend a probation violation hearing. If a judge determines that you violated your probation, you may face additional probation terms, heavy fines, a revoked probation, jail time, or more.

A revoked probation does not automatically mean you will be sent to jail. A judge has a variety of options available during sentencing. For instance, upon a revoked probation, a judge may add an extra length to the probation, impose additional fines, or require you get additional counseling or attend other treatment programs. Even so, a judge may order you to serve a brief period of time in jail, or require you to serve the time allotted on your original sentence, depending on the circumstances. Upon a probation violation, you may request a bail hearing in felony cases to allow you to remain free for a brief period of time before having to serve time in jail or before a judge makes his final determination.

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Jury Found Me Guilty! Can I Appeal??



Each and every criminal defendant has certain constitutional rights, the most important being the right to have a jury of his or her own peers decide whether they are guilty or innocent of the alleged crime. Taking a case to trial is a risky proposition for those participating, especially for the criminal defendant involved in the case. If a defendant is convicted of a crime at trial, there are certain appellate rights they have. The government may also appeal a case.  

In order for an appellate court 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, are generally disregarded.

Assuming that there was no harmless error, there are two basic grounds for appeal. The first being that the lower court may have made a serious error of the established law (plain error) and the second being that the weight of the evidence does not support the verdict reached by a judge or jury.

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. As a result, they are not in the best position to assess the weight of the 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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I'm Charged with a Crime ... Am I Going to Jail?



Every day in courts throughout the United States, defendants are sentenced to crimes. Many times the defendant will be sentenced to jail or prison, and sometimes the respective Judge may impose jail alternatives. Sentences for a criminal conviction can take many forms, and a conviction doesn’t always mean a trip to jail or prison. Alternative sentences can include different combinations of the following: a suspended sentence, probation, fines, restitution, community service and deferred sentence/pretrial diversion. Judges typically determine whether to impose alternative sentences based on the type and severity of the crime, the age of the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, the effect of the crime on the victims, and the defendants remorse at the time of sentencing. An essential factor in consideration of a final judgment and sentence includes the Prosecutors recommendation in the plea agreement.

As an alternative to imprisonment, a judge can issue a suspended sentence where an imposition of jail is stayed on condition that the defendant, abide by certain conditions ordered by the Court. Common conditions can include enrolling in a substance abuse program and not committing any further law violation.   This is generally reserved for less serious crimes or first-time offenders. In Washington state, suspended sentences are general imposed on misdemeanor convictions. If the conditions are not met, the judge can then impose a jail sentence.

Another alternative to prison is probation. Similar to a suspended sentence, probation releases a defendant back into the community, but the defendant does not have the same level of freedom as a normal citizen. Courts typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is possible, but it is up to the sentencing judge to determine whether or not to actually grant probation. In Washington state, felony probation is monitored by the State Department of Corrections and misdemeanor probation is monitored by the respective courts own probation department.

Typically, probation comes with conditions that restrict behavior, and if the defendant violates one of those conditions, the court may revoke probation and impose jail time. Courts have a great deal of discretion when imposing conditions for probation.

Any time an individual is involved in the court system, he or she has to pay some sort of fine., For many, the fines may be in the form of a speeding or parking ticket. Individuals convicted of more serious crimes also have to pay fines in many situations, although the amount of the fine is usually much more substantial than a traffic ticket. Generally, fines are imposed to punish the offender, help compensate the state for the offense, and deter any future criminal acts.

In some cases, a judge will order a criminal offender to perform work on behalf of the community, usually in exchange for a reduction of fines and/or incarceration. Court ordered community service can accompany some other form of alternative sentence with the intent that performing community service offers more benefit to society than being incarcerated. The community benefits from the work that the offender performs and avoids the cost of incarceration while the offender benefits from a lesser sentence and hopefully learns from his or her work experience. In most Courts, community service must be completed at a registered non-profit organization and a letter must be filed with the Court on the agencies letterhead, to confirm that the community service has been successfully completed.
Certain types of defendants may qualify for programs that result in having charges dismissed if the defendant completes certain conditions. This is sometimes called a deferred sentence or diversion and these programs take the defendant out of the ordinary process of prosecution so he or she can complete certain conditions. Once he or she is done, either the prosecutor or the court dismisses the charges.


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.