Washington Criminal Defense Lawyers
For many people, getting arrested and charged with a crime are the most nerve-wracking moments of their life. The potential for a conviction and the fines and jail time that come with being arrested can be scary. By talking to a Washington criminal defense lawyer at The Curtis Firm, you can begin the process of defending your rights and future against this groundless criminal accusation and proving your innocence. The stakes are high for even minor offenses, and the long-term consequences of having a conviction on your criminal background can be difficult to overcome.
Our expert criminal defense lawyers are ready to defend you against the following allegations:
Felony Criminal Resources:
- DRUG POSSESSION
- DRUG SALES
- POSSESSION OF A FIREARM
- SEX CRIMES
- JUVENILE JUSTICE
- MURDER (HOMICIDE)
- IDENTITY THEFT
Contact us today so we can strategize about your case!
Overview of the Criminal Process
Being arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Washington can feel very scary. The natural feeling for most who have to face this process is one of trepidation as they go into the unknown.
But you should not feel that way. All criminal cases in Washington, from a simple traffic ticket to the most serious felonies, are regulated by strict laws and procedures. These laws are mandated by the US Constitution, as well as federal and state law, and they are meant to protect your rights as you navigate through the criminal trial process.
If you were arrested or charged with DUI, Domestic Violence or any kind of criminal offense in Washington, you should know what to expect and how your rights are protected.
In this article, the criminal defense attorneys at The Curtis Firm, LLC explain what the criminal trial process entails and the rights you can expect to enjoy.
(1) Initial Contact
The criminal process begins with first contact with the police. Usually, this contact will come at the stage when the police are still investigating an offense. Don't be fooled by the seemingly preliminary nature of their questions though. If the police are investigating you, they may already have information that may be damaging to you.
You should know that you have rights at this stage. You don't have to speak to a police officer if you don't want to. Under the 5th Amendment of the US constitution, you have a right against self-incrimination. This means you do not have to say anything when the police come to your house or place of work saying they have questions.
Another right you are entitled to is to refuse to consent to any search of your home or property without a valid search warrant. You have a right to see the warrant before it is executed.
(2) Dealing with Arrest
If the police decide to make an arrest, it is important to remain calm. Usually law enforcement are required to have probable cause before making an arrest. Resisting may only complicate things for you.
Instead, comply (Comply Now, Fight Later) with the arresting officer and keep in mind that you have rights--most importantly, Miranda rights, which entitle you to
- Be informed about the reason for your arrest. If there is an arrest warrant, you have a right to request for and be shown the warrant.
- Be informed of your right to remain silent. The police should also caution you that should you choose to say anything, it may be used against you.
- Be informed of your right to consultation with a criminal defense attorney of your choice.
(3) Booking in Jail
After arrest, you may be held in detention. Again, do not panic if you are at this stage. It is important to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately, if you have not spoken to one already.
You are ordinarily entitled to make a call either to your attorney or, if you already have one, to your loved ones. Watch what you say though and absolutely do not discuss the case over the phone. ALL CALLS ARE RECORDED! If you have to speak with your attorney, he or she can visit you and assist your family in securing bail.
You have a right to speedy trial, and as a result, the police cannot hold you beyond 48 hours without either setting bail or filing a formal charge against you. If they fail to do this within the allowed time limits, they may have to release you from custody.
The charge is essentially a statement of the offense you are alleged to have committed and the decision of the state to prosecute.
The arraignment process - Plead not guilty!
Once the charges have been filed against you, the court must hold a hearing, called an arraignment. The purpose of arraignment is to formally notify you of the charge against you and ask “how do you plead--Guilty or Not Guilty.” This is called “taking your plea”.
As a general rule, you should plead not guilty. This means you deny the charge against you and call the prosecution to prove that you committed the offense you are accused of.
There are several other options available to you though. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to help you negotiate a plea bargain where you admit to a lesser offense or provide relevant information in consideration of a lesser charge or sentence.
(5) Pretrial Hearings
There may be several pretrial hearings by the court and conferences between your attorney and the prosecutor. The purpose of these hearings is to address matters such as scheduling or to monitor the progress of plea negotiations. The pretrial hearings may also be held to address issues relating to access to witnesses, or evidence during this stage.
There will also be what is referred to as “discovery” at this stage. Your attorney will move to obtain all relevant information and evidence that the prosecution wishes to use against you. They cannot refuse to do this as you have a right to be given time and facilities to prepare your defense. This includes all the evidence that the prosecution has on you.
(6) Motion Hearings
When your criminal defense attorney evaluates all the evidence against you, they will determine which ones were illegally collected and move to suppress these. Your attorney will do this by filing “motions” before the court to suppress evidence or limit oral testimony.
For instance, if your house or property was searched without consent or existence of a valid warrant, it may be grounds for your attorney to file a motion to suppress evidence. It is crucial that you tell your attorney everything about your arrest and any investigation that you were aware of. This will help them determine which evidence to challenge.
A skilled criminal defense attorney can get the charge against you reduced or entirely dismissed at this stage.
(7) Omnibus hearing
The next stage is what is often referred to as the “readiness hearing”. The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to resolve all lingering pretrial issues including motions, review discovery and other matters.
The hearing will typically take place between a few weeks to a few days before the scheduled date for trial.
Trial may either be a jury trial or bench trial. In a jury trial, the evidence and facts constituting the alleged offense will be presented to a jury who will determine your guilt or innocence. But in a bench trial, the whole determination is left to a judge.
While you are entitled to a jury trial, you may elect to waive that right and opt for a bench trial instead. But it is crucial that you discuss with your attorney before deciding either way.
A jury trial will involve jury selection (also called voir dire), opening statements, examination of witnesses, jury instructions, closing arguments and verdict. For a bench trial, there will only be examination of witnesses, closing arguments and verdict.
If you are found not guilty by the judge or the jury, you will be discharged and acquitted. This means you are allowed to go and no officer or agency can arrest or charge you with the same offense ever again. But if you are found guilty, the judge will sentence you to a punishment determined under the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.
The last stage in the process is the appeals process. If the case turns out unfavorable for you, your criminal defense attorney can help you fight the verdict on appeal. They can point to errors or legal reasons why the conviction was wrong and should be turned around. You will typically have a limited period within which to appeal, usually 30 days.
While the whole process seems quick and straightforward, it can be very complicated and will often take a while. To be certain that you have the best possible chances of a positive outcome, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right from the start.
We can Help. Call Today!
Washington criminal defense lawyer James Curtis defends all clients charged with all state and federal criminal charges. James will work tirelessly to ensure a just case results and availability to his clients. Free, initial consultations are available by calling (253) 327-1063. Attorney Curtis provides quality and experienced criminal defense for residents in Seattle and Tacoma and all counties within those territories, including:
- Des Moines
- Federal Way
- Bonney Lake
Call Our Washington Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you have been accused of a crime in Washington, you need a strong legal defense team to ensure your rights are protected and your future is secured. The stakes are high, so retaining the best criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges can be the best investment you can make in your future. Contact us online or call The Curtis Firm to get started on your case.