Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

The calls and emails have been steady since the Keller decision last week. The common theme is “I heard DUI cases are getting thrown out.” Nope. Nada. Not the case.

 

Again, the Keller decision has to do with admissibility of BAC results. Judge Jahns’ decision means that the BAC results (in Kitsap County) will not be admissible as evidence in a DUI trial.

 

This means, there must be a BAC result in your case for the Keller decision to be relevant.

 

Additionally, the BAC is only ONE piece of evidence the Prosecutor will present (or not) to a jury during a trial. If the BAC is not admissible, it weakens the Prosecutor’s case but it does not mean the case is “tossed out.” The prosecutor will use other evidence to establish that you were impaired.

 

Many out of state drivers or people who are unfamiliar with the fact that Washington is an implied consent state refuse to blow into the BAC machine when arrested for DUI. As an implied consent state, you agree, by driving on Washington roads, that you will submit to the BAC (this is different than blowing at the roadside test) if being investigated for DUI. If you refuse, you will face harsher penalties, the DOL suspension is longer, and the Prosecutor is allowed to argue inferences from your refusal.

 

So, for those who refused the breathalyzer in either their pending case or past case, the Keller decision has no impact for you. There is no BAC that is relevant to your case.

 

Finally, if you have a pending case or a past case with another attorney, you must contact that attorney to discuss your concerns. It is not appropriate for lawyers to comment on another criminal defense case because EVERY fact is relevant and, without reviewing the discovery provided by the prosecutor, it is inappropriate to offer advice or speculate on a pending or past case.

We are trying to respond to our current clients but we know there is a lot of interest in how the recent Keller decision will impact DUI cases in Kitsap County.

While the decision impacts admissibility of breathalyzer evidence, that does not mean it will impact ALL cases. Prosecuting DUI cases in the State of Washington does not require a BAC result. In fact, many cases are prosecuted under the "affected by" prong.

If you have an attorney on your pending case, you should reach out to him or her regarding your specific case. If the Keller ruling will have any impact on your case, it will be a fact-specific analysis to determine whether the State has ONLY the BAC result as evidence of your DUI.

Do not take advice from non-lawyers or any lawyer who is not an experienced LOCAL criminal defense attorney. You can make a bad situation a lot worse if you make assumptions about the recent District Court ruling.

Appear for ALL court dates and do not assume your case is being "thrown out" or dismissed. Additionally, do not forget that you also have potential DOL issues that can suspend your license.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K172VuhuUUU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq86oC-45iY

While the word “trial” is in this procedure, it is quite a simple and quick process. There are no witnesses, opening statements, closings, or even a jury. It is a hearing that occurs after the defendant has been Arraigned (see Arraignment in our blog). If your attorney is going to request a future date for a pre-trial, your attorney will discuss with you the need to sign a Speedy Trial Waiver.

 

In most counties and cities in Washington, the pre-trial hearing is set approximately one month following the Arraignment. There can be one or many pre-trial hearings depending on the nature of the case and how negotiations are proceeding between the prosecutor and defense attorney.

 

What happens at a pre-trial?

 

During your pre-trial hearing, a case is either resolved, continued, set for motions, or set for trial. If you are pleading guilty, entering a diversion contract, or entering a deferred prosecution (or some other alternative resolution), you are “resolving” the case.

 

If your defense attorney is still working on your case by way of negotiation or gathering information, she will request a continuance and another pre-trial date will be set a month or so out.

 

If the prosecutor and defense attorney are in dispute as to whether certain evidence should be admitted or have some issue that requires a legal argument, the defense attorney will request a date to argue Motions.

 

If the prosecutor and defense attorney are no longer working toward an alternative resolution, dismissal, or other negotiation, the defense attorney will request a date be set for trial. Once that happens, the case is set for trial and the attorneys must be prepared to go to trial on that date. 

 

If you have a case in Kitsap County or surrounding cities and have yet to be Arraigned or are facing your first Pre-Trial, give our office a call to learn how we can help. 360-792-1000.

 

We frequently receive calls from potential new clients who want confirmation that their case is going to be dismissed. Obviously, everyone wants to beat a criminal charge and the stress or fear of potential jail time to go away. While immediate dismissals do happen in approximately 1% of cases, the reason is usually not what you think—and it is almost never due to failed Miranda warnings.

 

One of the most common assertions from a potential client is that the case is a “slam dunk” because the cop didn’t Mirandize the person. Unfortunately, we have to break it to many folks that it is far from a slam dunk. In fact, despite what people see on TV, not being mirandized can have zero impact on a case. The reason for this is timing.

 

So, when do Miranda warnings apply?

 

If an officer is in the process of investigating a crime, there is no reason for the Miranda warnings. Miranda only comes into play when a defendant is arrested.

 

What are the required warnings? First, you have the right to remain silent. Second, you have the right to consult with an attorney before or during questioning and to have one appointed if you can’t afford one. (You don’t have the right to an attorney at the time of arrest…just prior to being questioned.) Third, you have the right to have an attorney present during the questioning.

 

As noted, these rights come into play when the officer realizes an investigation has produced enough facts to meet probable cause and warrant an arrest of a specific person for the crime. If that person had been talking before enough facts have been gathered to support probable cause, the officer was not required to give Miranda warnings.

 

What is the remedy if the officer fails to read Miranda rights?

 

If the officer arrests you but does not ask you any questions and then fails to Mirandize you, that is also not reason for a dismissal. The remedy for failing to Mirandize or violating the Miranda rule is simply to suppress the statements made after the Miranda warnings should have been provided. So, if you said nothing after Miranda warnings should have been read, there is no remedy. The case proceeds as normal.

 

Additionally, if you were properly Mirandized but you were not clear that you wanted to consult with a lawyer, any statements made following the Miranda warnings will likely not be suppressed. For example, people often want to “hedge their bets” and see if they’re friendly to law enforcement and share some facts, it might convince the officer to release them. This is not a good strategy but one that many people use. The defendant continues talking after Miranda warnings were read and throws out statements like “maybe I should talk to a lawyer” or “how can this be happening when I wasn’t the one with the _____.” The defendant continues to talk and the officer will happily let you. S/he is not required to keep alerting you to your rights—once is enough.

 

How do you properly invoke Miranda rights?

 

To properly assert your rights, you must unequivocally state, “I want a lawyer before I say anything further.” YOU must be clear. It is not the burden of the officer to clarify. If you talk, they will write it down. And, even if you claimed “I want a lawyer” but kept talking to the officer, you have waived the right.

 

So, if you were not Mirandized, it might mean some statements are suppressed and it might also mean nothing for your case. Going forward, if you are ever arrested, realize that you must assert your interest in those rights by claiming you want to speak with a lawyer AND stop talking after you make that assertion.

 

 Everything in this blog is basic and simplified. There is a great deal of case law reviewing Miranda and how those rights are applied. There is no "one size" fit for Miranda so it is pointless to ask friends or do countless internet searches. If you think you have a Miranda issue, the only way to know your remedy or how will impact your case is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney where you were charged with a crime who can review your discovery. Attorneys are licensed by each individual state and can only provide advise in the state where they are licensed. If you were charged with a misdemeanor in Kitsap County or one of the surrounding cities, please reach out to one of our attorneys if you have a Miranda concern.

 

This blog is written for those of you who did not know about Washington’s mandatory arrest rule and, now, very much regret calling law enforcement on your partner. Most likely, your life is a mess right now. Your partner’s life is pretty bad, too. Perhaps you have children and now just one of you is in charge of everything—kids, pets, school projects, paying the bills, fixing cars, and the list goes on. The other partner misses those kids, has to find alternative housing or live in their car, and likely has some pretty significant financial consequences due to that call to law enforcement. Life is really bad. But, guess what? If you are the person who was not arrested and you’re trying to coordinate everything via texts and third party messages, you are making a bad situation worse. In fact, you are going to make it much worse for your partner and yourself. So, stop. 

Why the increase in Assault charges?

 

We have had a record number of assault cases over the last two years. There is no doubt that a lockdown did not help otherwise happy couples get more bonded. It drove everyone crazy. We have had couples in happy 40+ year marriages to madly in love newlyweds—all caught up in dumb spats that resulted in an arrest. To understand why, you should read our blog on Washington’s mandatory arrest law but also know that just about anything in an argument can amount to an assault—including pouring a coke or glass of wine on someone’s head. Trust us, the prosecutor will charge you with a crime and one that impacts your livelihood, travel, family, gun rights, and so much more. So really take that to heart before you call the police to “settle the disagreement.” Community policing, where officers come to simmer down hot heads and ask if someone has another place to stay, does not exist anymore. So, really think about that before you call. 

Why the behavior of the alleged victim matters

 

Even if you do not believe you are “victim” in the situation where your partner or family member is arrested, law enforcement and the courts do. For this reason, the victim can cause additional problems for your partner or loved one if she attempts to communicate. The term “communicate” covers a very broad methods of communication and includes using others to convey messages.

 

Basically, the person accused of assault can not say or do anything that would purport to translate to a message to the alleged victim. Even using the “like” button on Facebook on the victim’s post is a communication. Asking others to tell the victim “I’m sorry” is a communication. But, the most common problem we see is that the victim wants to reach out to the defendant to make sure everything is okay after being arrested. The defendant cannot reply so the victim starts texting and calling more. Then, the victim has other people reach out. Eventually, the defendant responds just to allay the victim’s concerns. This will get the defendant in much worse trouble because he has now violated a court order.

 

So, if you care about the person who was arrested, do not attempt to reach this person until the No Contact Order has been rescinded! This may take months but you are only causing more stress and trouble if you force the defendant to respond to you through incessant texts, calls, or threats. 

This blog does not apply to those who face fear, control, violence, or physical harm

 

If you are in a violent, controlling, or dangerous relationship, you are the person the mandatory arrest law was written for and you need it. This blog is not about you. If you need help, that call to 911 is your lifeline and you should take it. You should also seek help from YWCA to get a safety plan so you know how to safely leave and have a place to go. 

For those who do not consider themselves a victim, you have no control to “drop charges”

 

As stated before, we are seeing a massive increase in assault charges and the scenarios are fairly similar—couples who have cohabitated for years or even decades without any trouble. They were simply ill-informed on what role law enforcement plays in resolving family disputes. And, unfortunately, by the time we are involved, the “victim” in our case hates the police and is furious that law enforcement took over absolute control of their life. The person called 911 without realizing that law enforcement has almost no discretion and someone is likely going to jail. So, understand the control is in your hands until you dial 911. Don’t do it casually. Don’t do spitefully. Don’t do it without the knowledge that you can not “unring” that call. The victim does not “drop charges” nor have control over the No Contact Order. You are in the system and it is a long road to travel for everyone—including the person labeled “victim.” 

The difference between a public defender and private attorney

 

For those with a public defender, you are probably looking at minimum of 4 months apart but probably more like 6 months of a No Contact Order (lots of time to potentially violate it and get charged with another more serious crime). The reason it takes longer is simply the time it takes to be assigned a PD, set the appointment with your lawyer, and actually speak with your lawyer regarding facts and strategy. Often, three months will pass and the defendant won’t even have a list of tasks from the lawyer that might help get the No Contact Order rescinded. That’s where those with a PD get derailed—you will be discussing plea offers or possibly going to trial for weeks or months, which will be quite tempting since you think it will “wrap up the case.” Unfortunately, the defendant completely misses the point that the No Contact Order will still be in place for months and the government still has control over your family’s lives.

 

So, if you have a family and want to return to them, you need a different strategy. You are not simply fighting the underlying charge but you have a major battle with the No Contact Order, which becomes the real risk to your well-being as well as your family. Therefore, Assault 4 with the domestic violence tag is one of those criminal charges where it is imperative you seek experienced private counsel.

 

A private defense lawyer can’t work magic and make it all go away instantly but those cases have very critical timelines that can impact how long you will be away from your partner and children. Private defense attorneys will have strategies that address all aspects of the case and, while the attorney cannot convey messages between the defendant and victim, she can usually explain the criminal process so the victim understands why the defendant cannot reply to phone calls or text messages. 

Be proactive and do the tasks assigned by your attorney

 

If you hire private counsel, you should have a “to do” list of tasks within the first week of representation. Make that list your number one priority. You will likely need a DV assessment and those agencies are booked months out. But, that No Contact Order won’t be lifted without it so get busy calling!

 

We had a client find an appointment within a week but it was 200 miles away. You do what you have to do! It was a terrible agency that assesses whether you are likely to re-offend and also provides treatment. Not surprisingly, the agencies with dual functions often recommend lots of costly treatment. Unfortunately, it’s one of the hoops you have to jump through. This is the reason we tell clients to get scheduled in multiple places and on cancelation lists—to get into an agency that has a good reputation at the first chance possible. 

The role the victim plays in the No Contact Order

 

Navigating assault charges where the defendant and victim do not agree with the police narrative, do not have a history of control or violence, have a long history of a healthy relationship, and have no interest in being separated, are going to have a tough time with this process. On occasion, the “victim” makes it much worse by repeatedly contacting the defendant because she needs help with the kids or cars. Do not do this.

 

You are playing with fire if you push the issue of communication during a No Contact Order. An additional criminal charge will make the process much longer, more costly, and create a greater likelihood that the two of you are not getting back together. So, while you may not have intended to have your partner arrested, you must respect the process and the court’s rulings. Do not tempt your partner into replying to your texts. Realize you are on your own for at least a month or more. Find help for the kids or the pets and sit tight while the attorney tries to put the No Contact Order behind you. 

Call a local defense attorney

 

Wherever you are located, get a local experienced defense attorney to help. The cost of hiring private counsel will be a savings compared to dragging out the cost of a No Contact Order on your family. Do not seek counsel outside your state or local area because it means nothing for your case. For example, the mandatory arrest rule in Washington State does not apply in other states. You must call a lawyer in your area to get proper counsel and you need to do that as early as possible in your case.

 

If you have a criminal defense matter in western Washington and would like representation, please contact our office at (360) 792-1000. We assist with criminal charges in Thurston, Pierce, Jefferson, and Kitsap counties. If we can’t help you, we may have a referral option for you. We do not handle any matters outside of Washington state and do not have referral options for out of state. If your issue is not in Washington, you should search for a criminal defense attorney in your geographical location.

As we watch juries around the country come up with varied verdicts relating to self-defense, we thought it would be a good time to give our two cents when it comes to the basics in Washington. As required, we must remind everyone that this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as advice when handling actual issues of conflict and self-defense. 

If self-defense is allowed under the law, why do juries convict people defending themselves?

 

One of the biggest reasons you see such varied verdicts when it comes to defendants claiming self-defense is that, while self-defense is spelled out in statute and case law, it is actually quite subjective in reality. More often than not, you will rarely find 12 jurors who will instantly agree that a defendant acted in self-defense. While the state has the burden to prove the elements of the crime charged, the defense attorney also has quite a significant burden to establish self-defense. And, even if the defense attorney meets this burden such that the burden shifts back to the prosecution to prove the absence of self-defense, it does not mean a jury will agree that the defendant truly met the burden. Juries just don’t always agree with the defendant’s version of events or who was the first aggressor. 

How do I know whether I can use force for self-defense?

 

Washington law allows for use of force in certain circumstances. The RCW 9A.16.020 provides the basic outline of when an individual is allowed use of force, which boils down to self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property. However, there must be an additional analysis as to the amount of force and whether it is reasonable given the circumstances. There are additional RCWs and case law that address both non-deadly force as well as deadly force.

 

While Washington law does not impose a duty to retreat, it is important to know that the person asserting self-defense cannot use more force than necessary. For example, if you are in an argument with your neighbor and he pulls apples from the tree in his yard and throws them across the fence in your direction, you may not pull out a gun and shoot the neighbor. You don’t have to retreat but turning a hose on the neighbor is a more appropriate “amount of force” in response to the apple throwing. Better yet, go inside and call the police so that your neighbor will be charged with assault and a no contact order will be put in place. That solves any further un-neighborly interactions. 

What if I think the neighbor is actually going to cause serious harm?

 

Again, this requires an analysis of your risk and whether there is an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. If your neighbor came to your driveway with a baseball bat and smashed out your vehicle’s headlights, you should not go to the driveway and shoot the neighbor because that is not a reasonable amount of force. While a bat can be used as a deadly weapon and might justify deadly force in response, in the scenario where the bat is simply used to destroy minimal property, you would not be justified in shooting the neighbor based on the statute and case law regarding use of deadly force. However, if the neighbor then starts walking toward you and threatening “I’m going to do the same thing to your head,” it’s much more reasonable that your use of deadly force meets the standard of what a reasonably prudent person would find necessary in that circumstance. 

The costs of asserting self-defense

 

While it is better to be asserting self-defense in a criminal trial than be six feet under, if you are being prosecuted for your choice to defend yourself with deadly force, you will face many life-altering costs. The biggest problem is the “gray area” in analyzing self-defense and the uncertainty of juries.

 

To go to trial, you are likely looking at tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. If you can’t afford bail, you may spend months in jail while you prepare for trial. Depending on your employment, you may lose your job while you wait for your day in court. Additionally, the emotional cost to your spouse and family are immeasurable and the stress of uncertainty is overwhelming. If you are lucky enough to prevail, you can seek reimbursement for legal costs but the damage to your life is truly irreparable. While you may have every “right” to defend yourself, that defense may come at a hefty price.

 

Honestly, it may be a safer choice to be a victim of property crime or potential minimal bodily harm, such as shoving or being punched, rather than face potential criminal charges for firing a weapon at an aggressor. Obviously, it is hard to know in every situation what risk you truly face but it’s important to keep a clear head if you think a situation is escalating to need for a weapon. Is there a way to avoid that confrontation or reduce your chance for serious bodily injury or death such that self-defense is unnecessary?

 

For example, if you notice that someone has entered your attached garage, you could call 911 and make sure your deadbolt to the home is secure. Rather than open the door to the garage and confront the person, you may want to wait for the intruder to initiate entry into your residential space. Clearly, waiting to avoid confrontation would appear to a jury that you met the “reasonably prudent person” standard—even if many of us would rather not wait for that possibility. Unfortunately, depending where you live, if you enter the garage to shoot the intruder, you may risk a criminal charge. While a legal analysis would suggest you are perfectly justified under the Castle Doctrine, in our experience, it does not prevent an overzealous prosecutor from charging you and creating absolute hell in your life. So, for those who own firearms, you must know precisely when you can use deadly force without risk of prosecution. 

Can I always use deadly force to defend myself inside my home?

 

In theory, yes. In reality, no. Regardless of the Castle Doctrine, every use of deadly force must be considered under the analysis of reasonableness and imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. Deadly force may only be used in self-defense if the defendant reasonably believes he or she is threatened with death or great personal injury. State v. Walden, 131 Wn.2d 469 (1997).

 

For example, if you find an intruder in your home and you can see he is not armed and, upon seeing you, attempts to flee the home, you should not shoot the person in the back as he is leaving. Perhaps you were so scared that you didn’t realize the intruder was fleeing and thought he would grab a knife in the kitchen. Unfortunately, when the police arrive to find a deceased person with a bullet in his back, you better hope that your story meets the subjective and objective standard regarding self-defense.

 

Remember, to use a firearm in defense of yourself or in your home, make sure that you are facing “imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm.” There may be reasons that you subjectively believed those risks existed but you must make sure that it is also reasonable from an objective standpoint. This means that the jury doesn’t just consider what you thought was happening in that moment but what a reasonably prudent person would choose to do in the same circumstance. Those two standards do not always match and your reality may not be enough to successfully assert justifiable homicide as a defense. 

What if I am unsure where and when I can discharge my firearm due to a perceived threat?

 

If you are unsure when and where you can discharge a firearm in your defense, you need to really think about whether you should carry one. While it might make sense to keep it safely secured in your home for defense, which has more well-established case law in the homeowner’s favor, the “gray area” is significant when it comes to situations outside your “castle.” If you plan to carry a firearm on your person, do a deep dive into your obligations as a gun owner. When it comes to firearms, there is a lot of discussion regarding rights and less information regarding obligations for safe use. Do not put yourself in a situation where you are the defendant because you mistakenly discharged your gun in response to a threat. 

If the law is on my side, why should I be concerned about defending myself by use of force?

 

Obviously, the best option is to avoid conflict entirely so that you don’t find yourself justifying your reaction. It’s easy enough to blog about all the “rights” you have when it comes to self-defense but the truth is, if you have to spell that out to a jury, you are potentially facing serious risks to your freedom, your career, and devastation of your finances. If the prosecutor charged you with a crime, the state does not agree with your story. You have to wonder whether you can get 12 other people to see it your way. If you don’t like risk, being faced with trial as your only option will be life-altering regardless of the verdict. So, while there is no duty to retreat in Washington, it is certainly part of the equation if you are “selling” your story to a jury. Did you do everything you could to deescalate the situation? Do you seem the most reasonable? Do you seem like the first aggressor? All of these factors should be considered before you assume a right to use force—deadly or not. 

What if I carry a firearm because I am frequently in dangerous confrontations?

 

If you are frequently in confrontations or in relationships with volatile people, the common denominator is you. Thankfully, you can change your surroundings and your friends to avoid a lot of trouble. And, if you are a reactive person or someone prone to conflict, we can not emphasize enough that you will save yourself a lifetime of heartache by making the effort now to change your instinctive responses. Do not risk facing criminal charges and the need to convince a jury to see it your way. Even if the law is on your side, there are never any guarantees.

 

If you would like to know more about self-defense and law regarding use of deadly force, please return to this blog in the future. We are reaching out to other legal service providers and firearm safety experts to find information and possible free trainings offered. With such serious consequences at stake, be sure to keep informed.

 

If you need additional information, legal help, or a referral, please reach out to our office at (360) 792-1000.

For More Information On Self-Defense, Watch Our Video Below! 

 

Finding a lawyer can be very intimidating. First, you have a legal issue and that is, by itself, stressful. Second, it can take some research to know what area of law is best suited to your issue. Third, once you know the area of law that pertains to your case, you still have to find the person who can help. That can all be a lot of work! Hopefully, this blog can help you in that journey. 

How Do I Know What Area Of Law Pertains To My Issue?

 

Before you start calling around to random law offices, try to break down the primary issue in your case. For example, if you are frustrated about the amount of child support you receive, you can narrow that down to a divorce or family matter so it’s likely a family law attorney can help or point you in the right direction. Sometimes, it isn’t that easy.

 

You may need to narrow down a few critical facts about your case so you can start on your initial search. Suppose you have received notice that a Protection or Restraining Order has been filed against you and there is a court date set. Clearly, you may want to appear at that hearing and need legal representation to help. However, if you call our office for help, that would be a mistake. We don’t handle civil issues like protection or restraining orders. However, if you mention a No Contact Order, this is right up our alley. So, the precise words you use when calling can make a big difference as to whether the receptionist tells you to “keep calling around.” So, don’t use legal terms unless you know exactly what is involved in your matter. 

Why Do Legal Terms Matter So Much When I Call For Help

 

Legal words are terms of art that help lawyers and their staff decide quickly whether they can get off the phone and back to work. If you call and say, “I want a divorce,” my legal assistant knows to give you a good referral and get off the phone. Why? Well, first, she can’t give any legal advice and, second, we have nothing to offer as far as family law advice. We would be wasting your time and ours to sit on the phone.

 

So, when you use legal terms, be very careful you are either reading it directly from a legal document or know very clearly what that term means. Protection, Restraining, and No Contact Orders are perfect examples of misinformation that leads to getting the wrong referral or getting no help. You need to explain things like, “my neighbor is seeking a restraining order” (not domestic relationship) or “my ex-boyfriend is seeking a protection order” (domestic relationship) because if you said “after I pulled a gun on my spouse and the cops came, she is seeking a protection order,” you would be misrepresenting the facts and your issue. Since we do criminal defense, we would realize quickly that you are confused about what is heading your way—a criminal charge and a No Contact Order (although a Protection Order could be filed simultaneously in a civil matter such as in your family law case).

 

Just remember that facts and precise language really matter when you are trying to help the lawyer or staff determine if they can help. If you don’t know the exact terminology do your best to very simply describe the situation. Do not present your version of events. Stick to the facts. If you are fighting with your neighbor over property boundaries, don’t start with all the “trespassing” you think he is doing. That’s a lot like calling the bank because you have overdrawn your account but you start the conversation with a list of all the items you purchased that month that caused your overdraft. It is neither relevant nor helpful to anyone. You are likely to be put “on hold”…for eternity. 

What NOT To Do When You Call A Law Firm

 

1.  Don’t start with “I have a great case for you!” Sorry but that is the well-established sign in all law firms that you need to get off the call.


2.  Don’t be short or rude with staff. Use some basic phone etiquette. Surprisingly, people often start a call with “get me your lawyer on the phone!” If you are a normal human, you can imagine that does not go over very well. Also, arguing with the legal assistant about whether the firm can help (or even wants your case) is also not helpful. Be polite. Be patient. Law firms are stressful work environments and you are less likely to get help or a good referral if you add to the stress level.


3.  Don’t ramble. Know when to stop talking. If the lawyer says, “we don’t handle those types of cases,” accept it. Experienced lawyers are well aware of the areas of practice they want and what type of cases they want. However, lawyers aren’t always the best at telling you why they don’t want your case but it’s most likely because they are not the best fit and you should trust that. So, if you are lucky enough to be patched through to a lawyer (that is not likely), LISTEN. If the lawyer takes a call that does not pertain to her or his area of practice but wants to give a bit of advice, you should take notes. Don’t expect this but, if it happens, let the person shed some light on your issue or who is the best lawyer for your case.

4.  Don’t waste time trying to garner sympathy. There is nothing worse than a person looking for a divorce attorney or referral but spends 5 minutes telling you every awful thing about some guy you don’t know, won’t meet, and don’t care about. Remember, even if you are emotional and need to vent, you aren’t hiring a friend or counselor. You need to know if the person answering the phone call is the person who can solve a very specific legal problem. Going on and on about personal problems will not work in your favor.


5.  Don’t ask for advice outside of the lawyer’s expertise. If the lawyer says “I don’t know or I can’t help with that issue,” he or she can’t help. I wouldn’t ask my pediatrician to weigh in on whether I might need open heart surgery. It would be pointless to ask and probably dangerous for me to count on anything the pediatrician had to offer. If your tax attorney weighs in on your DUI case, I hope you like jail. While lawyers are supposed to know “generally” all areas of law, that means very little. So don’t call our firm and ask for tax advice or input on the federal tax code unless you’re looking forward to an audit. Experienced lawyers “stay in their lane.” (and jurisdiction!) FYI, lawyers can not talk about any legal issue in any state where they are not licensed.


6.  Don’t talk philosophy or theories. Often, before a person can ask whether the law firm handles their type of issue, he or she will get into how the legal issue is ruining their life or how the laws are unfairly imposed. Since law firms are stressful and run on deadlines, rambling on about the need for legal reform is not likely to be well received by staff. And, for the record, most courts and prosecutors really don’t care whether the case will bankrupt you, cause a divorce, and cause you to lose your job and be unable to pay for your children. If you want to have a chance to fight against all that you’re losing—whether it’s medical costs in an auto accident or loss of job and family in a criminal case—you need to focus on getting legal help and not legal reform. Stay focused in asking questions as to whether a certain firm or attorney is a good fit to represent you in your legal issue.


7.  Don’t talk about “how easy this case is” or that the lawyer should do it for free because a monkey could do it. I’m not sure how that is supposed to be convincing but you would be surprised how many people try this tactic. I’m waiting to see the monkey who can handle our cases and has such little overhead she can do it for free. If you can’t afford a lawyer, let the person answering the call know that right away because most receptionists or lawyers appreciate the honesty up front. If they know anyone who can take a pro bono case, you’re far more likely to get that referral from honesty rather than indicating the primate species could handle the issue. 

Be Patient In Finding The Right Person For The Job

 

Finally, don’t expect to find the right person for the job in one phone call. The practice of law is tough and competitive. It’s also very stressful. If the person on the other end seems a little frustrated or short with you, don’t take it too personally. It might be that you should just call back on another day (try calling a busy criminal defense firm on Mondays and you’ll know what I mean). Most likely, everyone in that firm takes pride in helping solve legal problems in their practice field. While it can be hard to connect, keep trying.

 

We would hate to be judged by our worst or busiest days, so we try to encourage others to have a little patience with other lawyers and firms. Try to remember that attorneys often deal with people at the worst point in their lives and are fielding lots of angry or stressful calls. Most of the day can be quite combative so it can take a few minutes for a legal assistant or lawyer to decompress and get into your issue. That’s why I encourage you to put your best foot forward and consider the list above when calling. Once you “connect” with a certain a lawyer or firm, the details of your life and frustrations about your unique scenario will eventually be discussed. Like any professional relationship, it can take time to develop and create a winning strategy.

 

If you have a criminal defense or personal injury issue in Kitsap, Pierce, Thurston, or Jefferson counties, feel free to give our office a call to see if we can help or offer you a solid referral for an experienced attorney in your area. 360-792-1000 (call or text).

 

 

Every day we get calls from potential clients who went down the wrong road. It wasn’t just the road they chose, it was that they wandered too long on the wrong road and we can’t get them back on track. 

What do I mean by the “wrong road”?

 

The wrong road can be using a public defender. It can be using non-local attorneys. It can be spending way too much money for a flashy firm but getting their intern as your lawyer. All of these scenarios lead you down a bad path. 

Aren’t all criminal defense attorneys the same?

 

Definitely, no! We don’t want to beat up on public defenders because they serve a valuable and critical function in the criminal justice system. However, they are overworked, carry large caseloads, and cannot possibly know the critical details of every case and every client. Simply, there aren’t enough hours in the day to know whether every client might qualify for alternative resolutions on their case. 

As far as non-local attorneys, this has become more problematic in recent years. The lawyers are competent in general criminal defense matters but they lack awareness of critical alternative resolution options in the local municipalities and counties. Essentially, they miss out on valuable opportunities for their clients. We had a call this morning in which a defendant should have qualified for Felony Diversion but the attorney had never heard of it. There is no going back since the defendant already plead.

 

Don’t make this mistake for too long. It’s okay to switch lawyers but it do it EARLY in your case!

 

Nearly every day, someone will call to explain that they read one of our blogs about Felony Diversion, Compromise of Misdemeanor, PACT program, or a Pre-Trial Diversion and many other therapeutic courts. Unfortunately, the person on the phone already plead to the crime and their attorney never heard of these alternatives. That’s hard to hear. Avoiding a felony on your record is life changing. If you don’t hire experienced local representation, you can really miss out on critical options for your case. 

If you stay with your public defender because you want to “wait and see” how it goes, that is probably how it goes. Once the public defender and prosecutor are at a standstill or trial has been set, it’s next to impossible to back that situation down and ask for an alternative resolution. So, don’t “wait and see” when it comes to your future. Criminal histories are permanent and have far-reaching impacts. 

What if I think I can’t afford it? How much should I expect to pay a criminal defense lawyer?

 

The cost depends primarily where you need representation. In Kitsap County, a DUI or misdemeanor charge should be $2500-$3500 dollars. Most of the best attorneys in our area have not raised fees in a decade. If you’re paying more than $3500 for a DUI in Kitsap or Pierce County, you’re paying too much (unless you have multiple charges or complicating factors). It’s really that simple. Some of the best attorneys we know in Tacoma charge $2500 for a DUI and they are far superior in terms of legal experience and knowledge to any of the big firm lawyers. 

If over paying is your thing, the next level for fees is usually around $5000-$7000 for a DUI, misdemeanor assault, assault 4- domestic violence, trespassing, lower level theft, or other misdemeanors and some gross misdemeanors. You might be quoted this fee if you are talking to a defense lawyer at a mid-size firm where the lawyer doesn’t have much negotiating room on fees because the partners determine what must be charged. These fees are not way out of the ballpark but you could find the same quality of representation for less. If time is of the essence and you click with the attorney, it might make sense to pay $5000 for a DUI even if you could get a great attorney for $3000. Sometimes, you need to find someone and get representation going quickly. 

On the extremely expensive side (basically, you’re wasting a lot of money), you could be quoted more than $7000 for a DUI in Pierce, Thurston, or Kitsap County. There a just a few firms that try that but, if you are panicked, you might be tempted to pay way too much for peace of mind. In that case, expect to pay somewhere between $7500-$10,000 for a basic misdemeanor charge, including a first time DUI. And, don’t expect to get anyone with decades of experience. These firms crank clients through due to advertising so you may end up with the newest hire—someone with a couple of years experience as a public defender or low level prosecutor. 

How do law firms justify charging so much for defense?

 

Law firms have a fair amount of overhead. There are so many insurances, labor, leases, expensive legal research software, accountants, and much more than keep a firm open. However, some firms take it to a crazy level of “glam.” These firms do a tremendous amount of radio or tv marketing, pay tens of thousands for fancy videos, and thousands more for billboards. If you hire them, you should expect to pay $7500-$10,000 for a simple DUI. You aren’t getting more and, in fact, most solo or small firms in Tacoma will have defense attorneys with far more experience. However, “commercializing” a law firm costs a lot of money and they expect to make a lot of money to pay for those ads and videos. You are the one covering that tab. Again, if you’re in a panic, perhaps you want to pay that exorbitant fee. If not, make at least a few calls in the area so you can get a realistic quote for your issue. Once you call around, you will find that there are quite a few remarkable, very experienced, and local attorneys who won’t gouge you for representation. 

Take the time to call around. It may keep you from wandering down the wrong road and avoid wasting money on your legal fees. And, if you think you can’t afford a lawyer, you may find out that you can’t afford not to hire private defense. There are many times when we help a person keep their job, get a case dismissed through alternatives, or keep a felony off their record when it seemed impossible. Often, it is hard to come up with legal fees but, if you’re looking at going to jail for a month and losing your job, it is worth finding the money for someone who can take the time to seek every alternative. Finding the best representation usually comes down to local knowledge, decades of experience, and a lower caseload to handle time-consuming cases. The reality is that it may cost something up front but well worth it in the end. 

Feel free to give our office a call with any questions. If we can’t help, we will try to find you a solid referral in the area. (360) 792-1000.

September 23, 2021

Jail Alternatives

Most people who are charged with a crime are especially nervous about the prospect of spending time inside a jail. That trepidation is understandable and it is often followed with questions about options for serving jail time in an “ankle bracelet,” “home arrest,” or electronic home monitoring (EHM).

 

Is EHM Always An Option?

 

Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer as to whether you will be allowed to serve jail time at home. First, there are certain crimes that require mandatory jail time. On occasion, those days can be converted to electronic home monitoring but many jurisdictions will not allow that. Second, not every jurisdiction has EHM provided free by through the court. In some circumstances, you can find an EHM provider who is in a nearby city to be approved by the prosecutor and judge. Third, some courts will allow a portion of the sentence to be served at home but there may be a mandatory day or two based on the statute under which you were charged and convicted.

 

Cost Of EHM

 

An important note to remember is that since EHM is not always free, it is important to discuss with your attorney the risk of attempting to do EHM but being unsuccessful due to lack of funds. The days you are required to “serve” are not forgiven or wiped clean because you can’t afford to serve them at home. In Kitsap County, the court no longer offers free EHM so the defendant must go find an out of county provider and pay for it out of pocket. For longer EHM sentences, this may be too costly.

 

Required EHM

 

The cost of EHM is important because for some crimes, such a first time DUI, the defendant could “serve” her sentence and never go to jail. However, she would be “serving” 15 days at home. That is because, for DUIs specifically, 1 day in jail converts to 15 days of electronic home monitoring. On a second DUI, the defendant can not avoid serving jail time because it is required by the statute. If the person blows .15 or under, she must serve 30 days in jail and then 60 days through EHM. If the person blows .15 or higher or refuses the breathalyzer, the defendant will have to serve 45 days in custody followed by 90 days of EHM.

 

Exceptions To Serving EHM

 

One exception to serving the 60 or 90 days of EHM following a DUI, is if the defendant qualifies under the statute for a “reverse” conversion. While some folks will do anything to stay out of jail, others need to avoid EHM for various reasons. The statute lists the permitted reasons but if, for example, you are homeless or live out of state, you can request at sentencing that the judge convert your 60 days (on 2nd DUI with blow under .15) to an extra 4 days in jail (60 EHM days divided by 15 = 4 days of in-custody). So, you would serve 34 days in-custody and have no EHM. Again, this type of conversion is very fact specific.

 

Call A Lawyer

 

If you are concerned about how much jail time you might face should you be convicted or plea to a certain crime, call our experienced lawyers. There is no reason to guess or search randomly on the internet. Every state and even local jurisdictions have different options for resolving cases so it’s possible you won’t be facing the DUI sentencing and subsequent jail alternatives.

 

Call and get peace of mind.

Assault charges are very serious criminal cases. One of the biggest challenges is fighting the No Contact Order once a person is arrested for Assault 4 with the special allegation of domestic violence. The cost to the person accused, as well as the entire family, can be overwhelming.

 

If you are arrested for assault against a family member, friend, or roommate, you will be required to stay away from the victim—even if the victim lives in your home or apartment. The prosecutor and judge do not care whether you have no other place to stay. Any attempt to return to the home or have contact with the victim will likely result in an additional criminal charge.

 

Often, assault charges that involve family members are misunderstandings. Arguments might get out of hand and someone throws something, slaps another, or shoves a family member. All of those behaviors can be considered assault. Once the police arrive, if an assault has occurred, law enforcement must arrest the alleged perpetrator.

 

Washington law requires a mandatory arrest in most domestic situations where an assault or threat of assault has taken place. This arrest will lead to criminal charges. Once arraigned on the Assault charge, a No Contact Order will be put in place and the alleged person is not allowed to return to the home or location where the victim lives. However, in rare circumstances, this can be avoided if you have legal counsel involved early in the process. It is unusual but you should always contact an experienced criminal defense as soon as law enforcement is involved and, ideally, before the arrest has been made.

 

In retrospect, many people wish that they had never called the police. But once the call is made, and an arrest has been made, there is no going back. Get an attorney on board early on so that you, and your loved one, have the ability to advocate for your selves. Many "victims" in these cases feel like they are actually being victimized by the prosecuting attorney and the court. If you are interested on more info about Assault charges, and why you need an attorney prior to your arraignment, click the box below:

 

Why You Need An Attorney Prior to Arraignment