1. Will I always be arrested if a criminal charge occurs?
Not always. Some offenses, like domestic violence, usually result in arrest of the “primary aggressor”. Other offenses, like DUI, result in arrest at the time of the incident. Some charges may result from an investigation. Then a complaint or “Information” is filed with the court and a Summons sent out, allowing the accused to appear voluntarily in court without arrest.
2. A law enforcement officer wants me to come in to discuss the case or to “hear your side”. Should I go in for the meeting?
Usually, until you have discussed your matter with an attorney, you should not discuss the facts, “your side” or your involvement at all. While statements made by you to law enforcement, can, and often are, used against you later, statements to your attorney are privileged and cannot be used against you. Tell the officer you want to talk to an attorney before you do anything else. People think that if they just give their side of the story, this whole unfortunate misunderstanding will be cleared up and everyone can be about their business. That is wrong. Your statement will seldom change the mind of an officer who is already inclined to charge you with a crime.
3. An officer has read me my “Miranda” rights (you have the right to remain silent…). He then asks if I understand my rights and if I am willing to waive my rights and talk to him. What should I do?
Tell the officer you do understand your rights, but do not wish to answer any questions and want to talk to an attorney. Questioning must then cease. Never feel rushed or pressured into giving up your right to remain silent.
4. Court documents served on me say I could get up to five years (or ten years) in prison. Am I really going to prison for that long?
No. Charging documents have to show the maximum penalty for the offense. If you are convicted of the offense, your sentence would be based on your criminal history and a sentence range based on that history. A maximum possible sentence is rare. Generally only persons with a long criminal history are likely to receive the maximum sentence.
5. Will I always get jail time?
No. While some offenses (like DUI) have mandatory jail time, not all offenses result in jail time. Some felony first offenders receive sentences where jail time is converted to community service hours.
6. Can I avoid a conviction?
Yes. Sometimes we can structure a resolution of your case where a dismissal occurs in the future if conditions are met.
7. If I have criminal convictions from years ago, can my record be cleared? Can my firearms rights be restored?
There are laws in Washington allowing certain misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions to be vacated three years after all conditions of the court are met. (After probation ends and after all financial obligations are paid).
Certain felonies can also be vacated, after five years for a Class C felony and ten years for a Class B felony (again after all conditions and payments are met). If your conviction is properly vacated, you may state that you have never been convicted of that offense. You may also qualify to have your right to possess firearms restored. Contact our office about vacating your conviction or restoring your right to possess firearms.
8. Does a DUI affect travel to Canada?
Yes. Current Canadian law prohibits persons with a DUI conviction on their record from entering Canada. It can take many years and an application to Canada to obtain back the right to enter their country.