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  1. Can Charges Be Dropped at Arraignment?

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    If you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, you will undergo a multi-step process from arrest to the trial and jury verdict. One of these steps is the arraignment, where the court formally informs you of your charges and takes your plea. Many events can occur at the arraignment, including negotiations for reduced charges. In addition, it may be possible for the judge to drop the charges against you completely, depending on the facts of the case.

    What Is an Arraignment?

    After an arrest, you will enter a series of processes within the criminal justice system that will ultimately lead to a decision in your case. The first part of the criminal justice procedure is the arraignment, which will involve a judge reading you your charges. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires the justice system to inform you of your charges, so the arraignment satisfies this requirement.

    Oftentimes, the arraignment must occur within a set timeframe after your arrest. In addition, the judge will ask you to enter a plea involving your case: either guilty or not guilty. Your criminal defense lawyer will advise you which plea to enter, but you should usually enter a plea of not guilty unless advised otherwise.

    Pre-Arraignment Investigations

    Before you enter into an arraignment, you should contact and discuss your case with your attorney. You and your attorney will examine all the evidence available about your case, including the arrest report, notes from the officers at the scene of the arrest, the names and contact information of all the witnesses, and any diagrams or written evidence the prosecution intends to use against you.

    Depending on the evidence that you and your attorney examine prior to the arraignment, your attorney can evaluate how to proceed with your plea. If you uncover any information that could unravel the circumstances of your arrest, you could use this information to your advantage during your arraignment.

    Filing a Motion to Dismiss Your Case

    It is possible for the judge to dismiss your case during an arraignment if he or she sees you’re the officers and the prosecution have a shaky foundation on which to charge you. Your attorney could ask the judge to drop the charges against you by filing a motion prior to your arraignment. You can use the information you uncovered in the pre-arraignment investigation to solidify your case.

    What Happens If the Judge Does Not Dismiss Your Charges?

    You may not uncover any evidence in your pre-arraignment investigations that can prove that the judge has grounds to dismiss your case. Even if you do present evidence that the court should dismiss your charges, the judge may not honor that request. If the judge does not drop your charges and you have to enter into a not-guilty plea, you may have to undergo a series of hearings and trials until the judge reaches a verdict.

    To navigate the criminal justice system, you need to hire a lawyer to represent your case if you have not done so already. A criminal defense attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case.

    • Your attorney will have access to investigative resources and techniques he or she can use to build a compelling defense on your behalf. He or she can interview witnesses, review evidence from the prosecution, and consult with experts to provide testimony on your behalf.
    • You may not know how you should plea or if you should take a plea deal prior to the verdict. Your attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine your best options.
    • Entering the criminal justice system alone can be intimidating. Your attorney can assist you with preparing for the different stages of the criminal justice system, from arraignment to trial.

    Depending on the facts of your case, pre-arraignment negotiations may be possible and may be the best option for you. There is a chance that the court could drop the charges against you at the arraignment. However, this option may not be possible or beneficial for everyone. Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options and the possibility of reduced or dropped charges at arraignment.

  2. Can I Refuse to Be Interviewed by Police?

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    When we face an arrest by law enforcement, the United States Constitution and other laws afford us certain rights. We know that we have the right to remain silent and to have a defense attorney represent us – but do we have the right to decline an interview by a police officer? If you are facing criminal charges, you may feel like you have to comply with an interview or face consequences, but under some circumstances, you do have the right to refuse an interview.

    You Can Refuse Random Street Questioning

    A police officer may stop you on the street and ask you to answer a few questions about a crime, whether or not it is a crime the officer is accusing you of. While you do have the right to remain silent based on the Fifth Amendment, the officer will not inform you or read you of the right before he or she performs a formal arrest.

    The police also have the right to make random stops on the street without violating your constitutional rights, as long as the officer can justify the stop using specific and articulable facts. However, the officer is not arresting you during a random stop.

    You can always ask if the officer is detaining you. If the answer is no, you can stop the conversation and calmly walk away. Make sure to walk away as calmly as possible, as to not raise suspicion and give the officer a reason to detain you.

    Refusing Voluntary Requests for Questioning

    Another scenario under which a police officer may ask you to answer some questions is if you receive a voluntary request for custody. This is another situation where the Miranda rights warning do not technically apply. You may receive a request to voluntarily visit the police station to answer a few questions.

    You have a choice as to whether or not to comply with the request for questioning. If you do comply, the police officers will not read your Miranda rights and you may answer the questions they ask you. You do have the right to refuse or ignore a request for questioning, but the officers may choose to arrest you, depending on the nature of the case.

    During an Arrest, You Have the Right to Remain Silent

    Once a police officer places you under arrest, he or she must read you your Miranda rights. Under this series of rights, you have the right to remain silent and the right to hire an attorney. You cannot walk away from police officers, but you can refuse to answer any questions they have until your attorney comes to represent you.

    It is important to exercise your right to remain silent during an arrest. You do not want to accidentally say anything that the officers can misconstrue as evidence that you committed a crime. Tell the officers clearly that you do not want to answer any questions until you speak to your attorney.

    If the officers do not respect your Miranda rights, use the following statements to stop the questioning quickly and clearly. Repeat the statement until the officers stop questioning you.

    • “I refuse to answer any questions until my attorney is present.”
    • “I do not want to talk to you, I want to talk to my attorney.”
    • “I’m invoking my Miranda rights.”
    • “I will not speak to you until I call my attorney.”
    • “I am claiming the right to remain silent.”

    Remember, you have the right to refuse an interview by a police officer. If an officer tries to threaten or intimidate you into giving an interview, remember that you have the right to have an attorney present. Do not give in to the officer’s demands until you speak to your lawyer. He or she will help you leave the interview safely and remind the officer of your constitutional and legal rights. If you do not already have a criminal defense attorney, hire one as soon as possible.

  3. What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Washington?

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    Facing criminal charges, whether they are large or small, is a stressful situation. Depending on the severity of the charges and the circumstances of your case, you could face penalties such as jail time, fines, and mandatory probation. However, not all criminal charges carry the same types of punishments. Typically, felony charges are more serious and carry harsher sentences, while misdemeanors have lesser, but still serious, consequences. If you’ve been arrested, please contact our Tacoma criminal defense attorney for help understanding your charges.

    Misdemeanor Charges in Washington State

    Under Washington state law, misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felony crimes, and are usually a more common charge. Disorderly conduct, petty theft, and obstructing traffic are examples of common misdemeanor crimes. Municipal and district courts usually hear cases involving these charges.

    Typically, misdemeanor crimes carry the following penalties.

    • Fines up to $1,000 and/or
    • Imprisonment in county jail up to 90 days.

    Misdemeanor charges can upgrade to gross misdemeanor or even felony charges based on the severity of the crime. Gross misdemeanors include driving under the influence of alcohol drugs, driving in a reckless or dangerous manner, or driving with a suspended license. If you commit multiple misdemeanors in the past, you can receive a gross misdemeanor charge for what would normally be a misdemeanor.

    Gross misdemeanors usually carry higher, more severe punishments than your typical misdemeanor charge, but not as severe as felony charges.

    • Fines up to $5,000 and/or
    • Punishment up to 364 days in county jail.

    Felony Crimes

    Felony crimes are the most serious charges you can face in Washington state. They usually include violent and dangerous crimes, including rape, murder, and armed robbery. Crimes involving significantly high theft and damage also usually receive felony designations. Washington divides felonies into three categories: Class A, Class, B, and Class C.

    • Class C felonies are the least serious of the felony charges, but they still carry significant penalties. You can receive up to $10,000 in fines and/or 5 years in prison.
    • Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or fine sup to $20,000.
    • Class A felonies are the most serious felony charges you can receive. You can receive up to life in prison and/or a fine up to $50,000.

    The more severe, violent, or serious the crime is, the higher class of felony charge you will likely receive. Usually, Washington Superior Court hears crimes that carry felony punishment.

    In addition, receiving a felony charge has large implications for your life after prison. Aside from imprisonment and the high fines, you may see barriers to receiving future employment and advancing your career. You can also lose your right to vote and the ability to possess a firearm.

    What to Do After an Arrest in Washington

    The moments after an arrest can be confusing and disorienting. You may wonder what will happen in the future, and what steps you need to take to protect yourself. If you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, take these tips into consideration.

    • Comply with police officers. Do not resist arrest or attempt to escape. Doing so can lead to additional charges and a negative impact on the outcome of your case. Listen to the officer’s orders – you can always contact your attorney to assist you.
    • Adhere to your Miranda rights. Remember, you have the right to remain silent. Do not speak a police officer or investigator until your attorney is present.
    • As soon as you are able, call your lawyer to help you through your charges. If you do not already have an attorney, contact one as soon as possible. You will need an attorney to help you understand your legal options and safely speak to law enforcement officers, as well as prepare you for the courtoom.

    Whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor charge in Washington state, you may require guidance through the criminal justice system. Hire an attorney as soon as possible to assist with your case. Your lawyer will be able to review and investigate the case against you, build a compelling defense in your favor, and assist you with preparing for your court dates.

  4. What Should I Expect from a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer?

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    Facing criminal charges is a stressful and scary experience. You may not know what to expect or how you can counter these charges, and the criminal justice system can be confusing and complex. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side to guide you through these processes – but with so many attorneys on the market, how do you know if you are hiring an attorney who will work for you?

    There are certain services and qualities you should expect from a good criminal defense lawyer. If your potential attorney does not meet these base criteria, consider expanding your search.

    #1: Confidential, Consistent Communication

    When you hire a criminal defense attorney to represent your case, you want to ensure that he or she communicates well. You do not want to wonder what is happening with your case – your attorney should inform you of all important updates in your case and what you need to prepare for in the future.

    In addition, your attorney should keep all matters regarding your case confidential between the two of you. If you notice any lapses in communication when speaking to an attorney and you are unsure whether he or she will keep your case private, consider hiring another attorney.

    #2: Experience in Your Practice Area

    Not all criminal defense attorneys have the same level of experience or the same specialties. If you are looking for an attorney to represent your case, make sure that he or she has experience in the practice area you need defense in. You would not want to hire an attorney specializing in theft for a case involving drug possession, for example.

    The more experience your attorney has, the more skills he or she is likely to have to help defend your case. Your attorney will know important defense strategies and how to prepare you for different stages of the criminal justice system. If your attorney does not have enough experience or the right experience in your practice area, find another firm.

    #3: Skills to Evaluate Your Options

    You want an attorney who can honestly prepare you for what to expect next. Your attorney should have the ability to evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. In addition, he or she should have skills in negotiation and risk assessment. You want an attorney who can advocate for your best options and help you adequately prepare for the future. If your attorney seems unsure of your future or unskilled in negotiation and evaluation, hire another lawyer.

    #4: Creativity and Effectiveness

    You should expect that your attorney is able to come up with creative and effective defenses for your case, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. With a creative mind, he or she can help you reach an effective and proper resolution for your case through strong defenses. An attorney who seems disinterested or unable to come up with effective defenses for your case may not be the best option for you.

    #5: Good References and Reviews

    If you are unsure where to begin searching for a criminal defense attorney, consider asking your friends and family and reading online reviews. If a defense attorney performs at an effective level, he or she will have a reputation that matches his or her effectiveness. Speaking to previous clients can help you determine whether or not an attorney would be a good match for you.

    Online reviews can also be a good resource, but take these references with a grain of salt. While they can help you gather a general picture of the attorney, the people writing these reviews may have different circumstances from your case. Schedule a free consultation with the lawyer to determine whether he or she is a right fit.

    It is important to ensure your criminal defense attorney will work for you before you hire him or her. You do not want to take chances on hiring this lawyer – after all, your future is in his or her hands. Before you hire an attorney, vet him or her against this list of criteria. Once you find the right match, take the steps to hire – you will definitely need an attorney on your side for your trial.

  5. What Is Fourth-Degree Assault in Washington State?

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    Assaulting another person can take the form of many acts of violence, from throwing an object at someone to slapping him or her during an argument. However, the state of Washington does not all acts of criminal assault in the same way. Different degrees of assault carry different penalties, such as jail time, probation, and fines. Fourth-degree assault in Washington is the lowest assault charge you can receive, but it also carries significant consequences.

    Assault and Domestic Violence in Washington State

    Washington defines assault as an attempted battery on another person, which includes the unauthorized application of force or offensive touching of another person’s body. Assault charges often occur in domestic violence cases; domestic violence occurs when one family or household member threatens or commits violence against another family or household member.

    Washington categorizes assault charges by degree. First and second-degree assault charges are the most serious, while third and fourth-degree charges are less violent. Fourth-degree assault charges are some of the most common assault charges you can receive – often, if someone accuses you of domestic violence, you can receive a charge for fourth-degree assault as well.

    What Is Fourth-Degree Assault?

    Washington state law defines fourth-degree assault as an attempted battery on another person that causes contact that a reasonable person would find offensive. To receive a fourth-degree assault charge for domestic violence, the other person must be one of your family or household members.

    Despite the serious connotations of the word assault, injury does not have to occur to the victim for law enforcement officers to arrest you – all the victim has to do is claim to law enforcement that you touched them in an offensive manner.

    Potential Penalties for Fourth-Degree Assault

    Fourth-degree assault charges are gross misdemeanor, which is more severe than a regular misdemeanor. As a result, the penalties are much more severe than other misdemeanor crime – the state believes a fourth-degree assault charge shows a disregard for human life.

    With a fourth-degree assault charge, you could receive a punishment of up to 364 days in jail. In addition, you may also have to pay a hefty fine up to $5,000. You will lose the right to possess a firearm and the police officers may issue a no-contact order, prohibiting you from interacting with the victim.

    The Threshold for Fourth-Degree Assault Arrest

    It does not take much for police to arrest you on a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge. If the police arrive to the scene of the alleged assault and have reason to believe that unwanted touching occurred to the victim by you, the officers can place you under arrest. However, the assault must have occurred within the last four hours.

    Sometimes, the alleged victim will call the police for assault, even if no crime actually occurred. He or she may think that he or she could drop the charges in the future – but this is not the case. Once a domestic violence arrest is in progress, the alleged victim cannot drop the charges or dismiss the case. Only the prosecution has the power to drop the charges against you, even if the victim refuses to testify.

    Do You Need an Attorney for Fourth-Degree Assault Charges?

    The moments after an arrest for assault in Washington can be disorienting and scary. However, it is important that you remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement. Remember, do not speak to anyone until you speak to a defense attorney – and you are going to need an attorney for your case.

    If you are facing assault charges in Washington state, you need an attorney to guide you through the process and advocate for your best interests. Using the court-provided attorney or representing yourself can lower your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome. Before you speak to any investigator or prosecutor, contact a defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case.

  6. What Is the Penalty for Trespassing in Washington State?

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    We all have the right to feel safe and secure on our private property, whether it be our homes, businesses, or other pieces of land. Because of this right, Washington state frowns upon trespassing and can impose severe penalties if you find yourself on someone else’s property uninvited. Depending on the circumstances, trespassing penalties can include fines and jail time in Washington.

    Washington’s Definition of Trespassing

    Trespassing occurs if you are on someone else’s private property without his or her permission, as well as staying on someone’s property after he or she asks you to leave. You must knowingly or intentionally trespass to receive a criminal conviction – if you accidentally wander onto someone’s property, you will not typically face a criminal charge.

    Under Washington state law, there are two basic types of trespassing charges: criminal trespassing in the first degree and criminal trespassing in the second degree.

    • To receive a charge for criminal trespass in the first degree, you must knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a building. This crime is a gross misdemeanor.
    • To receive a charge for criminal trespass in the second degree, you must knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on someone else’s property. However, the circumstances surrounding your trespass do not qualify for a first-degree charge. This crime is a misdemeanor.

    Potential Penalties for Trespassing in Washington

    You could receive significant penalties for trespassing in Washington state. All trespassing charges are either misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, depending on the degree of the crime.

    • For a misdemeanor charge for trespass in the second degree, you could receive up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
    • For a gross misdemeanor charge for trespass in the first degree, you could face up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $5,000.

    For the state to convict you of these charges, the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an act of criminal trespass. There are several acceptable defenses to these charges, including the following.

    • The building was open to the public.
    • You reasonably believed you had a right to be on the premises.
    • The owners abandoned the building.
    • You were attempting to serve legal process to the person accusing you of trespassing. You can only use this defense if you entered a building that was open to the public and your entry into the building was necessary and reasonable.

    Hiring an attorney can help you determine if any of the above defenses can apply to your case. Your attorney will examine key pieces of evidence such as surveillance footage and property records. In addition, he or she will speak to witnesses, request expert testimony, and use his or her knowledge of Washington criminal law to help build a compelling case in your favor.

    What to Do If You Receive a Trespassing Charge

    If police officers are arresting you for trespassing in Washington state, remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement. Listen carefully to your Miranda rights and pay attention to what is happening at the scene – make note of why you were at the property and whether or not the owner gave you reason to believe that you belonged there.

    Do not speak to any investigators until after you contact a defense attorney. The prosecution could use what you say against you in a future hearing, leading to reduced chances for the best possible outcome. Speaking to your lawyer is crucial to ensuring that your case stays as strong as possible.

    Trespassing charges can be damaging to your freedom and your wallet – but having a defense attorney on your side can help you obtain the best possible outcome. While every case is different and you may not see the same results as others, your attorney could argue for a reduced sentence or even convince the court to drop the charges altogether. As soon as possible after your arrest, contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney to discuss your trespassing charges.

  7. What Happens If You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender in Washington?

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    Sex offenses, from child pornography to sexual assault, carry significant penalties in the state of Washington. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may have to spend time in prison, pay fines, and register as a sex offender for a period of time. Sex offender registration can feel shameful, but you must comply with this court order for as long as the state requires you to – failure to register as a sex offender can lead to severe consequences.

    Washington Sex Offender Registration Requirements

    The purpose of sex offender registration is to inform the public of anyone who could pose a threat to them or their children in their local area. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Registration Act is a federal law that requires all states, including Washington, to implement these databases.

    In Washington, if you have a conviction for a sex offense or the court found you not guilty by reason of insanity for a sex offense, you must register in the sex offender databases. Not all sex offense convictions are eligible for registrations, but most convictions do include this requirement.

    You have to register with the sheriff’s department of the county you are living in, employed in, or enrolled in school in. If you received the conviction outside of the state of Washington, you must also register when you move to Washington.

    Under state law, you have to register within a very quick timeframe. You only have three days from the day you move to Washington, the state releases you from prison, or when you receive your sentence. Failure to register on time could lead to additional legal issues as well, so it is important that you adhere to these deadlines.

    Penalties for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

    If you do not register as a sex offender within the three-day period, you could face additional penalties on top of your sex offense charge. Depending on the nature of your initial sex offense, you could receive a gross demeanor or felony charge. The state takes the nature of your sex offense into consideration when determining your punishment.

    • The first time you fail to register, you could face between 0 to 12 months in prison.
    • The second and subsequent times you fail to register can lead to prison sentences that last anywhere between 0 to 57 months.

    In addition, you must submit a DNA sample if you fail to register. You will not be able to participate in a Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative or a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative program.

    However, you may be able to participate in a community center alternative sentencing program for your first failure to register conviction. You may also be eligible for electronic house detention. You will lose eligibility for these programs for any subsequent failure to register offenses.

    How Long Will You Have to Register?

    Your conviction will dictate how long you need to register, along with whether or not you need to register at all. Common sex offenses that require registration include child molestation, rape, and sexual misconduct with a minor.

    While the length of time you have to register depends on your conviction, Washington does use these guidelines when determining your registration requirements.

    • If your offense is a Class A felony, a federal conviction, or an out-of-state conviction, you will have to register indefinitely.
    • If your offense is a Class B felony and you do not have any prior convictions, you have to register for fifteen years from your date of release.
    • If your offense is a Class C felony and you do not have any prior convictions, you have to register for ten years from your date of release.

    Registering as a sex offender in Washington can feel very shameful and embarrassing – especially if this data is public for everyone to see. However, it is important to follow your registration requirements and avoid additional criminal charges. If you have any questions about your registration or are facing a failure to register charge, contact your defense attorney as soon as possible.

  8. Domestic Violence Laws in Washington

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    Washington treats domestic violence, or violence against a family or household member, as a very serious crime. If you are facing domestic violence charges, you may experience a significant shift in your life after a conviction. Hiring an attorney to assist you with your case can help you receive the best possible outcome – but make sure that your attorney is familiar with the following state laws on domestic violence.

    What Does Domestic Violence Include?

    Contrary to the popular definition, domestic violence is not the same as intimate partner violence. Washington state law defines domestic violence as violence against a member of the same household or a family member by blood or marriage.

    That means law enforcement can arrest you for violence against a parent, child, or sibling, along with significant others. Domestic violence protections also extend to any adults living in your home, regardless of relation.

    There are five primary categories of abusive behaviors that a domestic violence charge can include.

    • Physical violence
    • Emotional abuse
    • Sexual assault
    • Economic control
    • Neglect

    Many different crimes can fall into these categories. Common charges include assault, manslaughter, rape and reckless endangerment. Some of the less common domestic violence crimes include cyberstalking, property damage, and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

    What Happens During a Domestic Violence Arrest?

    When a law enforcement officer responds to an incident of probable domestic violence, the law requires that he or she makes a mandatory arrest. Police officers do not need a warrant to make a domestic violence arrest with probably cause – but the alleged assault must have occurred within four hours.

    If multiple household members were assaulting each other, the officer will arrest the person he or she believes is the primary aggressor in the situation. The victim cannot request that the police drop the charges or stop the arrest. Only a prosecutor has the authority to dismiss the case – even if the victim doesn’t provide testimony.

    Potential Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges

    Criminal penalties for domestic violence vary based on the severity of the crime. All people convicted of a domestic violence crime must pay a special $100 fee. Depending on the charge, a domestic violence crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.

    • If you receive a misdemeanor conviction for a domestic violence charge, you could spend up to 90 days in jail and pay a fine up to $1,000.
    • If you receive a gross misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, you coule pay up to $5,000 in fines and spend up to one year in jail.
    • If you receive a felony conviction for a domestic violence charge, you could spend at least one year in jail or more.

    In addition, no person who receives a conviction for domestic violence assault cannot own a gun or have a permit for concealed carry in Washington. The police may order you to stay away from the alleged victim by issuing a protective or no-contact order – violation of these orders can lead to additional felony charges, fines, and jail time.

    What to Do After a Domestic Violence Arrest

    If law enforcement officers arrest you for domestic violence in Washington state, it is important not to fight back against the officers or to fight the alleged victim. Listen carefully to your Miranda rights during the arrest and remember to stay silent – anything you say could hurt your case in the future.

    Do not speak to any investigator or officer until you contact a domestic violence defense attorney. After the officers release you from holding, do not attempt to contact the alleged victim – this could be a violation of a protective or no-contact order, which can lead to additional penalties.

    If you are facing charges for domestic violence in Washington, stay calm and cooperate with law enforcement and contact an attorney as soon as you can. Your attorney will listen to your side of the story, gather evidence and testimony, and help prepare you for the courtroom.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.