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

 

Get Your Gun Rights Back!

Gun Rights Attorneys

Restore Your Gun Rights.

If you’re reading with a gun nearby, and a felony, or DV conviction in your past, be careful! In Washington State, any felony conviction and some misdemeanor DV convictions will result in a loss of the right to possess a firearm. It doesn’t matter whether your conviction has been vacated, or whether the charge was dismissed under some deferral program in a plea deal.  As far as cops and prosecutors are concerned, the conviction still prohibits being around guns.

Restoration of 2A rights can be accomplished by way of a Pardon, Annulment, Certification of Rehabilitation, or an order restoring the right to possess firearms from a superior court. This last method is the most commonly used.

A Superior Court will generally issue an order restoring gun rights for an eligible person who makes such a request.  Here are the basics: Ten years have elapsed since you satisfied all the obligations of a Class B felony conviction, and five years have elapsed since you satisfied all the requirements of a Class C felony conviction (three years if the conviction was for a misdemeanor), and there are no pending criminal charges or arrest warrants.  And, of course, the person must not be prohibited from firearm possession due to some other factor unrelated to the old conviction, such as a mental-health commitment, or a court order that limits firearm rights, such as a protection order, restraining order, or no-contact order. For misdemeanor cases, all conditions of the sentence must be successfully completed.

Some offenses are so serious that a convicted person can never restore firearm rights.  These are the sex offenses and Class A felonies, such as homicide, robbery, and other violent crimes.

In Washington, if an eligible person asks (petitions) a Superior Court judge to restore firearm rights, the judge must grant the request.  It’s mandatory.  The judge cannot refuse the request just because the judge thinks the applicant is a bad actor.  On the other side of the coin, the judge cannot grant the request of an ineligible person just because the person has a long list of accomplishments and a fistful of character references.  This is a pass/fail test.  The applicant either meets the criteria or he doesn’t.

The gun rights attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates are dedicated to helping put firearms back into the hands of qualified people. Call us today for your free consultation.

~ Martha McLaughlin, Sr. Associate

 

Vacating A Misdemeanor Conviction (Clean Up That Record!)

Expungement, expunge, Vacate

Clean Up Your History!

Who doesn’t love a good vacation? Nobody! Everybody loves vacation. This is especially true if you were ever convicted of a crime!

In Washington State, The process of removing a misdemeanor conviction from your criminal history is called vacation. Vacating a conviction has requirements, and it can be done only once in a lifetime on your most recent charge.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The court vacates the judgment and sentence and then dismisses the charge(s) against you.
  2. This gets rid of your conviction.
  3. Once your conviction is vacated, you can honestly say that you were never convicted of the crime.
  4. The conviction is removed from the defendant’s criminal history.
  5. The vacate order is sent to the WSP and FBI, which then update their databases.
  6. Record of the conviction may not be disclosed to any person except other criminal justice enforcement agencies.

While certain rules apply to determine whether a person qualifies to have a conviction vacated, it is important to remember that any decision to vacate a conviction is up to the judge. Generally, if you’ve done what you’re supposed to, the judge will vacate your crimes.

Washington State has several laws dealing with the ability to vacate an adult criminal conviction. Each applies to a specific type of case. Each has its own unique set of factors you must meet to vacate a conviction. In most instances the judge has the discretion to grant or deny a request to vacate a conviction.

RCW 9.94A.640 – Felony Convictions

Washington law allows a person to vacate most class B and C felonies. Class A felonies, violent crimes, and crimes against persons may not be vacated. For class B felonies, you must wait ten (10) years to vacate after receiving a Certificate of Discharge. For class C felonies, you must wait five (5) years. During this time you must not have any criminal convictions of any kind. It is possible to vacate more than one felony conviction.

RCW 9.96.060 – Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Convictions

Generally, a person must wait 3 years after completing all conditions of sentence to become eligible to vacate a non-DV conviction. For domestic violence offenses, you must wait 5 years after paying off your legal financial obligations, completing probation, treatment, etc. In 2012, the Legislature changed this law to require persons with a DUI reduced conviction (Negligent Driving, Reckless Driving, or Reckless Endangerment) to wait ten years. Certain crimes, like DUI’s and sex crimes, cannot be vacated. You must wait five (5) to vacate domestic violence crimes. You must meet several more requirements to be eligible to vacate a conviction. Unlike the felony law, you may only vacate a single misdemeanor conviction from your record.

If you have any questions about cleaning up your criminal history, you can trust the attorneys at Durflinger Oliver to meet with you for free and explain all your options. We offer a military discount and easy payment plans.

~ Martha McLaughlin, Sr. Associate