Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

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Posts made in July, 2012

By on Jul 24, 2012 in Communication, Court, Criminal, Trial | 0 comments

trial.In a past life I was an avid game player. Games of all stripes, I couldn’t get enough of mano a mano competition. These days I don’t have the time or resources to compete like I used to, but those instincts haven’t gone away. Instead these days, I channel them into trial. To a criminal defense lawyer, trial is the ultimate high-stakes competition. Your client’s liberty is at stake, you’re arguing against an intelligent, resourceful, prepared opponent; and your fight happens in front of an audience. It’s very intense for the attorneys (to say nothing of the clients). Because trial is so intense and nuanced and personal, there is a lot of conflicting information about the “optimal” way to prepare and execute a trial. I don’t believe there is one best way, but rather what works for each individual. Two attorneys could have two very different, but successful styles; neither would be wrong. Win or lose, at the end of every trial I talk to the jury and see what I could do better. Sometimes I talk to the judge or my opponent too.  All of this means that I like thinking about each stage of the trial process. And as long as I’m thinking about it, why not talk about it here? Today’s post is about trial’s opening statement. Purpose of Opening Statement A lot of parts of trial have a very practical purpose. Cross-examination allows an adversary to explore a witness’s testimony. A judge instructs a jury on what the law is so they know how apply the law to the facts of the case. Objections prevent a jury from seeing inadmissible evidence. And so on. Opening statement doesn’t have a pragmatic purpose like that. A trial could reasonably exist without the lawyers giving opening statements. It is a holdover from ancient Greek oratory, where the speakers would give their statement to frame the evidence that was about to be provided. That framing is an important point to remember. You know how on TV or movies the parts of the trial they show are the most dramatic points? A surprise reveal? The breakdown on the stand? First off, you rarely see opening statements in those kinds of...

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By on Jul 13, 2012 in Court, Procedure | 0 comments

My job requires frequent court appearances. This requires frequent suit-wearing. This means jacket, pants, dress shoes, and tie – the whole package. Now while suits get a bad rap, having done this for a while I have to say: I like to wear suits. There are advantages to being the best-dressed person in a room. First of all, I just look really good in a suit. What a gift for everyone else’s eyes. But there are professional advantages as well. To understand those advantages, consider that many people charged with a crime don’t have a lot of resources. This sometimes means people wearing a more casual ensemble, or if they don’t post bail, outright jail clothes. Certainly some defendants wear suits to court, but it’s more the exception than the rule. When I’m in criminal court, my suit is a uniform, generally separating my status as attorney from that of a client. More importantly, a suit creates an air of professionalism and gravitas to the proceedings. Speaking for myself, I take the legal process very seriously. I consider it a true honor and a privilege to be involved with such an important aspect of our society. I get to help make justice happen! One way I show my respect for the process is dressing the part. If my demeanor, through words or appearance, indicates that I don’t care what’s going on, why will my client? Why would a judge or jury care what I have to say? In actuality, court rules require lawyers to wear full suits when speaking to the judge anyway. This rule is rarely strictly enforced in most of the courts I’ve practiced in. Technically though, you are supposed to ask the court’s permission to appear at an attorney if you’re not wearing a jacket or a tie or somesuch. I’m certain there are some courts out there that take this rule seriously. Even if a court doesn’t strictly enforce it, I’ve never not appeared in appropriate clothing. And if it happened, I would definitely ask permission if I wasn’t dressed appropriately. You never go wrong by showing more respect to the bench. Finally, I feel more professional in a suit. Putting on fancy clothes feels like putting on...

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By on Jul 5, 2012 in Constitution, Criminal, Fifth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Police | 7 comments

A while back I wrote a popular blog post “How To Interact with the Police,” dealing with appropriate behavior when you get pulled over by the police while driving. Today’s post is the complement to that one, and deals with appropriate behavior when police come knocking on your door. My original title for this post was going to be “Enemy at the Gates,” but I decided that was unnecessarily confrontational. A police officer at the door isn’t always a bad thing. Police do have an important role in protecting society and keeping the peace. However, the police can also give someone a lot of trouble and expense. My advice today recommends wariness, not hostility. So, what do you do when the police come to your door? That depends why they’re there in the first place. There are three common reasons you have the police at the door. You called the police There are a bunch of reasons to call the police. A few statutes impose a duty to contact the police, but generally speaking you may call the police if you’re the victim of a crime, or witness one. Regarding those statutes, some require you to call the police, e.g. Hit and Run. That law requires you, if you’re in a car accident and not able to exchange information at the scene of an accident, to call the local police department and give your personal information to them. While you have no obligation to talk about the facts of the accident, e.g. whether you were speeding or texting or drinking, you do have an obligation to at least provide your driver’s license and insurance info. And if an officer comes to your door to take that information, you’re well served to give it to them. A wariness of the police is understandable, but you should never let that stop you from staying safe. If you’re facing domestic violence or some other serious issue, call 911 and let the cops do their job when they come. Even if there are some items in the house you’d rather the police not see, like drugs or stolen property, the likelihood is they won’t arrest you since they do want people to call...

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