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The Washington Criminal Law Blog

Understanding the Washington State Criminal Court System

Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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If you have been charged with a crime, it is important for you to understand how the Washington State Criminal Court system is set up and how it operates. You’ll want to understand the charges against you, the criminal law process, and the potential outcomes in your case. When you hire the criminal defense attorneys of Padula & Associates, LLC to fiercely defend you and your rights, we will ensure you understand what’s going on in your case. We even offer free consultations.

The Washington State court system is broken down into a number of categories, which for the most part depend on the severity of the crime charged.

Municipal Courts & District Courts

These are city and county courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning they only have the power to hear certain types of cases. In regard to criminal matters, our municipal and district courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. These courts may only hear criminal cases involving misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges.

Superior Court

Washington State Superior Courts can hear any criminal case, felony or otherwise. However, simply because the Superior Court can hear misdemeanor cases doesn’t mean it does. Lesser misdemeanor charges are first handled in the Municipal or District Court level. Only if there is an appeal would such a case come before the Superior Court.

If you are charged with a crime you must attend an arraignment where you will appear before a judge and be formally notified of the charge(s) against you. At such time you will be asked to enter a plea (not guilty, guilty). Arrangements are scheduled at the appropriate court based on what crimes are being charged and where the incident in question occurred.

A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A gross misdemeanor may carry a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Lastly, a felony is any crime that can result in over a year in prison. Felonies in Washington State are classified as Class C, B, or A, ranging from least serious to the most serious.

The Court of Appeals, Washington State

The Court of Appeals does not have original jurisdiction over any case. They exist to handle appeals from the Superior Courts, and in some cases, from the Municipal or District Courts. The Court of Appeals is designed to review cases to determine whether the lower court was acting correctly and/or if the law was properly interpreted and properly applied.

Cases that originated at the Superior Court go straight to the Court of Appeals on appeal. Cases that originate in the Municipal or District Courts first go to appeal at the Superior Court, then when necessary, go up on appeal to the Court of Appeals.

The Washington Supreme Court

The highest state court is the Washington Supreme Court. If you lose at any of the lower courts and wish to appeal, you have the right to petition the Washington Supreme Court for review. However, you do not have a guarantee that the Court will hear your case. If they decide not to grant your case review, then your appeals in state court are exhausted and the lower court ruling will stand. Of course you have the option of appealing to the United States Supreme Court, but our highest court in the land only grants certiorari to about 1% of all cases that petition for review.

Defending Against Criminal Charges

Regardless of which Washington State Court you must appear before, facing criminal charges is a frightening time. Hire a criminal defense attorney to advocate for you and mount a strong defense against the State’s case against you.

The skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC can defend your rights and help you fight for a just resolution. We proudly serve those in King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, Lewis County, and Washington State.

Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com, or fill out our online free consultation form today.

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When A Warrant is Issued for Your Arrest

Posted Friday, November 3, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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Have you found out that a warrant has been issued for your arrest? Or, are you suspecting that an arrest warrant will soon be issued? If so, you need to know your rights.

What Is An Arrest Warrant?

In the State of Washington an arrest warrant is an order issued by a judge that gives law enforcement officers the authority to arrest you. Once an arrest warrant is issued (signed by a judge), all law enforcement agencies have access to the warrant and can carry out the arrest.

When Is An Arrest Warrant Issued?

A judge will issue an arrest warrant only when there is probable cause to believe the person subject to the warrant committed the crime in question. Probable cause is an intricate legal concept, but you can think of it as law enforcement and the issuing judge believing there is substantial evidence demonstrating that you committed the crime they are investigating.

What Will the Arrest Warrant Say?

To be valid, all arrest warrants must contain certain information. First, the warrant must describe the offense with which you’re being charged. Second, it must state your name. Alternatively, if law enforcement do not yet know the name of the person they are pursuing, the arrest warrant must contain a detailed description of the suspect. Lastly, the arrest warrant must be signed by a judge.

If any of the above information is lacking, the arrest warrant is not valid. When your rights are violated during the course of an arrest or investigation, that can help with your defense.

What Happens When A Warrant is Issued for My Arrest?

Once a warrant is issued for your arrest, law enforcement will come to find you and arrest you. Understand that with a properly executed arrest warrant, law enforcement officers have the legal right to enter private property if they believe their suspect is inside, and then arrest that person.

If you know there is a warrant out for your arrest and the police are searching for you, it may be to your benefit to turn yourself in with your criminal defense attorney present. If you know or suspect an arrest warrant has been issued against you, contact our office immediately. Call 425-883-3366. We answer the phone 24/7. We’re here to protect your rights during and after arrest!

What Are My Rights If I Am Arrested?

Once you are placed under arrest, the police should read you your rights. You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney. Exercise both of these rights. You DO NOT have to answer questions from law enforcement. Be polite but firm in your desire to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning and during any legal proceeding.

Can the Police Search Me When They Arrest Me?

Yes. When a person is lawfully arrested, the police have the right to search his or her person and the area immediately surrounding them. No search warrant is required for a search incident to a lawful arrest because the law considers it a protective measure for the arresting officers.

However, law enforcement generally cannot search the entire premises where they arrest you unless they have a valid search warrant, you give them permission, or another exception to your right against unlawful search and seizure applies.

Do I Need A Criminal Defense Attorney?

We urge you to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if a warrant is issued for your arrest. Do not delay. Hire the fierce advocates at Padula & Associates, LLC to protect your rights from the very beginning! We answer the phone 24-hours a day, seven days a week. We offer free consultations. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com, or fill out our online free consultation form today.

For over 20 years, Padula & Associates, LLC has been serving the people of King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, Lewis County, and throughout Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services.

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What Is A DUI?

Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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Washington State is known for having the toughest DUI laws in the country. Recently our state legislature adopted a law making a fourth DUI within a 10 year period a felony offense. Washington also has mandatory minimum penalties for a first time conviction for DUI, which by statute includes at least one day in jail, a fine, probation, and license suspension.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, it is critical that you hire an experienced DUI defense attorney. We offer free consultations, and we’re available 24/7. Call us now at 425-883-3366.

Driving Under the Influence, as Defined by Washington State Law

Prosecuting people who were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) is a long-standing priority for the State of Washington. The statute governing DUI in Washington State sets forth the elements needed for conviction. A person is “guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:”

• The person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood; or

• The person has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s blood; or

• While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug; or

• While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug. (RCW 46.61.502).

Another Washington State statute codifies what is necessary for a breath test to be admissible evidence. There are a number of subsections to this code section. As to administering the breath or blood test, it must be ” performed according to methods approved by the state toxicologist and by an individual possessing a valid permit issued by the state toxicologist for this purpose.” (RCW 46.61.506). If the statutory regulations are not followed, then the evidence is inadmissible. In such cases, the prosecution’s case often falls apart.

Finally, another Revised Code of Washington section sets out the mandatory penalties imposed for a DUI conviction. As we noted above, Washington State has mandatory minimum penalties even for a first time DUI conviction. These mandatory minimum penalties include:

• Imprisonment for not less than one day (24 hours).

In lieu of the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, the court may order not less than 15 days of electronic home monitoring or a 90 day period of 24/7 sobriety program monitoring.

• A fine of not less than $350.00. (RCW 46.61.5055).

The forgoing list is for the minimum mandatory penalties, under the statute the maximum penalties can be much harsher.

Consult with a DUI Defense Attorney Immediately

It is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Washington DUI Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. After a DUI arrest deadlines approach quickly and the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to gather evidence in your favor. We invite you to meet with us for a free case evaluation - call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366.

The skilled DUI defense attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC are experienced in all aspects of DUI defense. We will help you face your charges head-on and with confidence. For over 20 years, Padula & Associates, LLC has been serving the people of King County, Snohomish County, and throughout Washington State with aggressive and effective criminal defense.

Come meet with us for a free case evaluation. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com, or fill out our online free consultation form today.

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Understanding When An Officer Must Read You Your Rights

Posted Thursday, October 26, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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The “Miranda Warning” or the “Miranda Rights” must be given by law enforcement officers to criminal suspects who are in police custody, in a custodial interrogation, or upon arrest if the officers are going to interrogate the suspect. The Miranda Rights must be read before the police may interrogate a suspect. Law enforcement may only ask for specific information such as a suspect’s name, date of birth, or address without having to read the suspect their rights. If the Miranda Rights are not given, not properly given, or are otherwise violated, then any confession or other incriminating statements made by the suspect generally cannot be used against them in criminal proceedings.

The Miranda Warning mandate was born of the United States Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona to protect a criminal suspect’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during police interrogation. (384 U.S. 436 (1966)). The specific wording of the Miranda Warning varies from state to state. The wording used is typically similar to this:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

Whether or not law enforcement must inform you of your rights hinges on whether or not they are going to interrogate you. If officers do not plan to interrogate you, there is no duty for them to Mirandize you.

You have the right to remain silent regardless of whether or not your rights are read to you. Your constitutional rights always exist. At anytime you are being questioned by law enforcement regarding a crime, you have the right against self-incrimination and to remain silent. It is your Fifth Amendment right.

If you are being questioned by law enforcement regarding a crime, it is usually in your best interest to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions posed to you by law enforcement. Be polite but firm in your desire to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning – exercise this right.

Remain silent until your criminal defense attorney is by your side.

If you are facing criminal charges we urge you to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys of Padula & Associates, LLC are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense, and they will help you take on criminal allegations with confidence. We will be your fierce advocates, and we will mount an aggressive defense in your case and help you fight for a just resolution.

We are available 24/7. Consultations are free. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com, or fill out our online free consultation form today.

We proudly serve the folks in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive and effective criminal defense.

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What Is a Protection Order?

Posted Monday, October 23, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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Protection Orders are court orders put in place to prevent contact between two people. They are known colloquially as “restraining orders.” In Washington State there are several types of Protection Orders that may be issued.

Domestic Violence Protection Order: This is a civil order from the court issued at the request of a Petitioner alleging to be a victim of domestic violence, which refers to physical harm, bodily injury, assault or the infliction of fear of imminent harm or injury allegedly perpetrated by a family or household member. (RCW 26.50).

Anti-Harassment Order: This is a civil order issued at the request of a Petitioner claiming any type of harassment and who does not otherwise qualify for a Domestic Violence Protection Order. Unlawful harassment is a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. (RCW 10.40.040).

Sexual Assault Protection Order: These orders involve a petition from someone who is the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or nonconsensual penetration. It can be a single incident of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration. (RCW 7.90).

Vulnerable Adult Protection Order: This is a civil order intended to protect a vulnerable adult in cases of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation or neglect. (RCW 74.34.110).

No Contact Order: These orders are issued out of criminal cases as either a condition of release or as a separate order. A No Contact Order may be issued regardless of sharing housing or having children. The criminal court controls how long a No Contact Order remains in place, not the alleged victim; however, the court will not lift the order without support from the alleged victim.

Violating any Protection Order can lead to arrest and criminal charges.

A Protection Order often involves a mandate that the respondent (the person the Petition is filed against) remain a certain distance away from the petitioner (the person seeking the order) and his or her home, school, or job. Though, Protection Orders are not limited to physical distance. Prohibited contact may also include contact via phone, text, email, social media, or even through a third party.

If you are served with a Petition for any type of Protection Order, it is critical that you defend yourself against the order being issued. You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing. You want to fight against any Protection Order being issued against you for a number of reasons:

• Protection Orders go on your record and can have an adverse effect on your ability to obtain employment, to travel into Canada and other countries, and your ability to carry a firearm.

• Violating a Protection Order can lead to criminal charges, and an alleged violation is difficult to defend against.

Defending Against a Petition for a Protection Order

If you need help understanding a Protection Order, defending against one, or defending against an alleged violation of an order, we can help.

Padula & Associates, LLC suggests a vigorous defense and we have successfully fended off hundreds of these petitions for our clients. Do not take a petition for a Protection Order lightly.

You need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney to maximize your chance of defending against a Protection Order. There may be an effective procedural way to successfully challenge the issuance of the order. The skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC can defend your rights and help you fight for a just resolution. We proudly serve those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State.

Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at info@paduladefense.com, or fill out our online free consultation form today.

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