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The Washington Criminal Law Blog

The Dangers of Representing Yourself in a Criminal Case

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textFacing Charges Alone

As a criminal defense attorney, defendants facing charges frequently ask me if they really need an attorney to handle their case. There is no short answer to this question. Every case and every defendant is different. If you are facing criminal charges, however, here are some pieces of information that can help you make the best decision about whether or not to hire legal counsel.

You are allowed to represent yourself in both civil and criminal proceedings. Those that represent themselves in court are referred to as Pro Se, which means on one’s own behalf. Pro Se defendants can face several disadvantages in a criminal case, a few of which I will explain below:

You risk self-incrimination. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can result in a conviction. When defending yourself in a criminal case, what you say on record will be held against you. If you don’t know what to say and what not to say, you could self-incriminate yourself by providing information that strengthens the prosecuting attorney’s argument. An attorney can tell what to say on record without jeopardizing your case.

You may not realize all your options. Many Pro Se criminal defendants think their only option is to plead guilty or go to trial. You do have other options. Many criminal cases are resolved before trial by way of a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a deal negotiated between your attorney and the prosecuting attorney. A plea bargain allows you to plead guilty to a lesser crime, negating the need for trial. While you can attempt to negotiate with the prosecution directly, you may be at a disadvantage. An experienced and effective criminal defense attorney has handled hundreds of successful negotiations and has a better chance of being successful then you will have.

You may not know the intricacies of the law. You are innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove your guilt for you to be convicted. Knowing exactly how the prosecutor will try to prove that can help you strategize your defense. Without understanding criminal law and the rules of evidence (when and how evidence can be used in criminal cases), it’s hard to know how to best defend yourself. When you are in Court, neither the Judge, their staff nor the prosecutor will assist you in navigating through the criminal laws and the rules of evidence.

Before you decide to represent yourself in a criminal case, ask yourself what you stand to lose. Can you risk losing your case? Or do you want to do everything you can to fight your charges? Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will come at a cost, but that cost is always worth it if you have a lot at stake. Speaking with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney about your case can give you an idea of what you may be up against if you choose to represent yourself, and this will help you make the best decision regarding your defense. Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation so there is nothing to lose in meeting with one or two to talk over your situation.

If you have been recently arrested or are facing charges, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and can provide you with tenacious defense in court. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. 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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Can a DV Conviction Trigger Deportation?

Posted Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textDomestic Violence and Deportation

Domestic violence is a serious offense. A domestic violence conviction can bring with it harsh consequences from both the criminal court as well as society at large. For noncitizens, a domestic violence conviction is even more devastating because it can trigger deportation. Domestic violence is among the many crimes that can affect the immigration status of both lawful and unlawful noncitizens, regardless of how long they have lived in the US, the family ties they have here or their employment. A noncitizen can be deported or be barred from reentry into the U.S. if convicted of a domestic violence offense.

Now, it is necessary to explain what constitutes domestic violence and what constitutes a conviction for immigration law purposes, as these classifications will dictate whether your immigration status will be affected.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined under RCW 26.50.010 as physical harm, bodily injury, assault, the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, or stalking directed toward a family or household member. A family or household member can be a:• Spouse or former spouse• Parent of your child• Someone you are residing with or have resided with• Person 16 years of age or older who is in a dating relationship• Person with a biological or legal parent-child relationship, or• Someone you are related to through blood or marriageFor the purposes of immigration law, a domestic violence conviction can be a guilty plea, a guilty verdict, a pre-trial diversion (such as a Stipulated Order of Continuance) or a deferred adjudication agreement.This blog provides basic information about what can happen to your immigration status if you are convicted of a crime charged as domestic violence, but your current immigration status can also affect your case. Without knowing your immigration status as it stands, it is hard to provide legal guidance. That is why it is so important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney and an immigration attorney if you are a noncitizen facing charges for a domestic violence offense. A knowledgeable attorney can tell you specifically how your immigration status can be affected if you are convicted.

Seasoned criminal defense attorneys have been successful in negotiating carefully crafted plea bargains for noncitizens so they can plead guilty to a crime not labeled as domestic violence. Many other crimes can also affect your immigration status; however, so it is important you speak with an attorney before agreeing to any plea bargain you may be offered. How your crime is charged and the specifics of your sentencing can also affect your immigration status. You need the help of an attorney if you are a noncitizen facing any criminal charges.

If you have been recently arrested or are facing charges, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and can help you fight allegations of domestic violence. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. 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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How Long Will I Lose My Commercial Driver License for a DUI?

Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textDUIs and CDLs

Getting a DUI will result in a suspension of your driver license. Losing a license is troublesome for any driver, but commercial drivers face additional hardship. Commercial drivers are held to a much higher standard than personal drivers, under both state and federal law. When driving a personal vehicle, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .08% but it is just 04% when operating a commercial vehicle regardless of whether on or off duty.

Not only are commercial drivers subject to stricter standards, they have much more to lose as well. Commercial drivers rely on their CDL to make a living and many lose their jobs when they get a DUI conviction.

As a commercial driver, you can face the following penalties for driving under the influence:

A one-year CDL disqualification

Three year CDL disqualification if you were transporting hazardous materials at the time of the arrest

Lifetime CDL disqualification with a second offense

Commercial drivers can suffer the same consequences for driving under the influence in their personal vehicle if, at the time of the arrest, their BAC test result was .08% or higher. Your CDL will be disqualified whether or not you are convicted in the criminal court. The DOL can disqualify your CDL if it determines you were driving under the influence or you refused to submit to a BAC test.

You should request an administrative review hearing with the DOL to appeal the disqualification. Many commercial drivers choose to do this, but go to the hearing unprepared and suffer devastating consequences as a result. You will need the guidance of an effective DUI defense attorney to prevail at your administrative review hearing. With so much on the line, you should do everything you can to contest your disqualification so you can keep your CDL and keep working.

If you think you have a fight ahead of you, you’re right. Dealing with the aftermath of a DUI arrest is a nightmare for any driver, but it can be life altering for a commercial driver. If you are a CDL holder and are facing DUI charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. You only have a short window in which to request a review hearing. An attorney can investigate the facts and circumstances of your case and help you appeal your disqualification so you can stay on the road. Every effort you make is worth it when you are protecting the future of your career and livelihood.

If you have been recently arrested for a DUI or are facing charges, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and will do everything possible to appeal your CDL disqualification. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. 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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Can Victims Drop Charges?

Posted Thursday, February 16, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textThe Victim’s Rights

Contrary to popular belief, the victim of a crime cannot file or “press” criminal charges against the defendant. A victim may report a crime and provide information to the police or sheriff, at which point law enforcement will conduct an investigation, collect evidence, and submit a written report to the prosecuting attorney’s office. The prosecuting attorney will then review the report and decide whether or not to file charges.

Although reporting a crime to law enforcement may prompt an investigation, it does not necessarily trigger charges. The authority to file criminal charges rests primarily with the prosecuting attorney. Likewise, the victim cannot request the charges against the defendant be dropped. This is because the State of Washington files charges against defendants on behalf of the state, not the victim. Thus, the decision to drop criminal charges is the prosecutor’s alone. In other words, once law enforcement is involved you will lose control of what happens or does not happen in a criminal court.

It’s not uncommon for a domestic violence victim to change his or her mind about turning the abuser over to the police. Sometimes, the victim is threatened or manipulated into dropping the charges by the abuser. Some victims come forth after a domestic violence incident wishing to “reverse” the charges. Unfortunately, the victim can do little at that point. The victim can provide more information to the prosecuting attorney, and this information could, in theory, influence the prosecuting attorney’s actions. But a victim’s wishes to drop the charges in and of itself will not cause the dismissal the case. The victim serves as a witness to the case and nothing more. Even if a witness refuses to testify against the defendant, the state will most likely prosecute the case regardless. Sometimes the prosecution will force you to testify by serving you with a subpoena. A subpoena imposes a legal requirement for you to appear in Court to testify. If you have personally received a subpoena and fail to appear in Court a warrant for your arrest can be issued. However, keep in mind you have to be served with the subpoena for a warrant calling for your arrest to be issued. Facing criminal charges or being the victim of criminal charges isn’t easy. If you have any questions about the rights of crime victims, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you of your rights and what role the victim will play in the case. This can help you make educated decisions about your defense. If you were arrested or are facing criminal charges, an attorney can help you navigate the case process step by step. If you are a victim of a crime, an attorney can help you understand your rights and whether or not you are compelled to appear in Court.

If you have been recently arrested, are facing charges or are the victim of a crime, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and can help you fight the allegations. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. 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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How to Register as a Sex Offender in Washington

Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

alt textFulfilling Your Obligation

If you are convicted of a sexual offense, you may be required to register as a sex offender in Washington State. Registering as a sex offender is a duty you should take seriously. If you are not sure how to register as a sex offender, here is some basic information about the process:

To register, you must have the following information:

Your name, including any aliases used

Your residential address or where you plan to stay (you do not need to have a fixed Washington residence)

Date and place of birth

Place of employment

Crime for which you were convicted

Date and place of conviction

Social security number

You must also provide your photograph and fingerprints. Once you have this information, you must register in person with the county sheriff in the county of your residence. If you do not have a Washington residence, you must register in the county where your school, place of employment, or place of vocation is located. This information will be forwarded to the Washington State Patrol to be included in a central registry. You must update any pieces of information that change, and you may be required to verify your address or update your photograph and fingerprints at any time. The duration of your duty to register as a sex offender can vary.

This blog should give you a brief outline of what you need to do to initially register, but you may have other questions about your rights and responsibilities as a registered sex offender. If you are required to register as a sex offender, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. You only have three business days in which to register with the county sheriff’s office. Knowingly failing to register is a serious felony that you can be arrested for. A skilled attorney can explain the process of registering as a sex offender in Washington State, so you can be sure you are fulfilling the requirements.

If you have been convicted or are facing charges for a sexual offense, the skilled attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand how stressful your situation can be and can help you fight your charges. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of criminal defense and can help you face and fight your charges with confidence. For a combined 30 years, the lawyers at Padula & Associates have been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and Washington State with aggressive criminal defense services. 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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