Incarceration. Fines. Driver’s license suspension. These are just a few of the repercussions that a criminal conviction can incur. Obviously, if you or a loved one was arrested for a crime, you have some serious decisions to make. With so much at stake, the best thing you can do right now is put aside your anxiety and fear and reach out for help from a qualified Washington criminal law attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime, your future hangs in the balance. Police and prosecutors cannot be trusted to protect your rights. You want an experienced lawyer who will stand by your side and give your case the personal attention it needs to be a success.
Regardless of your innocence or guilt, being charged with a criminal offense can instantly turn your life upside-down. You will likely have questions like:
- Does it make me look guilty to hire a criminal defense attorney right away?
- When do I hire a lawyer?
- Will I have to appear in court?
- If I’m innocent, should I just go ahead and talk to the police?
The importance of legal counsel to the accused is so great it is specifically required by The United States Constitution. You cannot be expected to protect yourself from the immense power of the Government on your own. If you are facing charges for any crime, whether a simple misdemeanor or a serious felony, having a lawyer is necessary to withstand the legal battle ahead.Pierce County Court Systems Explained by a Lakewood Criminal Defense Attorney
The Washington state criminal defense process can be difficult and confusing, especially for someone unfamiliar with the law. When accused of a crime, the process could take a few weeks or even several years depending on the type of crime you are accused of, the amount of evidence, and local laws.
Often, this includes interviews with police, booking, bail hearing, jury trial, and, if necessary, sentencing and appeals. There are important legal implications every step of the way, which is why it’s important to have an experienced Lakewood criminal law lawyer by your side.
An important part of the criminal charges process involves appearing in court. There are four levels of court in Washington: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the superior courts, and courts of limited jurisdiction, also known as district and municipal courts. This section will focus on three of those courts, Municipal, District, and Superior Courts, as they are the three courts most relevant to criminal charges in Lakewood.
Washington cities may establish Municipal Courts, however not every city chooses to do so. Municipal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, which means that they are only allowed to hear certain types of cases.
Municipal courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and non-criminal traffic violations, but they can not hear civil cases. The Lakewood Municipal Court is located in the Lakewood City Hall building and serves as the municipal court for Lakewood, University Place, DuPont, and the town of Steilacoom.
Each of Washington's 39 counties has a District and a Superior Court. The district court is also a court of limited jurisdiction, and adjudicates on misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, traffic infractions, civil matters, violations of state law, and will also hear preliminary or expedited felony cases. The Pierce County District Court is located in Tacoma, approximately 10 miles from downtown Lakewood.
The Pierce County Superior Court is also located in downtown Tacoma. Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction, which means that they can hear all civil and criminal matters occurring within the county. The superior court also has exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases, estate and probate matters, juvenile proceedings, and felonies.
A guilty conviction could result in jail time and give future employers, agencies, and governments the ability to deny employment, licenses, travel, and benefits. Anything you say to law enforcement or in court could compound these problems. Our proven criminal defense strategy is designed to carefully consider ways to mitigate or eliminate these consequences with every action we take in your defense.
The sooner we can start working on your defense, the better your eventual outcome can be. Our Lakewood criminal law lawyers care about protecting your rights, and we strive to get the best possible outcome so you can get your life back on track.How to Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney
Finding the right criminal defense lawyer for your situation is important. With an arrest for a drug crime, sex crime, or other criminal offense, your life can change in an instant. With so much at stake, nothing is more important than getting the help of a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced criminal defense attorney who can discuss your options with you and provide a strong defense to get you the best outcome possible.
Here are some qualities we recommend you look for in your search:
- Proven success: As a defendant, you should look for a criminal defense attorney who has successfully represented clients with identical or similar offenses. See the below list of felonies and misdemeanors that our Lakewood criminal law lawyers have the knowledge, skill, and experience with which to help you.
- Local experience: Procedures can vary from one courthouse to another, so knowing the ins and outs of local procedures and personnel can help you do better in court. If your trial is in Pierce County, our team has successfully defended clients in almost every city where your case will be processed and tried. Whether you’re trying to fight a speeding ticket or dealing with a serious felony charge, we have the real-world experience that makes a real difference.
- Personal attention: Our knowledgeable criminal trial lawyers will provide you and your case with our best efforts and the personal attention you deserve.
- Free consultation: Going through a criminal defense case is a big deal, and it is important that you feel comfortable with the attorney representing you. A no-cost consultation allows you to speak with a prospective lawyer and ask them questions about their experience and approach. This allows you to find the right legal representation for you.
An WA State criminal attorney’s job is to provide information and advice on the pros and cons of a particular course of action in a case. This counsel helps the client decide on the best approach to take.
In some situations, the client needs to make the decision on whether to try the case to a jury or enter a plea. A sound decision only happens after the lawyer gives a full explanation of the options, and the client has received and reviewed all the information in the case. That is why a lawyer must be strategic and experienced when it comes to advising a client.
Even when cases seem hopeless, we have a track record of winning for our clients. With over 50 combined years of experience, our team is determined to aggressively provide every client with the best defense that we can, and our goal is always to achieve the best possible outcome in your case, whether that means a dismissal of your charges, a favorable plea agreement through negotiations, or a not guilty verdict at trial.
Our Lakewood criminal law attorneys handle both misdemeanor and felony charges. A misdemeanor is a crime less serious than a felony. There are two levels of misdemeanors, defined by the parameters of their punishments.
- Simple misdemeanors are punishable by fines up to $1,000 and/or jail time up to 90 days.
- Gross misdemeanors are punishable by fines up to $5,000 and/or jail time up to 364 days.
A felony is the most serious criminal offense and carries severe punishments. Some examples of felony charges include rape and murder.
There are three levels of felony charges:
- Class A Felony- carries a sentence of up to life in a state correctional facility and/or fines up to $50,000.
- Class B Felony- carries a sentence of up to 10 years in a state correctional facility and/or fines of up to $20,000.
- Class C Felony- carries a sentence of up to 5 years in a state correctional facility and/or fines of up to $10,000.
Review some of the more specific charges we’ve handled in Lakewood below.
DUI- How bad is a first offense DUI in Washington state? According to Washington state statute RCW 46.61.502
(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:
(a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(b) The person has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(c) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug; or
(d) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug.
If you are a first-time offender, or if you have not had any administrative actions taken against you in the last seven years, your consequences generally are not as severe as those a repeat offender might face. That does not, however, mean you won’t face punishment. First-time DUI laws require mandatory sentencing.
Sex Crimes- Sex-related offenses are a difficult area of law, particularly because of the stigma surrounding them. Unfortunately, juries rarely give the benefit of the doubt to those charged with such crimes. Further, the sentencing guidelines judges refer to for punishment recommend lengthy prison sentences up to several decades-long. These types of offenses typically result in enrollment on the Sex Offender Registry. This can have a significant impact on day-to-day life and employment. When the law is not on your side, having an experienced attorney to help you make informed decisions is important.
Domestic Violence- Domestic violence can occur between individuals who are dating, married, or in a family relationship. It is not limited to race or gender or income level. This charge can include any of the following in an attempt for one person to dominate another:
- Harassment, including harassment by phone, text messages, or e-mail
- Threats to injure a party or pet
- Hitting, choking, or slapping
- Withholding finances
- Stalking or keeping under surveillance
There are also factors that relate to sentencing, if convicted. Consider Statute RCW 10.99.100:
Sentencing—Factors—Defendant's criminal history.
(1) In sentencing for a crime of domestic violence as defined in this chapter, courts of limited jurisdiction shall consider, among other factors, whether:
(a) The defendant suffered a continuing pattern of coercion, control, or abuse by the victim of the offense and the offense is a response to that coercion, control, or abuse;
(b) The offense was part of an ongoing pattern of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse of a victim or multiple victims manifested by multiple incidents over a prolonged period of time; and
(c) The offense occurred within sight or sound of the victim's or the offender's minor children under the age of eighteen years.
Minor DUI- If you are under age 21 and are either driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol content of 0.02 – 0.079 within 2 hours of the time of the incident, you can be arrested and charged with “Driver under twenty-one consuming alcohol,” also known as “minor DUI.”
An arrest for a "minor DUI" triggers a mandatory license suspension of at least 90 days by the Department of Licensing. Make no mistake, a minor DUI charge is serious because one simple mistake like drinking a single beer can derail a child’s life. If two young people apply for a job and one has a criminal record, who do you think will get the job?
No matter how seemingly simple or overwhelmingly complex your case is, you should take the time to consult with our knowledgeable Washington criminal defense lawyers.
If you don’t see your specific charge listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of Lakewood defense attorneys to go over the specifics of your charges. When you contact us, we take the time to get to know you and make sure we understand all the details of your situation.Lakewood, a City Recognized for Its Excellence
Home to approximately 60 thousand residents, Lakewood is the second-largest city in Pierce County, Washington. Named by America’s Promise Alliance as one of the “One Hundred Best Communities for Young People” for six years in a row, Lakewood is home to an award-winning public school system as well as Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top community colleges in the nation.
Nestled within city limits are 5 lakes which offer visitors and residents plenty of opportunity for fishing and watersports. Near the shores of Waughop Lake is the 340-acre Fort Steilacoom Park. Considered the crown jewel of Lakewood, the park draws over 1 million visitors each year from across the region.
Another popular landmark in Lakewood is Thornewood Castle. Built in 1911 from the pieces of an English Tudor castle, this event site features 22 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms. If the facade looks familiar to you, it’s because the exterior of the castle has been featured in Stephen King’s “Rose Red” and the Daniel Day-Lewis movie “There Will Be Blood.”
Every July Lakewood hosts its annual Summerfest, a collection of family-friendly entertainment featuring everything from fire dancers and stilt walkers to an international music festival and a pet parade. Past celebrations have also included live music all day and an aerial motocross show.
If you have been charged with a crime in Lakewood, contact a Washington state criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your options. Our no-cost initial consultation is available to answer any questions you may have.How Can a Lakewood Criminal Defense Attorney Help You?
First and foremost, it's important to remember that your case is far from over if you are arrested. The prosecution still has to build a convincing case against you and establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. During this time, you should be meeting with your defense lawyer regularly to plan your legal defense. Doing so gives you the best possible shot at overcoming this huge obstacle in your life and moving on.
The stakes couldn't be higher than when you face a criminal charge, which is why you should be wise in selecting a criminal defense attorney with the right experience, knowledge, and background in resolving cases just like yours. When it comes to your freedom and future, you should not take chances by working with anyone but an experienced, confident, and aggressive criminal defense attorney.
To discuss your situation with a member of our legal team, contact us today and we will begin devising a powerful strategy for your defense.