Criminal Defense

Criminal Law photo In Washington, as in most States, criminal offenses are either a misdemeanor filed by the county prosecutor in District Court or a felony filed in Superior Court.

Misdemeanor charges are those punishable by a maximum of one year incarceration or less. All other crimes are considered felonies. Felony convictions are punished in accordance with the Washington Sentencing Guidelines. See, In addition to incarceration, both felonies and misdemeanors convictions permit the court to enter a no contact order prohibiting the offender from contacting the victim. In addition, the court may place the offender on probation and may order the offender to engage in treatment for alcohol, domestic violence, or mental health. And, in most cases, if not all, the court will enter a restitution order directing the offender to pay the victim for any injury caused by his or her criminal behavior. Regarding firearms, Washington law mandates that a Domestic Violence conviction triggers the loss of the right to possess a firearm. As long as the felony offender is not in prison or on community custody with the Washington State Department of Corrections, the right to vote is restored but you most re-register to vote in order to receive a ballot.

Of course before any of the above occurs, the criminally accused who denies the veracity of the charging document must be found guilty by a jury or a judge if he so chooses. At trial the accused is presumed not guilty of all criminal charges. The presumption is rebuttable, meaning the presumption that the accused is not guilty remains so unless the jury unanimously or the judge at a bench trial agrees beyond a reasonable doubt the veracity of the charges against him.

Noteworthy is that the accused's arrest is not evidence of his guilt nor is his statements to the police unless his rights to counsel and to remain silent precede their questioning. At trial the accused may remain silent or testify if he so chooses. The felony trial is before a jury of 12. The misdemeanor trial is before a jury of 6.

Criminal defense lawyers also deal with the substantive issues of the crimes with which his or her clients are charged. Criminal defense lawyers may also stop charges from ever being filed. This is done when someone knows he or she is being investigated or is arrested. The person hires a criminal defense lawyer to perform his or her own investigation. That evidence may persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge or better yet dismiss the charge.

In that regard, it is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to advocate for their client. Rather than formulating an opinion of guilt or innocence, a criminal defense lawyer must instead determine if the laws were followed in conjunction with their client's charge. A considerable aspect of this work requires the criminal defense lawyer to have a clear understanding of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful searches and seizures while the Fifth Amendment governs the right to remain silent so one does not become "a witness against himself." All of the Amendments to the United States Constitution are guaranteed to the criminal accused in this State via the Fourteenth Amendment. Accordingly, a criminal defense lawyer must understand each of these rights. Initial work on any criminal case involves review of the charges and the police reports that led to the charges with a watchful eye toward a Constitutional violation. A violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment could result in evidence being inadmissible at trial. Accordingly, a criminal defense lawyer often spends a considerable amount of time reviewing all documentation to determine if the case can be won on Constitutional Grounds.

If no Constitutional violations occurred, much of the work of a criminal defense attorney then turns to negotiation. Often a criminal defense lawyer works to arrange a deal or plea bargain that permits their client to admit guilt to a lesser offense or that results in an agreed upon sentence should the accused plead guilty.

If the matter proceeds to a trial, it is the criminal defense lawyer's role to advocate tirelessly for the client in the courtroom and to challenge whether the prosecutor has met the burden of proof. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard of proof that must be surpassed in order to convict an accused person of the criminal charge(s). It is the highest standard of proof used in Court. When the criminal defense lawyer with the evidence available presents a case and convinces the jury or judge that there is doubt for which a reason exists as to the accused's guilt, then the jury or judge should pronounce the accused not guilty.

At Skantze Law we believe that every accused person is entitled to a vigorous defense, and we utlize our years of experience to provide the best defense for our clients and strategy for their case.

Portions of this article are found In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:56, August 3, 2012, from

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