Seattle, WA business lawyer Thomas E. Gates talks about the types of criminal cases he handles and how he works with his clients on these matters.
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Most individuals that come into our office have never been charged before. It’s totally mind boggling to them what it means and what are the consequences. What we try to do is get a true understanding of the issues. And the reason why I say true, there are some individuals that try to hold back the facts and that’s when you go to the prosecutor to try to negotiate the matter you find out that your client wasn’t truthful. At the municipal level, if you’re charged with a crime the city as well as the state from the date of arraignment to trial is 90 days. So it’s very quick. Rarely does it happen in 90 days because of discovery, witness, you know things like that.
And so, it gives us time to work with prosecutor to get some resolution. Now what’s nice is the _____ court would allow what we call stipulated over agreement. And what that entails is that you don’t plead guilty, your case just continues for 12 months. You are given certain requirements, for example, if you have a drinking problem or domestic violence problem then you’re required to go anger management, you know other courses to help educate you to the issue. And then, hopefully, at the end of 12 months there is some benefit there
If you don’t qualify for the ____ order continuance we can do what we call on deferred sentence. In this case, you plead guilty, you do pretty much the same things as stipulated order of continuance is required. And then, at the end of that period they remove the guilty plea, put in deferred, and so, that says you have no criminal record. And that’s the goal that we try to do is eliminate any criminal record. Now unfortunately, there is several cases that the prosecutor will not negotiate with. And so, again, we look at if we went to trial what would be the outcome. And remember that these people are paying for that legal service at trial. And so, if there’s no way that they’re going to prevail, then the only way that they could, you know, save money, if you will, is to go ahead and plead guilty to the issue.
Now what’s nice in Washington is that for a misdemeanor after you’re finished with probation you have to wait one year to expunge your record. If it’s a gross misdemeanor you have to wait two years. And then, if it’s a felony, it’s five years. So it’s not something that you’re going to have to hang around your neck all through your life but rather understand what you did, own up to it, and then, at the end, court systems will let you go as a free person. And that’s nice. The Superior Court level is a lot more complex and there’s a dog and pony show, a routine that you have to follow. There’s a key prosecutor that you negotiate with on some resolution. If the prosecutor feels that there’s not a lot of headway what they do is actually put on more charges just to turn the screws a little bit more. And I think that’s unfair but that’s reality.
And so, a lot of times just because of that they negotiate to some plea and then, we’re done. It’s an odd system but the individuals that are exposed to it for the first time have a remedy.