Illegal Arrests Now Okay?

Illegal arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court is gradually eroding your 4th Amendment rights. Recent opinions give police broader powers to arrest citizens even if they are not breaking the law. Washington State has stronger protections against illegal search and seizure but, Prosecutors will be excited by recent SCOTUS cases.

Want more info? Read the this excellent article by law professor Erwin Chermerinsky as published in this month’s ABA Journal. 

Charged with Possession?

The attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates help those who have been charged with possession of a controlled substance or other contraband. Call (253)683-4180 today to schedule your free consultation.

Legal Financial Obligations

Legal Fines and Fees

Legal Financial Obligations Can Hurt.

Imagine paying a fine…for 25 years. It can happen, and the Washington Supreme Court just did something about it.

The Court has ruled that two Pierce County defendants will get new sentence hearings because the judges in those cases imposed standard legal financial obligations without looking at whether the defendants could afford them.

Although attorneys for neither defendant objected at their sentencings, they made their case to the court of Appeals, which declined to take up the case. The Supreme Court said it issued a ruling to “emphasize the trial court’s obligation to consider the defendant’s ability to pay.” Chief justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the sentencing judges in these cases used boilerplate language rather than assessing each defendant’s financial circumstances and whether they could pay the amounts. “The Legislature did not intend Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) orders to be uniform among cases of similar crimes,” Madsen wrote in the decision. “Rather it intended each judge to conduct a case-by-case analysis and arrive at an LFO order appropriate to the individual defendant’s circumstances.”

The ruling notes studies that have shown ordering standard financial obligations without consideration of a particular defendant’s case can make it harder for the person to re-enter society. It also increases recidivism rates and makes it difficult for the government to recoup the money, according to the ruling.  Some poorer defendants never pay their legal fees and otherS pay a small stipend. That means the court stays involved in the defendant’s life much longer – possibly creating issues with employment, housing and credit rates – and the defendant could end up paying more in the long run, the ruling states. In fact, it can take some defendants 25 years of minimum payments to pay off LFOs. Failing to pay the LFOs is a bar to expunging or vacating criminal records.

Counties in Washington with higher violent crime rates, smaller populations and those that designate less of their budgets to law and justice assess higher legal financial obligations than other counties, according to the ruling. This imperative under RCW 10.01.160(3) means that the court must do more than sign a judgment and sentence with boilerplate language stating that it engaged in the required inquiry.

If you have been charged with a crime, you not only have to consider the potential loss of liberty but also the fines and fees that go along with a conviction. You need to hire an attorney who understands all the implications of a criminal charge. You can trust the former prosecutors and experienced defense attorneys at Durflinger Oliver to give you all the info and options you need to make the right choices. Call today for a free consultation. We offer military discount and easy payment plans.



Criminal Attorney

 

Tacoma Municipal Court

Tac Muni CourtTacoma Municipal Court Judges hear criminal, criminal traffic, and infraction cases. A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. A simple misdemeanor carries penalties of up to 90 days in custody and a fine of up to $1,000.00. RCW 9A.20.021. A gross misdemeanor is a more serious offense and carries up to 364 days in custody and a $5,000.00 fine. Crimes like DUI have mandatory jail sentences and potential driver license suspension. RCW 46.61.5055. An infraction can include anything from speeding with a modest fine, to Negligent Driving 2 with a fine of $550.

Criminal and traffic cases heard in Tacoma Municipal Court begin with an investigation by a Tacoma Police Officer.  Once the investigation is done, the officer either issues a citation, or prepares and forwards to the Tacoma City Attorney a Tacoma Police report. An Assistant City Attorney then reviews the report and decides whether to charge a crime. Assistant City Attorneys in Tacoma Municipal also prosecute traffic infractions like speeding tickets, overweight violations, etc.

Tacoma Municipal Court Judges

Tacoma Municipal Court currently has three elected judges and 2 Commissioners. Their names and background information are as follows:

  • Judge David B. Ladenburg – Tacoma City Attorney/Prosecutor.
  • Judge Elizabeth E. Verhey – Presiding Judge, DUI/Criminal Traffic Judge.
  • Judge Drew Ann Henke – Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor.
  • Commissioner Dennis Ball – Currently Hears infractions and conducts some Arraignments.
  • Commissioner Randy Hanson – Currently Hears infractions.

Criminal Cases

  • Tacoma Reckless Endangerment – A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.050. Frequently charged in driving cases.
  • Tacoma Brandishing – It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the person shall lose his or her concealed pistol license, if any. There are exceptions for home and business, law enforcement, self-defense, and military service. RCW 9.41.270. Pocket knives and handguns are the most common weapons.
  • Tacoma Criminal Trespass – A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building. Criminal trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.52.070. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor. 9A.52.080. Defenses:  A building involved in an offense under RCW 9A.52.070 was abandoned; or The premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain; or The actor was attempting to serve legal process… 9A.52.090.
  • Tacoma Assault – A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree if, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first, second, or third degree, or custodial assault, he or she assaults another. Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.041. If the assault is against a family member, former spouse or significant other, or parent of child in common, the City will also add the Domestic Violence aggravator.
  • Tacoma Harassment – A person is guilty of harassment if: Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens: to cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or to cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or to subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. “Words or conduct” includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication. A person who harasses another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. 9A.46.020. If the Harassment is against a family member, former spouse or significant other, or parent of child in common, the City will also add the Domestic Violence aggravator.
  • Tacoma VPO/VNCO  Whenever an order is granted under this chapter, chapter, or there is a valid foreign protection order as defined in RCW 26.52.020, and the respondent or person to be restrained knows of the order, a violation of any of the following provisions of the order is a gross misdemeanor… RCW 26.50.110.
  • Tacoma Shoplifting/Theft 3 – A person is guilty of theft in the third degree if he or she commits theft of property or services which (a) does not exceed seven hundred fifty dollars in value, or (b) includes ten or more merchandise pallets, or ten or more beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates. Theft in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.56.050.
  • Tacoma Disorderly Conduct – A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person: Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault; Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority; Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority; or Intentionally engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct or makes unreasonable noise, within five hundred feet of…funeral activities.

Tacoma Traffic Matters

  • Tacoma Traffic Tickets – Speeding, Speed Unsafe for Conditions, Following Too Closely, Negligent Driving in the Second Degree, Red Light Tickets, CDL Matters, Overweight Tickets, Log Violations.
  • Tacoma DUI
  • Tacoma BUI
  • Tacoma Reckless Driving
  • Tacoma Negligent Driving
  • Tacoma Hit and Run

Tacoma Municipal Court matters are heard in the Municipal Courtrooms on the first and second floors of the City/County Building at 930 Tacoma Avenue South in downtown Tacoma. Domestic Violence offenses are handled in Room 235 while DUI and other criminal traffic cases are heard in room 234.

The New Face Of Gun Control

Tacoma Gun AttorneyWashington Second Amendment lawyers are closely watching developments in Missouri. The “Show Me State” recently organized a four-day Urban Crime Summit at which attendees were to come up with ideas for reducing crime. One of the ideas being floated during this summit was a “gun court” system that would treat differently/harshly not only armed criminals, but CCP holders accused of petty traffic offenses.

As proposed, all cases involving firearms in any capacity would be separated from all other types of criminal cases and would be heard before one of two judges. These two judges would set high, cash-only bonds for defendants and ensure that the matters before them head to trial much faster than normal, non-gun cases.

Armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and homicide by way of a firearm will all land you in front of a gun judge. Unfortunately, if a person with a concealed weapon permit gets into a fight – but never brandishes or uses the gun – they can be charged with assault in the fourth degree, and will end up in gun court.

Moreover, some poor guy with a hunting rifle who gets pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence can also end up in gun court.  This has many Tacoma gun lawyers wondering whether this is yet another assault on our Constitutional right to bear arms. Such legislation is a slippery slope upon which our Constitutional right to bear arms may be further restricted.

Here’s how restrictions are likely to develop: Step one: create a separate court that deals only with crimes in which the defendant had a weapons, or was licensed to possess a weapon.  Step two: set astronomically high, cash-only bail, which ensures that the accused are locked up until released by a judge, jury, jail, or prison. In additional to high bail, the defendant and his attorney would be rushed through the process at a breakneck pace designed to overwhelm defense attorneys. Of course, the accused would also lose their firearms in the process. Step three: make the penalty/sentence for those convicted of the commission of a crime with a firearm severe.

Essentially, steps one through three aims to separate defendants into two categories: those who commit crimes with a firearm, and everyone else.  Every 2nd Amendment attorney will be concerned with equal protection issues and uniform application of the law. For instance, a defendant charged in gun courts may not enjoy the same procedural rights and equal application of the law. That’s because their case proceeds at the speed of sound and any criminal attorney will tell you that it takes time to prepare a case for trial, or resolution.

Defendants are also unlikely to enjoy the same rights (procedural, Constitutional, etc.)  as other non-gun court defendants. Experienced criminal defense attorneys worry that they won’t be able to adequately prepare and defend their clients who are being rushed through the system. Very few people outside the legal system would have any idea how unfair gun courts will be.

Few people would object to stiffer/harsher sentences and penalties for those convicted of a crime while using a firearm. I’m a former prosecutor, and most of our attorneys and support staff in my office have CCP’s, and we want to see punishment for people who use guns to victimize others. Unfortunately, the proposed gun courts, while not directly affecting gun rights currently, could be the first step towards curtailing our right to bear arms. Thus, it is important that we recognize that any potential legislation aimed at curbing gun violence can eventually lead to the infringement of our Constitutional right to bear arms.

Ross D. Brittain, Esq.