Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant

You have numerous rights under the Federal Constitution and the Washington State Constitution.We want you to have a basic understanding of your rights so that you are empowered to exercise them. If you are facing criminal charges, hire a criminal defense attorney so that you can mount a strong legal defense and ensure your rights are protected. Here are some of your rights.

The Fourth Amendment

Creates the right to be free from unlawful search and seizure. In general, you have the right to refuse a search of your property or vehicle in the absence of a valid search warrant. However, if law enforcement officers have a search warrant or a valid exception to your Fourth Amendment right is present, you must submit to the search.

The Fifth Amendment

The right to remain silent. This amendment grants us the right against self-incrimination. 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. When talking to the police never lose sight of the fact that anything you say may potentially bolster the State’s case against you and/or harm your ability to defend yourself against criminal charges. Be polite but firm in your desire to remain silent.

Your right to remain silent extends to situations when being interrogated by law enforcement and when testifying in legal proceedings.

The Sixth Amendment

This amendment guarantees criminal defendants a number of rights, including the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.

This amendment also guarantees the right to be confronted with witnesses against you and to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.  You have the right to cross-examine any witness proffered by the State. Further, you have the right to proffer your own witnesses in support of your defense.

Other Rights

The right to be presumed innocent unless and until the State proves each element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt.

The presumption of innocence is a constitutional principle. To secure a conviction, the State must prove each element of the crime(s) charged beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal standard.

The right to an attorney.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney during any police interrogation and during any legal proceeding. Exercise this right. If you do answers questions, your attorney will be there to protect your rights and ensure you do not offer statements that will bolster a criminal case against you.

Also, know that once you ask for an attorney the police are no longer supposed to interrogate you until your attorney is present.

The laws encompassing the rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution and Washington State Constitution are complex and nuanced. Hire a criminal defense attorney to advocate for your rights and mount a strong defense against aggressive prosecution.

What You Need to Know About Shoplifting

If you have been accused of shoplifting, the first thing you should do is gather all the information you can to know just what you are up against. In Washington, the crime of shoplifting, like other theft charges, is classified based on its level of severity.

Classification of Theft

Theft in the 1st Degree: If the value of the property or services exceeds $5,000 (with the exception of a firearm or vehicle), it will be classified as 1st degree theft. As a Class B felony, the penalty will include a 10 year max jail sentence and a $20,000 fine.

Theft in the 2nd Degree: If the property or services stolen is valued between $750 and $5,000. This is classified as a Class C felony and can be punished with up to 5 years in jail and a fine of $10,000.

Theft in the 3rd Degree: If the property or service stolen is valued at less than $750, it is classified as a 3rd degree theft. This is a gross misdemeanor and can be punished with a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Usually, shoplifting falls under the classification of 3rd degree theft, but that depends on the value of the things that you are accused of taking. To plan an adequate defense strategy your lawyer may ask you the following questions:

  • Were you in the store when stopped?
  • Had you already passed the checkout or register area of the store?
  • Were you carrying a personal bag?
  • Was it a mistake and you had intended to pay?
  • Where were the items recovered from?
  • Did you make any statements or admissions, and to whom?

If you or someone you know has been accused of shoplifting, contact the Charles Johnston team.  

National Crackdown on Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

For the past two weeks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been conducting a national campaign titled “Drive High, Get a DUI.” This campaign is to bring awareness to, and crack down on, driving while under the influence of drugs. The tagline of this campaign is, “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.” This campaign entails an increase in law enforcement patrols and a crack down on impaired driving.

Driving Under the Influence Has Been On the Rise

Roadway deaths where the driver was under the influence of drugs like marijuana, opioids, and prescription drugs has been on the rise. According to a Governor’s Highway Safety Association study, 44% of individuals who died in traffic crashes in 2016 had drugs in their system. A decade ago, only 28% of individuals who died had drugs in their system at the time of the accident.

The legalization of marijuana is far from the only cause of this rise. Since there is not yet a tool that can be used roadside to test for drugs like there is for alcohol, many people believe they can get away with driving under the influence. Also, opioid use is on the rise, as well as driving while on prescribed medicines. It is important to remember that even though they are prescribed legally, it is still a DUI.

Facing a DUI

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, be sure to contact Charles A. Johnston and his team. Drug related DUIs carry severe penalties such as jail time, loss of driving privileges and big fines. You need to give yourself the best chance to beat a drug related DUI charge, and the only way to do that is to have an experienced legal team in your corner.

For more information about the campaign, check out their website here.

DIY Firearms: What Does This Mean and Who Is Fighting Back?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the eight States including Washington, New York, Oregon, and the District of Columbia who are joining in on the lawsuit challenging the outcome of a 2015 case. The verdict of the case allows Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson to release blueprints for 3D-printed firearms.

In case you are unfamiliar with what is going on, a restraining order blocking the release of downloadable blueprints for 3D-printed firearms has been issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik. This is happening one day after Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed a suit challenging the Federal Government’s decision to allow their release.  

What exactly are 3D-printed firearms? 3D-printed firearms are guns that are assembled by a 3D printer using ABS plastic (the same kind of plastic used to make Legos).

Anybody who has enough money, can buy the higher end 3D printer that is required to assemble functional firearms.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives conducted a test of the accuracy of 3D-printed firearms in 2013. One gun tested called ABS-M30, fired a .380-caliber round eight times without fail.

The blueprints include plans for an AR-15 style rifle and a Beretta M9 handgun, among other firearms. It is believed that the release of the blueprints would facilitate a broad, unregulated access to dangerous weapons.

This raises concerns because the firearms would be untraceable and virtually undetectable by metal detectors. Also, those who would otherwise be unable to purchase a firearm because, they would fail a background check, could more easily get their hands on one.

For more information check out The Seattle Times  and CNN.

Fewer Juveniles Tried in Adult Court Under New Law

Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a new law that removes a handful of crimes from the list of auto-decline offenses extending juvenile jurisdiction for those crimes to age 25. The sentences for these crimes will include time served in juvenile rehabilitation facilities instead of state prisons.

Additionally, for violent offenses, such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, county prosecutors can use discretion to decide which of these 16/17 year olds will be tried as adults.

Senate Bill 6160, the bill signed by the governor last month, removes first-degree robbery, drive-by shooping, first-degree burglary if has a prior offense, and any violent crime committed with a firearm from the list of crimes that can automatically send 16 and 17 years into the adult criminal system. It does not affect youth committing crime after age 18.

Read more about the specifics here.

How does DNA testing for evidence work?

DNA is a molecule that contains our genetic code and determines all of our traits. Every cell in the human body contains a complete set of our DNA. 99% of the DNA from two people will be identical, 0.1% of the DNA code is what makes each person unique.

These sequences, genetic markers are used by forensic scientists when doing a DNA test. Identical twins will have identical genetic markets.

Forensic evidence could include samples from skin, hair, blood or other body fluids.

The accuracy of DNA is crucial as it can be life changing for someone on trial. DNA tests can sometimes be the only evidence to prove someone was involved in a crime or free someone wrongly convicted. Testing more markers will insure the accuracy of the test, but this can be expensive. Unrelated people can be the same, however this is only a one in one billion chance.

DNA was not used to profile people until the mid 1980’s. Compared to fingerprints or eyewitness testimony, DNA evidence is a high accurate method. DNA evidence is heavily relied on in court.

For more about DNA evidence in criminal law, check out these resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/20205874
https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/how-dna-evidence-works.html

Washington Fair Chance Act- What is it?

The Washington Fair Chance Act was signed into law this week by Governor Jay Inslee. Referred to as “ban the box” by supporters, this law prohibits employers from asking about arrests or convictions until after the employer determines if the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Exceptions include law enforcement, state agencies, schools and other jobs that work with children or vulnerable adults.

More than one million people living in Washington State have a criminal record. Nationwide 11 states and 150 cities have adopted a similar concept.

The main goal is to prohibit excluding someone with a criminal history solely based on that fact if they are otherwise qualified during the initial screenings. Many qualified applicants can be discouraged from applying for a position if they need to check a box saying they have a past history with the law.

Another goal of this legislature is to help ex-offenders fine productive employment. The idea is if they are able to make a living wage, provide for their families and have work then they are less likely to re-offend or turn to criminal activities.

You can read more about the bill and what supporters believe are the benefits here.

In the News: Lawyer Admitted Client’s Guilt

The U.S. Supreme Court considers the question: When a defendant in a capital case says, “not guilty,” can his attorney say “guilty?”

This happened in the case of State of Louisiana v. McCoy. Robert McCoy is currently on death row after his conviction for triple murder after being charged with first-degree murder. He claimed he was innocent, but his lawyer thought the evidence against him was overwhelming.

Lawyer, Larry English wanted to spare him from execution and proposed admitting guilt and pleading for a lesser sentence. McCoy did not agree. At trial, McCoy said he was out of the state during the time of the murders. English, mentioned in his closing arguments that his client was guilty of second-degree murder because of mental deficiencies.

The lawyer had told McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. The lawyer was trying to avoid the death penalty. This strategy failed.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on this case during an appeal. McCoy asked for a new trial because his lawyer disobeyed his instructions. The justices will have to decide “whether the lawyer’s decisions was a reasonable effort to make the best of a bad situation or instead a violation of McCoy’s constitutional rights, entitling him to a new trial.”

Sources: http://blogs.findlaw.com/supreme_court/2018/01/supreme-court-hears-murder-case-where-lawyer-admitted-clients-guilt.html

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/16/16-8255/26940/20180105201207565_16-8255%20rb.pdf

http://www.wnd.com/2018/01/oops-defense-attorney-admits-clients-guilt/#o3oFidAF5hOOrjkX.99

Avoiding DUI Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up this weekend. A day typically full of food, football and fun, drinking is a part of many Super Bowl parties. After the festivities, many get behind the wheel not realizing how impaired they actually are. The most effective way to avoid a DUI charge is simply to not drink and drive. Even if you think you are sober enough to drive, if you have had any amount of alcohol your BAC could suggest otherwise. If you plan on driving, avoiding drinking completely is the only way to eliminate your chance for a DUI arrest.

Here are some tips to follow to avoid a DUI.

  • Eat plenty of food and alternate drinks with water throughout the day.
  • Keep track of your drinks and have a limit for yourself.
  • Set up a safe, sober ride home.
  • If unable to drive, call Uber or a taxi.
  • Ask a friend if you can stay over for the night.

Always have a backup plan. You may plan on driving home but drink more than you planned. Never get behind the wheel if you are intoxicated. Keep the roads safe and avoid a DUI arrest. If you need more advice regarding DUI and DUI laws, contact Charles A Johnston Law today.

In the News: The Sexual Misconduct Scandals

This fall, Harvey Weinstein,  the Hollywood producer,  was fired after multiple women came forward and accused him of rape and sexual assault.

After this, a series of accusations of sexual misconduct were made on dozens of others. The allegations ranged from inappropriate comments to rape. These allegations have led to multiple high-profile men to be fired or forced to resign. These allegations are continuing to come in.

You can view a full list and read more about the allegations here.

So, what does the law say about sexual harassment? Many companies are examining their current sexual harrassment policies after a barrage of #metoo stories on social media and the conversation on sexual harassment was put front and center on the media.

 

Sexual harassment is defined by the law. According to the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when either: 

  • The conduct is made as a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment or participation in a University community.
  • The acceptance or refusal of such conduct is used as the basis or a factor in decisions affecting an individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University community.
  • The conduct unreasonably impacts an individual’s employment or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University community.”

Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination occurring in the workplace. A key part of the definition is the use of “unwelcome.”

There are two types (generally): quid pro quo and hostile environment.

  • Quid pro quo means “this for that.” Implying that a certain things will depend on the individual submitting to conduct of a sexual nature. For example, implying that a promotion will occur only if the employee goes on a date with their supervisor.
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the conduct of sexual nature is intimidating, threatening or abusing

 

Learn more about what the law says about sexual harassment here.