Do I need to hire an attorney if I plan on pleading guilty?
A lot of people ask a great question at the beginning of their case. They say “Do I need an attorney if I am just going to plead guilty anyway?” And in short the answer is yes. If you are sick and you go to the doctor do you say, “Do I need a doctor? I am sick.” The answer is yes. You need a lawyer if you are facing criminal trouble. Many things come with good representation. Smaller costs, smaller jail time, better outcomes, better dispositions but most importantly you get the time and attention to make sure that the prosecutor is not overcharging your case.
In many situations, the prosecutors charge cases that they cannot actually prove and that did not actually happen. So it’s good to sit down with a private attorney and have a free consultation and figure out what all your rights are and what all your options are.
Many attorneys do give free consultations, we do here at this office give free consultations. Feel free to call. Remember lawyers have good understanding, they are trained on the evidence rules and what facts will come in to court, what all the disposition options are or the plea agreement options are. They can discuss what all the different charges are that the prosecutor can bring forward against you.
Remember in many circumstances the charges don’t fit what happened. If two people say are in an argument in a home but it’s a friend and no one lives there, they don’t live there together they might get charged with a domestic violence crime if one person strikes the other. But it’s not actually in domestic violence crime. And so you need someone who understands the facts of the case and who can represent you against the other attorney because remember there is another attorney in the court room that is advocating against you.
So get good representation, call an attorney and get a free consultation and figure out what your rights are and what options you have. Good luck.
What is the difference between a felony & a misdemeanor?
The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Washington State is essentially the difference between whether you can go to prison or be sentenced to local time in a local county jail. Gross misdemeanors carry up to, basically, a year in jail, while felonies, you can be sent to state prison for a year and a day, up to your life. So the big difference is whether it carries a year or more. That’s the breaking point.
So in Washington State we have class A felonies, class B felonies, and class C felonies. Class C felonies carry a maximum jurisdiction of five years. So the judges can put you in for up to five years. But, their sentences are governed by the Sentencing Reform Act, so you’re not going to go in for five years if you’re charged with a class C felony. Your exposure is more accurately described by what the Sentencing Reform Act dictates for the crime that you’re charged with. Class B felonies carry a maximum jurisdiction of 10 years. Class A felonies have, essentially, life, and they’re the top crime in Washington State. We have the death penalty in Washington State.
Below all the felonies there’s gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. Now gross misdemeanors used to be a year or up to a year, but they changed that to 364, so it’s up to 364 days in jail. Misdemeanors are up to 90 days in jail. And so, really, that’s how we describe crimes, that’s how we talk about them, by the maximum jurisdiction that the court has in the different crimes that are charged in Washington State.
When I am arrested, should I speak with the police?
Don’t feel bad if you spoke with the police. That’s the first thing I want to say to you. If you spoke to the police when they were investigating the crime or when you were arrested, don’t feel bad. Most people do. But, it’s definitely the wrong thing to do. It’s just a natural thing that we do because people of different religious backgrounds or whatever it is, some people think that they’re going to lessen the effects of the charges against them, but it’s definitely always the wrong thing to talk to police. You want to ask for an attorney. You say, “Attorney. I’m confused, I want to talk to an attorney.”
The officers understand the rules of engagement in that time period, you don’t. Even if you’re an experienced person that’s been through the criminal system a lot, you don’t understand as much about what’s going on as the police do. And so be confused, stay confused, and ask for an attorney. An attorney will be able to speak to the officers and will be able to represent what you want to say to the officers, but without making evidence that will be used against you in court.
So, ask for an attorney, “attorney” is the magic word, and remain silent. It’s your constitutional right and that’s what you should exercise.
Will my case have to go to trial?
A lot of people wonder whether their case will go to trial. And it’s difficult to say, you have to understand that your right to trial is the only power you carry with you as a defendant in the criminal court system. So it’s often best to be prepared to go to trial, but what your attorney should be doing is negotiating the case, and trying to get offers for you that you can say yes or no to along in the way. You want an attorney that is preparing for trial, and also is negotiating the case, so that you can get out of the system with the least amount of damage. Call our office, or any attorney’s office, and you most likely can get a free consultation to get a better sense about whether your case is going to actually go to trial.