Frequent Issues in Criminal Law
ALLOWING POLICE TO SEARCH A CAR, HOUSE OR TAKE A DNA SAMPLE:
Any decision on whether to allow a search or to take a DNA sample should be made after consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.
It is best to let the police obtain a search warrant to search a house or car or to take a DNA sample. Then the warrant can be attacked if there was not sufficient probable cause and a motion made to suppress this evidence. By agreeing to a search, it is harder to suppress the evidence.
WHAT DOES VUCSA STAND FOR?
Violation Uniform Controlled Substances Act. This generally refers to drug cases, possessions and deliveries.
CAN SOMEONE BE CHARGED WITH DRUG POSSESSION IF THAT PERSON DOES NOT KNOW THAT HE OR SHE HAD POSSESSION OF AN ILLEGAL DRUG?
Yes! Under Washington law, mere possession is enough. Thus, if you are holding your wife's purse and it contains marijuana or cocaine, you can be charged with possession even if you did not know that drugs were in her purse. However, you can present evidence at your trial that you did not know you were possessing drugs. That defense is called "the unwitting possession defense." Be aware that the State does not have to prove you knowingly possessed the drugs but you, instead must prove that you did not know about the drugs.
WHAT IS DRUG COURT?
Drug court is a procedure that many Superior Courts are using to provide drug treatment to individuals who are charged with a crime which is drug related. Typically it is an agreement between the defendant, the court and the prosecutor where the defendant agrees to complete the requirements of drug court (typically drug treatment) and if successful the pending charges are either dismissed or substantially reduced. Each court has specific requirements and admission standards.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RESOLUTIONS FOR A MISDEMEANOR CHARGE?
First, conviction after a plea or a trial. This may involve jail time, a fine, imposition of costs as well as probation up to two years.
Second, a deferred sentence. For a deferred sentence, one pleads guilty. If one complies with the conditions of probation, at the completion of the probation period, the court will withdraw the guilty plea, enter a plea of not guilty and then dismiss the case. Technically, one is then not convicted of the crime. However, the conviction still shows up as a conviction on the Washington State Patrol criminal history records and remains an open court file which can be accessed by anyone.
Third, a "dispositional continuance" or "stipulated order of continuance" or "pretrial diversion." This is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant. If the defendant complies with the terms of the agreement (typically some treatment, community service and a period of crime free behavior) the prosecutor will dismiss the case. Not all prosecutors will agree to such arrangements.
Fourth, a compromise of misdemeanor. For certain misdemeanor crimes, if restitution (amount of loss) is paid to the victim and the victim agrees to dismissal, the court can dismiss the case. Generally the victim must agree to the dismissal and be fully compensated for his or her loss. Fifth, dismissal by the prosecutor or acquittal at trial and dismissal by the court.
*This information is provided only as a general guideline, and is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal advice to the reader. This information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and myself. You must consult a lawyer for legal advice regarding specific facts and circumstances.