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.

 

 

Freedom of Speech

With the comments by President Donald Trump and the protests by NFL players being highlighted in the media, it is important to consider what our laws say about “Freedom of Speech” and this right granted to ALL of us in the United States.

This right is not absolute. State, local and federal governments can limit how people express themselves. Threats and incitations to violence – aren’t protected at all.

Free Speech entitles us:

  1. Not to speak (the right to not salute the flag.)
  2. To protest war
  3. To use offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
  4. To contribute money to a political campaign.
  5. To advertise commercial products and services (with restrictions)
  6. To engage in symbolic speech (flag burning in protest etc.)

Additionally, free speech isn’t limited. We have these same rights every day. This means, that even speech that other people do not like or agree with is legal. The First Amendment protects speech even if most people find it offensive, hurtful or hateful. The government cannot determine what can and cannot be said.

Your right to protest in public places can be limited. And, your right to protest is protected as long as it is peaceful. The First Amendment doesn’t offer protections for a gathering in which a clear, present danger of riot, disorder and interference of traffic or an immediate threat to public safety exists.

For even more information on your right to Freedom of Speech, visit Us Courts
and Cornell Law

Factors Judge Considers During Sentencing

Judges determine the punishments for a crime. (Capital punishment cases the jury will decide life in prison or death). The 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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Once a person has been found guilty in the court of law or pleads guilty, sentencing will be the next step. A judge will need to review relevant information and consider many factors. The mandatory minimum along with social factors, severity of crime and victim statements all play a part in the sentencing.

Additionally, the crime must fit the punishment. A Judge will consider the punishment and then consider “aggravating” or “mitigating” circumstances. A few of these factors considered include:

  • First time or repeat offender
  • Main offender or accessory
  • If anyone was hurt or if crime was unlikely to hurt anyone
  • If crime was committed under stress
  • If offender was very cruel
  • If offender is remorseful

Provisions state that the court must give counsel an opportunity to speak on behalf of the defendant. Defendant will be allowed to prevent any information or make a statement on his own behalf. In many states, a victim or victims family may also be given the opportunity to address the court and recommend leniency or strictness.

If you need help and want to know more about the sentencing laws in Washington State, contact Charles A Johnston law.

What is “Social Host Liability?”

Have you ever hosted a party and served alcohol? If so, you could face legal consequences if one of your guests drives and injures someone or if your guest is under 21. These laws are put in place to deter hosts from allowing intoxicated guests to drive after attending a private social event.

What is the definition of “social host”?

A social host is someone that provides alcohol to your guests for free. It can be a dinner, house party, or graduation party hosted at your residence, or it can be an event you host in a rented property.

What is the liability?

Common law generally says that social hosts are not liable for injury or death related to alcohol they serve to guests, there are exceptions.

  1. Adults have a duty to refrain from negligently or intentionally supplying alcohol to minors. If they knew the minor was driving under the influence they can be liable.
  2. Party hosts have a responsibility not to “furnish” (make available) or “serve” (deliver) alcohol to minors.

 

What does WA law say?

In RCW 66.44.270 it states, “It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control.”

What are the consequences?

Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail.

Parents, what can you do?

Hosting a party and allowing underage drinking sends the message that underage drinking and breaking the law is ok. Draw the line at underage drinking. Do not supply or encourage underage drinking in your home. Talk to your children about the consequences and provide activities in your home (alcohol free) that make your child’s friends feel welcome.

 

 

Source: http://liq.wa.gov/education/social-hosting-0

 

 

Early Release- About the Parole Process

Parole is when you are released early from prison, before you have served the entire sentence. Parolees will be under supervision and typically have to follow a set of conditions. Not everyone is eligible for parole, but the boards will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant parole.

Prisoners can earn “good time” credits for good behavior. These credits count toward early release. Parole isn’t granted by a judge, but rather a “parole board” made up of prison officials.


A few different factors are considered by the parole boards.

  • How serious was the offense?
  • Has the prisoner followed prison rules?
  • Have any victims expressed strong concern about the possibility of parole?
  • Will this person be able to successfully reintegrate into society?

The parolee will have a period of supervision following release. They will have conditions that must be met including:

  • Obey all laws.
  • Report location to parole officer.
  • Get permission when traveling.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use.
  • Pay fines/restitution.
  • Avoid contact with gang members, witnesses and victims.
  • Allow random searches. These do not need probable cause.If you have questions regarding parole or regarding a specific case, contact your attorney.

    Source:Criminal Lawyers

Legal Terms 101: Crime Classification

Crimes will receive different classifications depending on how severe the are. These classifications are known as infractions for the mildest crimes and felonies for most serious. The classification of the crime has influence on sentencing and court proceedings. Here are some of the key differences.

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1. Infractions

  • An infraction (petty offense) is a violation in the municipal code, or ordinance. In most states, an infraction is not considered a criminal offense and is not punishable by law. There is no jail time associated with it.

Examples:

  • Jaywalking
  • Speeding ticket
  • Littering
  • Cell phone while driving
  • Not wearing seatbelt

Options:

  • Pay a fine
  • Provide explanation and pay the fine
  • Request informal hearing with no attorney (could cost you)
  • Request court hearing with attorney to dispute ticket

2. Misdemeanor 

  • Misdemeanors are criminal offenses less serious than a felony, more serious than infraction. They are punishable by a fine, jail time or both. There are different levels of misdemeanors as well (petty, ordinary, and high/gross)

Examples:

  • Petty theft
  • Public intoxication
  • Trespass
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Simple assault

Options:

  • Contact an attorney
  • Attend pretrial
  • Plead either guilty, not guilty or no contest
  • If given a fine, pay the fine.
  • Your may be able to enter a plea bargain or you may have to go to trial.slide-6

 3. Felonies

  • Felonies are the most serious offense in the United States. Many states will give harsher punishment to repeat offenders. If you are charged with a felony, you may face more than a year of jail time, fines or both.

Examples:

  • Treason
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorism
  • Burglary

Options:

  • Contact a criminal defense attorney
  • Possibility of a dismissal (due to unconstitutional search and seizure, evidence…)
  • You will be arrested and can meet with pretrial services to determine your bond.
  • Arraignment is your first appearance before a judge. You can plea guilty or not guilty.
  • Preliminary hearing will determine if substantive evidence exists to charge you.
  • If evidence exists, the grand jury will hear your case.
  • Eventually a jury will hear your case.
  • If found guilty you may be sent to prison or be charged with fines. If eligable, you may receive probation.
  • If you are acquitted, you will be released and the charge will be expunged in 60 days.

 

Sources:

FindLaw

Avvo.com

Attorneys.com

 

Types of Criminal Law Verdicts

The verdict is an important part of any criminal law trial. There are consequences to having a guilty verdict, so there are certain requirements that need to be met for a verdict to be valid and also just. Here are some important things you should know if you will be having a criminal trial.

 

Source: Thebrianmo.com

Source: Thebrianmo.com

What is a verdict?

Put simply, a verdict is the decision made by the jury in a criminal (or civil) trial.

In a federal criminal case, the verdict needs to be unanimous for a conviction to occur. Usually there are 12 juror members. State criminal cases do not require a unanimous vote or there to be 12 people on the jury.

The main type of verdict is called a general verdict. The jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. There is another type called a special verdict but they are not common.

 

Not Guilty Verdict

A verdict of “not guilty” means that the prosecution has not proven the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This means the defendant is acquitted, formally free from the charge of an offense. Under the rules of double jeopardy a person cannot be tried for the same crime, even if new evidence surfaces. There are a few things that could have led to a not guilty verdict.

  • Unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the crime was committed.
  • Not enough evidence to convict (“Innocent until proven guilty.”)
  • Alibi puts defendant somewhere else during the crime
  • Self- defense- defense that claims people have the right to defend themselves from physical injury. It needs to be proven that the self-defense was necessary.
  • Insanity- this is a rare plea but it is required that you must have intended to perform the crime. This defense will typically send someone to a psychiatric facility instead of prison.
  • Prosecutor not present- if the victim of the crime doesn’t appear to testify then the case cannot continue.

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Guilty Verdict 

The defendant has been proven guilty and the defendant is liable to punishment for the crimes committed.

Lesser-Included Offense Verdict

The jury could find a defendant guilty of a lesser offense than what they were charged for. For example, manslaughter instead of murder, assault but not rape, or unlawful entry instead of burglary. In a criminal case, two or more offenses can be charged together provided that they are similar. They can be charged together, but the accused cannot be convicted guilty of both crimes. If the jury finds guilt beyond reasonable doubt for the lesser offense but finds reasonable doubt for the greater offense, the jury may convict on the lesser charge.

Mistrial

A mistrial will be considered invalid trial and can be declared for several reasons. This could include lack of jurisdiction, incorrect jury selection, a deadlocked jury or extraordinary circumstances such as a death.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the types of verdicts and parts of a criminal court trial you can visit this website.