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  1. How to Select a Criminal Defense Attorney

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    Navigating criminal charges can be a scary and stressful time. When you need a criminal defense attorney to assist you through these pending charges, you want to ensure you are choosing the best firm and individual possible. With so many attorneys available on the market, how can you make an informed decision?

    Here are a few tips to help you choose the right Tacoma criminal defense attorney for you.

    Look at the Practice Areas

    Different attorneys and law firms specialize in different areas of the law. You may know not to hire a personal injury lawyer for your criminal case, but hiring a defense attorney who specializes in sexual assault charges to represent your DUI charge would not be a good decision either. On most law firms’ websites, they list the different practice areas they specialize in and discuss the results they can provide their clients. Look for a firm that specializes in the area you need assistance with.

    Find Someone in Your Area

    Court systems are independent networks in themselves. If you know where your case is pending, try to find an attorney who has experience representing cases at that specific courthouse or in your county. That way, your attorney will likely know who will be involved in your case and how they behave in the courtroom, such as police offices, prosecutors, judges, and other expert witnesses. The more comfortable the defense attorney is with the courthouse, the more comfortable he or she will likely be with your case.

    Understand the Attorney’s Fee Arrangement

    Criminal attorneys’ costs can vary based on experience, location, and reputation. Lawyers who have a strong track record tend to charge more than those who do not have a high success rate. The key is to find a lawyer who works with your budget and has solid experience in the area you need representation in.

    Criminal attorneys can either charge by the hour or charge a flat fee. Depending on the firm, you may have to pay additional expenses outside of the fee. Make sure to shop around and ask each firm about their specific fee arrangements.

    Check Out Reviews and Talk to People You Know

    You can gain a good sense of how a lawyer operates by speaking to people who have worked with him or her in the past. Ask trusted friends and family members if they have worked with any attorneys who they could recommend to you. If you have any connections who practice law or work in the justice system, they may be able to refer you to someone who may be able to handle your case.

    You can also look at the lawyer’s online reviews to see what past clients have to say about working with him or her. If a lawyer has poor reviews or a certain issue, such as a lack of communication, pops up in several reviews, you may want to find another option. However, good reviews usually equal a great attorney to work with.

    Take Advantage of the Free Consultation

    One of the best ways to gain a sense of how the defense attorney works and whether you feel comfortable working with him or her is to meet in person. Most firms offer a free consultation to clients, where you can go to their office and speak to an attorney about your case. Listen to what he or she says about your legal options and how he or she could help you through your court process. Be sure to ask the attorney questions about how he or she operates: how often does the attorney communicate? Will you be working directly with him or her, or will you work with a paralegal or case manager? Does the attorney have experience in your practice area? Once you vet the attorneys in person, you can take steps to hire the right one for your case.

    Once you have identified the right firm to represent your case, call them and schedule your free consultation as soon as possible. The sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the sooner you can begin building a compelling case for your future.

  2. Washington’s Good Samaritan Law

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    The opioid crisis is impacting communities across the United States, including many in Washington state. Many people refrain from seeking help with opioid abuse due to fear of the law, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk of overdose death, avoiding the hospital or emergency services in dangerous situations. However, Washington’s Good Samaritan Law aims to make it easier for people to seek help with drug addiction, providing immunity from criminal prosecution.

    The Opioid Epidemic in Washington State

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid overdose deaths have increased in Washington over the past decade, particularly involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In 2017 alone, Washington saw 742 opioid overdose deaths – that’s a rate of 9.6 deaths per 100,000 people in the state.

    While prescription opioid deaths have decreased slightly from 474 in 2010 to 343 in 2017, increases in other types of opioid overdoses show a frightening trend. In 2010, 60 people in Washington state died from a heroin overdose – but in 2017, this statistic increased to 306 deaths by heroin. The fastest growing source of opioid overdose is synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl. Synthetic opioid-related deaths grew from 59 deaths in 2013 to 143 deaths in 2017.

    What Is the Good Samaritan Law?

    Under Washington law, the state protects anyone who is helping someone suffering from a medical emergency from civil liabilities, but the state did not extend the same protections to criminal charges. However, the 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Law changes this for people seeking medical attention for alcohol and drug overdoses.

    This law allows for people assisting someone having an overdose and the overdose victim to gain immunity from certain criminal charges. The goal of this law is to decrease the amount of opioid, alcohol, and other drug-related deaths in the state and make it easier for people to seek help when they need it.

    • If someone in Washington seeks medical assistant for a drug-related overdose, he or she cannot receive a charge for drug possession.
    • If someone in Washington is experiencing an overdose, he or she cannot receive a drug possession charge.
    • Anyone in Washington who might experience or witness an opioid overdose can carry and administer naloxone.

    The Good Samaritan law grants immunity to anyone who is making a good faith effort to seek medical assistance for an overdose, whether it be for opioids, alcohol poisoning, or another substance. Good faith efforts include calling 911, seeking the assistance of a friend in the medical field, or bringing someone to the emergency room.

    Other Criminal Charges and the Good Samaritan Law

    While the Good Samaritan law does provide protection against drug possession charges, it does not grant immunity for all drug-related charges. A person can still receive charges related to drug manufacturing or delivery, probation or parole violations, outstanding warrants, and other charges.

    One situation that could land a person in legal trouble would be if the overdose victim dies and the person seeking medical attention provided the victim with the drugs that killed them. A judge could charge this person with controlled substance homicide, but if the person did seek help in good faith, he or she may see a reduced sentence.

    Alcohol and the Good Samaritan Law

    While most uses of the Good Samaritan law involve the use of dangerous and illegal drugs, the state amended the law in 2013 to include alcohol use by minors. Alcohol poisoning is a deadly condition that comes several lives every year, but minors are less likely to seek help for it due to fear of getting in trouble. Minors under the age of 21 can seek medical attention for a peer if he or she is suffering from an alcohol overdose and receive immunity from alcohol possession charges.

    Washington’s Good Samaritan law provides opportunities for people to seek help when they need it, hopefully reducing the amount of alcohol and drug-related deaths that the state sees each year. If someone receives a possession charge after helping a loved one during an overdose, he or she should seek a Tacoma criminal defense attorney’s help as soon as possible.

  3. Washington DUI Laws 2019

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    In Washington, along with the rest of the United States, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence is very dangerous, putting the lives of the driver, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road at risk. As a result, the state of Washington imposes some serious administrative and criminal penalties if a police officer catches you driving under the influence.

    What Counts as a DUI in Washington?

    When most people think about DUIs, they usually think of drinking and driving. While alcohol plays a major role in many DUI cases each year, you can also receive a DUI charge after using other substances such as illegal and prescription drugs. Washington law enforcement can charge you with a DUI if you are driving under any of the following conditions:

    • You are 21 years or older and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.
    • You have THC in your blood, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Having a concentration of five nanograms or higher of THC per milliliter of blood in your system is grounds for DUI.
    • You have used drugs or alcohol to an extent that they impair your ability to drive.
    • You are under the age of 21 and have a BAC of .02% or higher.
    • You are operating a commercial vehicle and have a BAC of .04% or higher.

    DUI charges range in severity based on a few factors. The higher your BAC or THC concentration, the more severe your charge will be. In addition, if you get into an accident while impaired by alcohol and drugs and cause significant injury, property damage, or death, you will receive a higher charge. First offenders usually receive lower penalties than individuals facing their second, third, or subsequent DUI charge.

    DUI Penalties in Washington State

    When you receive a DUI charge in Washington, you can receive any mix of administrative penalties, fines, and jail time.

    • If you are convicted of a first offense DUI in Washington, you can face jail time from 24 hours to one year. The state may take away your license from 90 days to one year, and you will have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You may also have to pay a fine between $865.50 to $5,000.
    • Second-offense DUI charges carry potential jail time sentences between 30 days up to one year. The state will require an ignition interlock device and take your license away for two years up to 900 days. You may have to pay a fine between $1,120.50 to $5,000.
    • Third-offense DUI charges involve jail time between 90 days to one year. You could lose your license for three to four years and have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You could pay a fine between $1,970.50 to $5,000.

    When a police officer pulls you over for suspicion of driving under the influence, he or she will ask you to take a chemical test. Under Washington’s implied consent law, you could face penalties if you refuse to take this test. You can receive a license suspension between one and three years and additional fines.

    What to Do If You Are Arrested for DUI in Washington

    If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI, comply with him or her. Take the chemical and field sobriety tests as required – if you refuse, you could face additional penalties. As soon as possible, contact a Tacoma DUI attorney to assist you with the court and administrative processes.

    Navigating the aftermath of a DUI offense can be overwhelming, but an attorney who specializes in DUI defense can help explain your options. Your attorney can advise you on what steps to take following the arrest and help you prepare for your Department of Motor Vehicles hearing and court arraignment.

  4. Can the Police Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

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    If you are under investigation for a crime, police officers may show up at your home looking for evidence. They may demand to enter your property, but when you ask them for a warrant, they do not produce one. In most situations, the police cannot enter your home unless they have a signed warrant from a judge – but there are some circumstances in which the police do not need a warrant to search you. If you feel your home has been unlawfully searched, contact a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer.

    Unreasonable Searches and Seizures Are Unconstitutional

    In the United States, our Constitution gives us a set of certain rights that others cannot take away, from freedom of speech and religion to our right to a fair trial. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifically protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. We all have the right to feel secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” and unreasonable searches without a warrant violate this constitutional right.

    According to the Fourth Amendment, the police cannot enter your home without a warrant from a court of law. A judge must sign the warrant and the warrant must give a description of the items that the police are trying to seize, as well as a description of your residence or premises. If a police officer enters your home and obtains evidence without a warrant, that evidence is inadmissible in a court of law.

    In What Situations Can a Police Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

    While the Constitution does broadly protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures, there are some specific circumstances in which the police can enter your home without a warrant. If the police search your home or seize any evidence under the following situations, they did not violate your Fourth Amendment rights.

    • Consent to search. In some circumstances, the police can enter your property if you or someone else who is in control of the residence gives them permission to do so. The police cannot coerce or trick you into giving consent to a search without a warrant. If you have a roommate or spouse or rent from a landlord, he or she can provide consent to the police as well. However, the police can only search common areas with permission from others, even if your spouse or consent. If the police coerce you, trick you, or search your private quarters without your consent, they are violating your constitutional rights.
    • Exigent circumstances. The police can search your property in some emergency situations. If the process of getting a valid search warrant would impact public safety or lead to a loss of evidence, the police can enter your home without a warrant.
    • The plain view doctrine. Sometimes, police officers have the right to be on your property, but do not have the warrant to search your private residence. They may be responding to an unrelated call or searching for something else. However, if a police officer sees clearly visible evidence or contraband while searching your property, he or she can seize that evidence without a warrant.
    • Search incident to arrest. If the police are arresting you at your home, they have the right to search your home to protect their safety during your arrest. They may look for weapons or accomplices during this time. The police may also search your home to prevent anyone from destroying any evidence.

    If the police enter your home without a warrant and the situation does not fit any of the circumstances above, you may be the victim of an unconstitutional search and seizure. Any evidence they collect would be inadmissible in court.

    The police cannot force or coerce you to enter your home without a warrant or a valid reason. If you believe that the police violated your constitutional rights or you are unsure whether you fit one of the situations above, contact an attorney as soon as possible.

  5. What are Embezzlement Schemes?

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    Embezzlement is a costly form of theft that can result in millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Some perpetrators remove a large lump sum of money once from their employer, while others play the long game. In these scenarios, the guilty party removes money in small sums over time – sometimes over the course of a decade.

    Though we might think of embezzling as only dealing with money, it can actually occur in several different ways depending on what assets the perpetrator can get their hands on. In any case, embezzlement increases their net worth while decreasing that of the company/individual they steal from.

    Methods of Embezzlement

    Embezzlers must somehow come in contact with valuable property. The resources that an embezzler has at their disposal typically dictates the method they use to steal.

    Line employees and supervisors often take part in cash embezzlement. This can be done in several ways:

    • Pocketing cash from a transaction
    • Taking cash from other workers’ and/or customers property (ex. purses and backpacks)
    • Stealing change from customers
    • Refunding stolen items and then keeping the cash
    • Stealing cash from a coworker’s work area

    Negotiable document embezzlement can be committed by any level of employee that has access to important documents or can forge important documents. Embezzlers manipulate these documents, reproduce forgeries, and glean important account-related information from certain documents.

    • Money orders
    • Property documents
    • Travelers checks
    • Company checks
    • Refund authorizations

    Account credit schemes often involve creating fake identities and manipulating account information. Account credit embezzlement can take several forms.

    • Manipulating inactive bank accounts, usually owned by senior citizens and foreign account owners
    • Unauthorized bank account transfers
    • Creating fake employees and stealing their payrolls
    • Establishing loans and credit accounts for fake borrowers

    Embezzlers can also steal delivered or received items if they have access to these items within their line of work. This can occur when an employee does one of several different actions.

    • Places items in a dumpster to retrieve after workplace operation
    • Misusing employee benefits for friends and family
    • Stealing raw materials and scrap items after manufacturing processes
    • Manipulating stocks and bonds
    • Manipulating trust funds
    • Stealing equipment and supplies

    Wire transfer is a form of embezzlement that a perpetrator carries out by:

    • Manipulating their employer’s bank accounts and/or bank instructions.
    • Manipulating transfer instructions coming from an external entity.
    • Fabricating customer accounts and/or transfer information.

    Computer embezzlement comes with a myriad of related concepts that illustrate different computer-related embezzlement schemes. These represent the most common schemes that embezzlers use to manipulate accounts are:

    • “Skimming” (or removing small amounts of money) customer accounts. Utilizing “trap door” or “salami” techniques (many small transactions) to skim money, transferring this money to an alternative account.
    • Manipulating the company’s programming, or “data diddling.”
    • Inserting additional commands into the company’s programming, or “trojan horsing,” to make the program run extra unauthorized commands on top of its normal processing.
    • Inserting “logic bombs” commands, or commands that assign specific programming functions to occur at different intervals, like erasing illicit data.

    Famous Embezzlement Cases

    Two famous embezzlement cases have made headlines for their grandiosity, amounting to millions of embezzled dollars.

    The Enron scandal involves this energy giant’s CEO embezzling $11 million through accounting fraud. Operating without government watch due to its deregulation, the CEO of Enron (and its executives) approved the falsification of earnings reports. Moreover, the company staged a fake energy crisis and stole from their employees’ retirement funds. This was shocking to the public because Enron had significant ties to the White House at the time. Once the court ruled the company as guilty, they went bankrupt and CEO Jeff Skilling went to jail.

    Stanford Financial Group of Companies ran one of the most extensive Ponzi schemes in American history. The chairman of the company initiated a 20-year embezzlement scheme that involved selling customers’ deposit certificates to fund his real estate business, his personal business ventures, and betting on cricket tournaments. The court sent Allen Stanford to jail after his illicit business transactions were discovered.

    Successful embezzling schemes are meticulous, sometimes taking years to discover. Business owners beware that even line workers could be guilty of embezzlement, making company security vital. If you believe you’ve been the victim of an embezzlement scheme, contact our Tacoma white collar crimes lawyers to discuss your case.

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