Frequently Asked Questions

Criminal Defense Cases

We’re betting you have several burning questions you want answered, which is why we created this page. Here you’ll find simple and straightforward answers to the questions that really matter to you right now.
W&W Law Office

General Legal Questions

Yes, you need a lawyer when you are…

  • Arrested
  • Being investigated by the police
  • Formally charged with a crime
  • In jail

Should I get a private criminal defense attorney?

Pros:

  • Choice of attorney
  • Personal attention to your case
  • Call/text/email or meet in our office anytime
  • Smaller caseload
  • Personally vested in the outcome of your case

Cons:

  • Must pay for representation, BUT we offer free consultations and accept payment installments

Should I get a public defender?

Pros:

  • Free, but only if you qualify financially

Cons:

  • Must qualify financially
  • No choice of attorney
  • Difficult to reach by phone/email or meet in person
  • Huge caseload
  • Very little personal attention

Should I represent myself?

No. Don’t do it. Ever.

Your Rights. Protected.

Your constitutional rights are inalienable and we pride ourselves in protecting them every step of the way. Are you aware of what those rights are? Familiarize yourself by reading the information below.

Presumption of Innocence

While it may not feel like it once you have been arrested and charged with a crime, our constitution demands that you are to be presumed innocent of the crime you have been accused of until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

As a criminal defendant, the prosecutor must prove the charges against you “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the highest standard of evidence that exists in the law, and is a very heavy burden. In a civil case, for instance, the standard is typically only a “preponderance of evidence.” For instance, a jury in a civil matter can return a verdict in favor of an injured plaintiff for millions of dollars if they are just ever so slightly convinced that the respondent is responsible for the injury.

Burden of Proof

Click to enlarge the chart.

The burden of proof in a criminal case rests 100% with the prosecution. A defendant does not have to prove his/her innocence. For example, the prosecution could present 10 witnesses and enter 30 exhibits into evidence while the defense sits in silence and ultimately just tells the judge and jury that we have no evidence to present. If the prosecution failed to meet their burden, then the case would be dismissed despite the fact that the defense didn’t present a case.  Obviously, this is not usually how things play out.

Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

In Washington State, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by both the Fourth Amendment and by Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. If evidence is collected in violation of your rights, we will file a motion seeking to exclude the evidence from being admitted in court.

Right Against Self-Incrimination

We’ve all heard the phrase, “I plead the Fifth!” People say this when they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self -incrimination. No one can force you to make a statement that incriminates yourself, and this right extends to the witness stand. You should never talk to the police or anyone else about your case without your attorney present.

Miranda Warning/Rights

Anyone who has seen an episode of COPS has heard the police read someone the Miranda warning: “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?” Here’s a free tip: The answer to the last question is always, “NO, I want an attorney!”

You must be read your Miranda rights when the police wish to interrogate you while you are in custody; also referred to as “custodial interrogation.” Failure of the police to read these rights to you and/or their failure to stop questioning you once you invoke your rights results in a violation of your 5th Amendment rights. A skilled attorney will then move to have any statements you made in violation of your rights excluded as inadmissible.

NOTE: Any police questions that you answer pre-custody are not required to under Miranda and are admissible so be careful!

Right to an Attorney

Both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments give defendants in criminal cases the right to an attorney for most proceedings. You should always exercise this right!

Right to a Speedy Trial

You have the right to a Speedy Trial guaranteed to you by the Sixth Amendment. However, this is not always a right you will want to exercise. There are many instances when having additional time works in the favor of the defense. In order to get this additional time, you would have to waive your right to a speedy trial. On the other hand, there are also many scenarios when you would want to exercise your right to a speedy trial. Every case is different and we would need to know everything about your particular situation before we could advise you one way or another on this issue. Further, if you feel as though your rights to a speedy trial have been violated, give us a call for a free consultation.

Right to Confront Witnesses Against You

The Sixth Amendment states in part, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to…be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In other words, this guarantees your attorney the chance to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and dispute their testimony. Further, the guarantee applies to both statements made in court AND to statements made out of court that are offered as evidence in trial.

Court and Michelle Will of Will & Will, PLLC have a combined 30 years of experience and can help you today. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Understanding Criminal Pre-Trial and Trial Processes

Pre-Trial Process

 

Arrest/Investigation
While it is possible to be charged with a crime prior to being arrested, the typical process is that you would be arrested, booked, and then formally charged with a crime by what is called a “complaint” or “information.” TIP: If you are arrested and/or you are being investigated, do NOT talk to the police or anyone else about the case. Rather, simply tell the police that you would like to speak with an attorney.
 
 
Bail/Release

With the exception of capital crimes, you have a right to a prompt determination of bail or release in Washington State, and excessive bail is prohibited. Bail may be set at arraignment, a bail hearing, or other initial hearing. It may also be set upon issuing a warrant for your arrest.

You could also be released on your own personal recognizance (PR), meaning that no bail is set…you simply promise to come to court when ordered. However, there will often be terms and conditions associated with a PR release. A violation of your terms can land you back in custody. There are also other release programs, such as supervised release by a probation officer or home detention.

The main two considerations the judge looks at when considering bail or release are whether you are a danger to the community and whether you are a flight risk. When looking at whether you are a danger, the judge will consider the crime in which you are currently charged with and your prior criminal history. For flight risk, the judge looks at everything from your ties to the community to whether or not you have a passport. Our goal is, of course, to convince the judge that you are neither a danger nor a flight risk.

 

Investigation Calendar

If you are arrested in Washington State, court rules demand that you be brought before a judge on the next “judicial day” or within 48 hours. At this appearance, the judge will make a determination as to whether there is probable cause to detain you.

 

Second Appearance Calendar
With only very few exceptions, if you are arrested and detained in jail, the state must file formal charges against you within 72 hours. If they fail to do so, you must be released. Thus, you will either be released at this second appearance hearing or formal charges will be filed. If charges are filed, an arraignment date is set within 14 days. If you are released, the state may still bring charges against you at a later date (up the point of time where the statute of limitations prohibits a filing).
 
Arraignment
 
At an arraignment hearing you are formally presented with the charges against you in open court and have the opportunity to enter a plea of Not Guilty or Guilty. This hearing must take place within 14 days of filing charges.
 
Pre-Trial Hearings/Case Scheduling Conference/Omnibus Hearings

After the arraignment, depending on the type of case you are facing, these hearing are set in order to allow us to do several things such as: (1) discuss your case further with the prosecutor, (2) request additional discovery, (3) present discovery/materials to the prosecutor, (4) engage in plea negotiations, (5) set another hearing for supplementary investigation/negotiations, (6) resolve the case by dismissal or plea, or (7) set a trial date if not other resolution is in sight.

 

Dismissal, Guilty Plea or Trial
  • Dismissal: The best-case scenario, and what we strive for whenever possible, is an outright dismissal of charges before trial. A dismissal can come about as a result of different things, ranging anywhere from the suppression of vital evidence against you to undeniable proof of your innocence. As you can imagine, a complete dismissal before trial is  not possible in the majority of cases.
  • Guilty Plea: If a dismissal does not occur and a trial is not in your best interest, then a negotiated plea agreement is worked out. The details of the plea are agreed upon with the prosecutor and then submitted to the judge for approval. The judge does not have to accept the plea, but typically does accept it when both parties are in agreement. By virtue of entering a guilty plea, you are waiving several constitutional rights including the right to trial and to confront witnesses. You will be questioned “on the record” to confirm you understand all your rights and all the terms of the guilty plea. Following the plea, sentencing may either happen immediately or at a future date.
  • Trial: Lastly, a trial occurs when neither a dismissal or a plea occurs. The trial process is discussed in more detail below.

 

Sentencing
Sentencing can occur at the same time as the plea or at a separate hearing. It also occurs after a trial if a guilty verdict is reached. At sentencing, a judgment of conviction is formally entered and a penalty is imposed, which can range from a small fine all the way to lengthy prison sentences. It all depends on the severity of the offense, the sentencing guidelines, and what was negotiated for (when applicable).
 

Trial Process

We became defense attorneys to stand up in front of a jury and fight for our client’s rights. To tell our client’s story and paint a “fact and evidence” based picture for the jury with the goal of leaving only one inevitable and undeniable verdict: Not Guilty. That said, the vast majority of criminal cases never go to trial. The reason for this is due to a number of factors. What it boils down to is the combination of facts, evidence, and negotiation often lead to resolutions that are very favorable when compared to the risk of going to a trial. For instance, a client could be offered a plea deal that involves no time in custody, but if he goes to trial and is found guilty, he could be sentenced to several years in prison. That said, there are definitely some cases where trial is in our client’s best interest and when those situations arise, we are always ready to go.

So what is a trial like? The execution of a trial is highly technical and requires a very skilled attorney to be successful. Despite this, the basic process of a trial itself is fairly straightforward.

Jury Selection

Jury selection is also known as “voire dire,” a French term popularly translated as “to see you say.” I cannot stress enough how important this stage of the case is. Many attorneys unfortunately brush off this critical part of a trial and then wind up with a biased jury. Believe it or not, many cases are won and lost at jury selection. Conducting an effective voire dire is hard. We make it look easy.

Opening Statements

This is the first chance attorneys get to explain their theory of the case to the jury and outline what they believe the evidence will show. This is another critical stage of a trial. Defense attorneys are given the option to withhold giving an opening statement until after the prosecution’s case in chief. Waiting to give an opening statement would be like me dressing up in a Halloween costume for trial…a huge mistake.

Prosecution Case in Chief
  • Direct Examination: The prosecution will call their witnesses and present evidence against you. Leading questions may not be asked in direct examination. Thus, with many witnesses, the majority of questions will simply consist of the prosecutor asking the witness, “And what happened next?” We listen intently to the answers witnesses give, so we can make sure to address whatever comes up in our cross-examination of the witness, and also so we can object if the prosecutor steps outside the bounds with any questions.
  • Cross Examination: Now it’s our turn. This is one of our favorite parts about trial. It is an excellent opportunity to truly establish your defense and set up the closing arguments. We know what we need the witness to say, and we know how to get them to say it. While in many ways, cross-examination is an art form, there are also “rules” that must be followed. Unfortunately, many attorneys really don’t know how to perform an effective cross. This is truly dangerous as a poor cross can easily put your entire case in jeopardy.

 

 

Defense Case

The defense is NOT required to put on any evidence. In other words, after the prosecution rests, we could simply immediately rest as well without putting on any witnesses or introducing any evidence whatsoever. Sound like a bad idea? It usually is…not because the prosecution has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but because juries typically “expect” to hear from the defense.

 

Prosecution Rebuttal Case

After the defense rests its case, the prosecution gets one more bite at the apple by being allowed to offer evidence in rebuttal to the evidence we presented. They can call new witnesses or recall witnesses that have already testified and put them through another direct examination. Fortunately, we also get the opportunity to cross examine any witnesses presented during rebuttal.

 

Closing Arguments

While this is the last part of the case, it is what we prepare for first. From the moment we conduct our first free consultation with you, we are thinking about what our closing arguments are going to be. We pride ourselves on giving powerful and persuasive closing arguments. There’s only one problem with this…research indicates that almost all jurors make up their mind about a case BEFORE the closing arguments! Thus, the true value of a closing argument is to summarize the case in a manner that will provide additional ammunition for jurors that are on your side once they get back to the jury deliberation room.

Because the prosecution carries the burden of proof in a case, they are allowed to give both the FIRST closing statement and the LAST closing statement (called a rebuttal argument).

 

Deliberation

Once the closing arguments are wrapped up and the judge has read the law to the jury, they are excused to the deliberation room, where they will pick a foreperson and begin deliberations. Deliberations can last anywhere from minutes to days. Some attorneys try to predict the outcome based on how long deliberations take, but the truth is there is no real way of knowing what the verdict is until you hear it read.

 

Verdict

This is the moment of truth. In Washington, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you have to put your trust in 6 of your “peers” and if you are charged with a felony, 12 of your “peers.”  They all must reach a unanimous verdict to acquit or convict. In other words, if one or more jurors disagrees with the rest of the jurors, then you have what is known as a “hung jury.” When this occurs, most judges will initially tell the jury to keep trying to reach a verdict. If it becomes clear that they will never reach a unanimous verdict, then a mistrial is declared. After a mistrial, the entire trial process starts over again. However, a second trial is not always the end result of a mistrial; for instance, the judge can throw out the case, the prosecutor could decide to dismiss it, or a more favorable plea could be worked out.

 

Sentencing

When the verdict is Not Guilty, then that’s the end of the story. You walk out of the courtroom a free person with no conviction on your record. And thanks to the Fifth Amendment, Double Jeopardy bars the state from ever prosecuting you again for the same charge.

On the other hand, if the verdict is Guilty, then the next step is a sentencing hearing. This hearing is incredibly important and must be carefully prepared for. If your attorney does what is necessary to prepare for sentencing, the end result could be a significantly more lenient sentence. The individual circumstances of your case determine what approach to take here, and this would be decided close to the time of the hearing.

 

Potential Penalties for Felonies and Misdemeanors

 
 

Felonies

 

A felony is more serious than a misdemeanor. In addition to potentially being sent to state prison, being convicted of a felony has other long-lasting effects including the loss of certain rights such as the right to vote, the right to own a gun, etc. You can also face travel restrictions and serious immigration consequences for non-citizens. Even more so than misdemeanors, felonies require a skilled and experienced attorney to really attack the state’s evidence head-on, form a well-rounded and thorough defense strategy, and ensure all your rights are protected.There are three classes of felonies:

Sentencing Guidelines

The Washington State Sentencing Guidelines provide standard sentencing ranges for felony offenses by essentially calculating a “score” for the offense. The primary factors used to determine the length of the sentence include the seriousness of the current offense(s) and your criminal history.

Judges typically stick to the sentencing ranges outlined by the guidelines, but can vary up or down when justified in exceptional cases, such as when there are statutory aggravating or mitigating factors present.  The Sentencing Guidelines are complicated and not easy to try and decipher yourself.  As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have related to them.

 
 

Misdemeanors

 

While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, the consequences can still be devastating, including things like the potential loss of your license to drive, your job, and/or even your freedom. The good part about misdemeanors (compared to felonies) is that for many offenses, there are “alternative resolutions” available. Some of these programs include Deferred Prosecution, Stipulated Orders of Continuance, Pretrial Diversion, and Civil Compromises. No matter how minor the charge may appear on paper, we know it is very serious to you. Because of this, we approach misdemeanors in the same manner as felonies; we thoroughly prepare and take all the necessary steps to ensure you are receiving the best possible outcome. There are two types of misdemeanors:

What has to be proven against you to be convicted?

 

The answer to this question of course depends on what charge you are facing.  The best way to determine exactly what has to be proven is to look at the Washington Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions.  These instructions list out an element by element breakdown of exactly what has to be proven against you for particular offenses.  Rather than try to decipher this for yourself, simply give us a call and we will explain everything.

Also keep in mind that you, as the accused, are innocent until proven guilty and in most cases, you do not have any burden of proof.  In other words, it is up the prosecution to prove you guilty, and they must do so beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of evidence that exists in the law.

Our Firm & Fees

Definitely not. Hiring an attorney is not like buying a car…there are no guarantees in the law when it comes to the outcome of a case. If an attorney ever makes you a guarantee, our best advice is to run out of his/her office as fast as you can because it means they are not being truthful with you. What we can promise you is that we will put forth our finest effort on your case and will achieve the best possible outcome for you as a result.

We keep our caseload small so we can focus on your case. Many attorneys cannot say this, and to be completely up front, we could not always say this either. When we first started gaining a high amount of success, we occasionally had a difficult time turning clients away. Lesson learned – we now always keep a highly manageable caseload. If you happen to catch us when we are at capacity, we will gladly refer your case out to a highly skilled and trusted colleague.

Yes, we personally handle every case from beginning to end. We also typically personally appear at all court appearances. On a rare occasion when we are both unavailable on a particular court date (due to being in trial on another case or a last minute hearing we are retained for) we will have another attorney stand-in for us. However, unlike other some other law firms, when this occurs we do not send strangers to stand in for us. Rather, we only work with a very limited number of trusted colleagues to step in when need be. These attorneys will be fully informed about what is happening on your case and can always call us anytime if something were to occur that they needed our assistance on. Usually the only thing a stand-in attorney would do is put your case over to another date when we can be personally present.

We charge flat fees for representation. We have two primary types of agreements for pending cases: a pre-trial retainer, and then when needed, a trial retainer. The reason we break it up like this is due to the fact that the vast majority of cases do not end up going to trial; thus the trial retainer is often not even needed. We also have separate retainers for other matters such as pre-filing services if you have been arrested or are under investigation but no formal charges have been filed yet. If experts and/or investigators need to be hired, then this is a separate fee that our clients pay directly to the third party.

No, but the vast majority of the time, our clients come out far ahead of the game with flat fee agreements when compared to hourly agreements. The reason for this is simple. If we were to charge an hourly rate, it would be in the hundreds of dollars and we would literally have to charge you for every single minute we spend working on your case. This would include commuting time, time sitting around in court waiting for your case to be called, the time it takes to write motions/prepare an argument…the list goes on an on; before you know it, you are paying thousands more than you would have under a flat fee agreement. Flat fees also make things clearer for our clients. You never have to worry about getting an unexpected legal bill in the mail; rather, you know up front what the charges are going to be. Lastly, it’s easier for us…rather than “watching the clock,” we can simply focus on your defense.

Yes. We do not require you to pay the entire retainer up front. That said, we do not extend payment plans out for months on end. Typical payment plans would require a minimum of 50% down with the other 50% due over the course of 2-3 months. Upon request of our clients, we will sometimes allow payments to be broken up over a longer period of time. One thing we do not do, however, is enter into a payment plan where a client will pay us “upon the conclusion of the case” or “depending upon the outcome.”

W&W Law Office

General Legal Questions

Yes, you need a lawyer when you are…

  • Arrested
  • Being investigated by the police
  • Formally charged with a crime
  • In jail

Should I get a private criminal defense attorney?

Pros:

  • Choice of attorney
  • Personal attention to your case
  • Call/text/email or meet in our office anytime
  • Smaller caseload
  • Personally vested in the outcome of your case

Cons:

  • Must pay for representation, BUT we offer free consultations and accept payment installments

Should I get a public defender?

Pros:

  • Free, but only if you qualify financially

Cons:

  • Must qualify financially
  • No choice of attorney
  • Difficult to reach by phone/email or meet in person
  • Huge caseload
  • Very little personal attention

Should I represent myself?

No. Don’t do it. Ever.

Your Rights. Protected.

Your constitutional rights are inalienable and we pride ourselves in protecting them every step of the way. Are you aware of what those rights are? Familiarize yourself by reading the information below.

Presumption of Innocence

While it may not feel like it once you have been arrested and charged with a crime, our constitution demands that you are to be presumed innocent of the crime you have been accused of until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

As a criminal defendant, the prosecutor must prove the charges against you “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the highest standard of evidence that exists in the law, and is a very heavy burden. In a civil case, for instance, the standard is typically only a “preponderance of evidence.” For instance, a jury in a civil matter can return a verdict in favor of an injured plaintiff for millions of dollars if they are just ever so slightly convinced that the respondent is responsible for the injury.

Burden of Proof

Click to enlarge the chart.

The burden of proof in a criminal case rests 100% with the prosecution. A defendant does not have to prove his/her innocence. For example, the prosecution could present 10 witnesses and enter 30 exhibits into evidence while the defense sits in silence and ultimately just tells the judge and jury that we have no evidence to present. If the prosecution failed to meet their burden, then the case would be dismissed despite the fact that the defense didn’t present a case.  Obviously, this is not usually how things play out.

Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

In Washington State, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by both the Fourth Amendment and by Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. If evidence is collected in violation of your rights, we will file a motion seeking to exclude the evidence from being admitted in court.

Right Against Self-Incrimination

We’ve all heard the phrase, “I plead the Fifth!” People say this when they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self -incrimination. No one can force you to make a statement that incriminates yourself, and this right extends to the witness stand. You should never talk to the police or anyone else about your case without your attorney present.

Miranda Warning/Rights

Anyone who has seen an episode of COPS has heard the police read someone the Miranda warning: “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?” Here’s a free tip: The answer to the last question is always, “NO, I want an attorney!”

You must be read your Miranda rights when the police wish to interrogate you while you are in custody; also referred to as “custodial interrogation.” Failure of the police to read these rights to you and/or their failure to stop questioning you once you invoke your rights results in a violation of your 5th Amendment rights. A skilled attorney will then move to have any statements you made in violation of your rights excluded as inadmissible.

NOTE: Any police questions that you answer pre-custody are not required to under Miranda and are admissible so be careful!

Right to an Attorney

Both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments give defendants in criminal cases the right to an attorney for most proceedings. You should always exercise this right!

Right to a Speedy Trial

You have the right to a Speedy Trial guaranteed to you by the Sixth Amendment. However, this is not always a right you will want to exercise. There are many instances when having additional time works in the favor of the defense. In order to get this additional time, you would have to waive your right to a speedy trial. On the other hand, there are also many scenarios when you would want to exercise your right to a speedy trial. Every case is different and we would need to know everything about your particular situation before we could advise you one way or another on this issue. Further, if you feel as though your rights to a speedy trial have been violated, give us a call for a free consultation.

Right to Confront Witnesses Against You

The Sixth Amendment states in part, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to…be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In other words, this guarantees your attorney the chance to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and dispute their testimony. Further, the guarantee applies to both statements made in court AND to statements made out of court that are offered as evidence in trial.

Court and Michelle Will of Will & Will, PLLC have a combined 30 years of experience and can help you today. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Understanding Criminal Pre-Trial and Trial Processes

Pre-Trial Process

 

Arrest/Investigation
While it is possible to be charged with a crime prior to being arrested, the typical process is that you would be arrested, booked, and then formally charged with a crime by what is called a “complaint” or “information.” TIP: If you are arrested and/or you are being investigated, do NOT talk to the police or anyone else about the case. Rather, simply tell the police that you would like to speak with an attorney.
 
 
Bail/Release

With the exception of capital crimes, you have a right to a prompt determination of bail or release in Washington State, and excessive bail is prohibited. Bail may be set at arraignment, a bail hearing, or other initial hearing. It may also be set upon issuing a warrant for your arrest.

You could also be released on your own personal recognizance (PR), meaning that no bail is set…you simply promise to come to court when ordered. However, there will often be terms and conditions associated with a PR release. A violation of your terms can land you back in custody. There are also other release programs, such as supervised release by a probation officer or home detention.

The main two considerations the judge looks at when considering bail or release are whether you are a danger to the community and whether you are a flight risk. When looking at whether you are a danger, the judge will consider the crime in which you are currently charged with and your prior criminal history. For flight risk, the judge looks at everything from your ties to the community to whether or not you have a passport. Our goal is, of course, to convince the judge that you are neither a danger nor a flight risk.

 

Investigation Calendar

If you are arrested in Washington State, court rules demand that you be brought before a judge on the next “judicial day” or within 48 hours. At this appearance, the judge will make a determination as to whether there is probable cause to detain you.

 

Second Appearance Calendar
With only very few exceptions, if you are arrested and detained in jail, the state must file formal charges against you within 72 hours. If they fail to do so, you must be released. Thus, you will either be released at this second appearance hearing or formal charges will be filed. If charges are filed, an arraignment date is set within 14 days. If you are released, the state may still bring charges against you at a later date (up the point of time where the statute of limitations prohibits a filing).
 
Arraignment
 
At an arraignment hearing you are formally presented with the charges against you in open court and have the opportunity to enter a plea of Not Guilty or Guilty. This hearing must take place within 14 days of filing charges.
 
Pre-Trial Hearings/Case Scheduling Conference/Omnibus Hearings

After the arraignment, depending on the type of case you are facing, these hearing are set in order to allow us to do several things such as: (1) discuss your case further with the prosecutor, (2) request additional discovery, (3) present discovery/materials to the prosecutor, (4) engage in plea negotiations, (5) set another hearing for supplementary investigation/negotiations, (6) resolve the case by dismissal or plea, or (7) set a trial date if not other resolution is in sight.

 

Dismissal, Guilty Plea or Trial
  • Dismissal: The best-case scenario, and what we strive for whenever possible, is an outright dismissal of charges before trial. A dismissal can come about as a result of different things, ranging anywhere from the suppression of vital evidence against you to undeniable proof of your innocence. As you can imagine, a complete dismissal before trial is  not possible in the majority of cases.
  • Guilty Plea: If a dismissal does not occur and a trial is not in your best interest, then a negotiated plea agreement is worked out. The details of the plea are agreed upon with the prosecutor and then submitted to the judge for approval. The judge does not have to accept the plea, but typically does accept it when both parties are in agreement. By virtue of entering a guilty plea, you are waiving several constitutional rights including the right to trial and to confront witnesses. You will be questioned “on the record” to confirm you understand all your rights and all the terms of the guilty plea. Following the plea, sentencing may either happen immediately or at a future date.
  • Trial: Lastly, a trial occurs when neither a dismissal or a plea occurs. The trial process is discussed in more detail below.

 

Sentencing
Sentencing can occur at the same time as the plea or at a separate hearing. It also occurs after a trial if a guilty verdict is reached. At sentencing, a judgment of conviction is formally entered and a penalty is imposed, which can range from a small fine all the way to lengthy prison sentences. It all depends on the severity of the offense, the sentencing guidelines, and what was negotiated for (when applicable).
 

Trial Process

We became defense attorneys to stand up in front of a jury and fight for our client’s rights. To tell our client’s story and paint a “fact and evidence” based picture for the jury with the goal of leaving only one inevitable and undeniable verdict: Not Guilty. That said, the vast majority of criminal cases never go to trial. The reason for this is due to a number of factors. What it boils down to is the combination of facts, evidence, and negotiation often lead to resolutions that are very favorable when compared to the risk of going to a trial. For instance, a client could be offered a plea deal that involves no time in custody, but if he goes to trial and is found guilty, he could be sentenced to several years in prison. That said, there are definitely some cases where trial is in our client’s best interest and when those situations arise, we are always ready to go.

So what is a trial like? The execution of a trial is highly technical and requires a very skilled attorney to be successful. Despite this, the basic process of a trial itself is fairly straightforward.

Jury Selection

Jury selection is also known as “voire dire,” a French term popularly translated as “to see you say.” I cannot stress enough how important this stage of the case is. Many attorneys unfortunately brush off this critical part of a trial and then wind up with a biased jury. Believe it or not, many cases are won and lost at jury selection. Conducting an effective voire dire is hard. We make it look easy.

Opening Statements

This is the first chance attorneys get to explain their theory of the case to the jury and outline what they believe the evidence will show. This is another critical stage of a trial. Defense attorneys are given the option to withhold giving an opening statement until after the prosecution’s case in chief. Waiting to give an opening statement would be like me dressing up in a Halloween costume for trial…a huge mistake.

Prosecution Case in Chief
  • Direct Examination: The prosecution will call their witnesses and present evidence against you. Leading questions may not be asked in direct examination. Thus, with many witnesses, the majority of questions will simply consist of the prosecutor asking the witness, “And what happened next?” We listen intently to the answers witnesses give, so we can make sure to address whatever comes up in our cross-examination of the witness, and also so we can object if the prosecutor steps outside the bounds with any questions.
  • Cross Examination: Now it’s our turn. This is one of our favorite parts about trial. It is an excellent opportunity to truly establish your defense and set up the closing arguments. We know what we need the witness to say, and we know how to get them to say it. While in many ways, cross-examination is an art form, there are also “rules” that must be followed. Unfortunately, many attorneys really don’t know how to perform an effective cross. This is truly dangerous as a poor cross can easily put your entire case in jeopardy.

 

 

Defense Case

The defense is NOT required to put on any evidence. In other words, after the prosecution rests, we could simply immediately rest as well without putting on any witnesses or introducing any evidence whatsoever. Sound like a bad idea? It usually is…not because the prosecution has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but because juries typically “expect” to hear from the defense.

 

Prosecution Rebuttal Case

After the defense rests its case, the prosecution gets one more bite at the apple by being allowed to offer evidence in rebuttal to the evidence we presented. They can call new witnesses or recall witnesses that have already testified and put them through another direct examination. Fortunately, we also get the opportunity to cross examine any witnesses presented during rebuttal.

 

Closing Arguments

While this is the last part of the case, it is what we prepare for first. From the moment we conduct our first free consultation with you, we are thinking about what our closing arguments are going to be. We pride ourselves on giving powerful and persuasive closing arguments. There’s only one problem with this…research indicates that almost all jurors make up their mind about a case BEFORE the closing arguments! Thus, the true value of a closing argument is to summarize the case in a manner that will provide additional ammunition for jurors that are on your side once they get back to the jury deliberation room.

Because the prosecution carries the burden of proof in a case, they are allowed to give both the FIRST closing statement and the LAST closing statement (called a rebuttal argument).

 

Deliberation

Once the closing arguments are wrapped up and the judge has read the law to the jury, they are excused to the deliberation room, where they will pick a foreperson and begin deliberations. Deliberations can last anywhere from minutes to days. Some attorneys try to predict the outcome based on how long deliberations take, but the truth is there is no real way of knowing what the verdict is until you hear it read.

 

Verdict

This is the moment of truth. In Washington, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you have to put your trust in 6 of your “peers” and if you are charged with a felony, 12 of your “peers.”  They all must reach a unanimous verdict to acquit or convict. In other words, if one or more jurors disagrees with the rest of the jurors, then you have what is known as a “hung jury.” When this occurs, most judges will initially tell the jury to keep trying to reach a verdict. If it becomes clear that they will never reach a unanimous verdict, then a mistrial is declared. After a mistrial, the entire trial process starts over again. However, a second trial is not always the end result of a mistrial; for instance, the judge can throw out the case, the prosecutor could decide to dismiss it, or a more favorable plea could be worked out.

 

Sentencing

When the verdict is Not Guilty, then that’s the end of the story. You walk out of the courtroom a free person with no conviction on your record. And thanks to the Fifth Amendment, Double Jeopardy bars the state from ever prosecuting you again for the same charge.

On the other hand, if the verdict is Guilty, then the next step is a sentencing hearing. This hearing is incredibly important and must be carefully prepared for. If your attorney does what is necessary to prepare for sentencing, the end result could be a significantly more lenient sentence. The individual circumstances of your case determine what approach to take here, and this would be decided close to the time of the hearing.

 

Potential Penalties for Felonies and Misdemeanors

 
 

Felonies

 

A felony is more serious than a misdemeanor. In addition to potentially being sent to state prison, being convicted of a felony has other long-lasting effects including the loss of certain rights such as the right to vote, the right to own a gun, etc. You can also face travel restrictions and serious immigration consequences for non-citizens. Even more so than misdemeanors, felonies require a skilled and experienced attorney to really attack the state’s evidence head-on, form a well-rounded and thorough defense strategy, and ensure all your rights are protected.There are three classes of felonies:

Sentencing Guidelines

The Washington State Sentencing Guidelines provide standard sentencing ranges for felony offenses by essentially calculating a “score” for the offense. The primary factors used to determine the length of the sentence include the seriousness of the current offense(s) and your criminal history.

Judges typically stick to the sentencing ranges outlined by the guidelines, but can vary up or down when justified in exceptional cases, such as when there are statutory aggravating or mitigating factors present.  The Sentencing Guidelines are complicated and not easy to try and decipher yourself.  As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have related to them.

 
 

Misdemeanors

 

While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, the consequences can still be devastating, including things like the potential loss of your license to drive, your job, and/or even your freedom. The good part about misdemeanors (compared to felonies) is that for many offenses, there are “alternative resolutions” available. Some of these programs include Deferred Prosecution, Stipulated Orders of Continuance, Pretrial Diversion, and Civil Compromises. No matter how minor the charge may appear on paper, we know it is very serious to you. Because of this, we approach misdemeanors in the same manner as felonies; we thoroughly prepare and take all the necessary steps to ensure you are receiving the best possible outcome. There are two types of misdemeanors:

What has to be proven against you to be convicted?

 

The answer to this question of course depends on what charge you are facing.  The best way to determine exactly what has to be proven is to look at the Washington Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions.  These instructions list out an element by element breakdown of exactly what has to be proven against you for particular offenses.  Rather than try to decipher this for yourself, simply give us a call and we will explain everything.

Also keep in mind that you, as the accused, are innocent until proven guilty and in most cases, you do not have any burden of proof.  In other words, it is up the prosecution to prove you guilty, and they must do so beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of evidence that exists in the law.

Our Firm & Fees

Definitely not. Hiring an attorney is not like buying a car…there are no guarantees in the law when it comes to the outcome of a case. If an attorney ever makes you a guarantee, our best advice is to run out of his/her office as fast as you can because it means they are not being truthful with you. What we can promise you is that we will put forth our finest effort on your case and will achieve the best possible outcome for you as a result.

We keep our caseload small so we can focus on your case. Many attorneys cannot say this, and to be completely up front, we could not always say this either. When we first started gaining a high amount of success, we occasionally had a difficult time turning clients away. Lesson learned – we now always keep a highly manageable caseload. If you happen to catch us when we are at capacity, we will gladly refer your case out to a highly skilled and trusted colleague.

Yes, we personally handle every case from beginning to end. We also typically personally appear at all court appearances. On a rare occasion when we are both unavailable on a particular court date (due to being in trial on another case or a last minute hearing we are retained for) we will have another attorney stand-in for us. However, unlike other some other law firms, when this occurs we do not send strangers to stand in for us. Rather, we only work with a very limited number of trusted colleagues to step in when need be. These attorneys will be fully informed about what is happening on your case and can always call us anytime if something were to occur that they needed our assistance on. Usually the only thing a stand-in attorney would do is put your case over to another date when we can be personally present.

We charge flat fees for representation. We have two primary types of agreements for pending cases: a pre-trial retainer, and then when needed, a trial retainer. The reason we break it up like this is due to the fact that the vast majority of cases do not end up going to trial; thus the trial retainer is often not even needed. We also have separate retainers for other matters such as pre-filing services if you have been arrested or are under investigation but no formal charges have been filed yet. If experts and/or investigators need to be hired, then this is a separate fee that our clients pay directly to the third party.

No, but the vast majority of the time, our clients come out far ahead of the game with flat fee agreements when compared to hourly agreements. The reason for this is simple. If we were to charge an hourly rate, it would be in the hundreds of dollars and we would literally have to charge you for every single minute we spend working on your case. This would include commuting time, time sitting around in court waiting for your case to be called, the time it takes to write motions/prepare an argument…the list goes on an on; before you know it, you are paying thousands more than you would have under a flat fee agreement. Flat fees also make things clearer for our clients. You never have to worry about getting an unexpected legal bill in the mail; rather, you know up front what the charges are going to be. Lastly, it’s easier for us…rather than “watching the clock,” we can simply focus on your defense.

Yes. We do not require you to pay the entire retainer up front. That said, we do not extend payment plans out for months on end. Typical payment plans would require a minimum of 50% down with the other 50% due over the course of 2-3 months. Upon request of our clients, we will sometimes allow payments to be broken up over a longer period of time. One thing we do not do, however, is enter into a payment plan where a client will pay us “upon the conclusion of the case” or “depending upon the outcome.”

COVID-19 Notice: We want to reassure you that we are OPEN for both consultations & representation. We know this pandemic is extremely difficult for everyone, and facing a criminal charge or suffering an injury on top of it only makes things that much worse. We’re here to help.