One thing I know as a Seattle criminal defense attorney is that people from all walks of life can and have been convicted of crimes. A conviction may have involved a plea agreement, or just be the end result of a mistake in one’s past. But for whatever reason, convictions happen. And no matter how old a conviction is, background checks bring those convictions front and center.
And as I’ve written about before background check results can wreak havoc for job prospects, housing prospects (more on that below), and even travel across the border. In short, a criminal conviction doesn’t do anyone any favors. But what can you do about it? Well for some people the law allows the conviction to go away forever! Read on… (more…)
My apologies for the gap in posting, it’s been quite busy on the work and home front. Our family just bought a house that was a real fixer-upper, so my wife and I have been dedicating evenings to painting, repair, cleaning, and unpacking. This office has also never been busier. Adding it all up, the blog gets left by the wayside. Sorry!
The good news is I have a couple of projects in the works I’m really excited about. I’m very much looking forward to sharing those with everyone soon!
In the meantime, today’s discussion is about a Facebook post a friend shared. It’s one of those clickbaity-type kind of sites but I’m a sucker for articles on criminal defense and police interaction. The article is about the arrest of Sandra Bland (who later died in a jail cell). The article my friend shared can be read here.
The article is a discussion with criminal defense attorney, John Hamaski of San Francisco, about the stop of Ms. Bland and the Fourth Amendment in general. Mr. Hamaski is an experienced attorney and as far as I can tell his analysis of the unlawful escalation of the stop is spot on.
However where I differ from Mr. Hamaski is here:
“If an officer is behaving unlawfully, you can use a reasonable amount of force to defend yourself. You can’t punch an officer in the face if he tries to handcuff you–that’s not reasonable. But your ability to defend yourself exists regardless of an officer’s badge.”
This advice, in my humble opinion, is insane. It’s insane because 1) it won’t do anything, and 2) it will get you killed. Allow me to elaborate.
Resisting an “unlawful” arrest won’t do anything because there is no situation where an officer who has decided to arrest you will be persuaded by your resistance to give up. No officer is going to throw his hands up in defeat to your “reasonable amount of force” and let you go on your merry way. Either he will escalate his force to overcome yours, or call in backup who will then overwhelm you. In any event you will end up in handcuffs in a cell (or worse).
Secondly, and far more importantly, adding violence to a situation with a police officer gets out of control very quickly. As in, here comes the tasers and firearms quickly. Besides your lack of training, likely you are literally outgunned. It’s a fight you cannot win, and many people who have tried have ended up hurt or dead in the scuffle.
The other problem with this advice is that it requires you, an ordinary citizen, to make a fairly complex constitutional analysis while interacting with a police officer. The standard for probable cause to arrest is notoriously fluid, i.e. it’s very fact-specific. In other words, just because you think an arrest is unlawful doesn’t mean a judge will agree with you. But even if an arrest was, on the balance, unlawful you could still be charged with new crimes based on your resistance that exist independently of the original reason for the encounter. What’s the point of getting a misdemeanor dropped if you picked up a bunch of felonies along the way?
Now all this isn’t to say you should be cooperative as possible. You have no obligation to answer questions that could incriminate you, which is basically anything past your name and address. You have no obligation to consent to allowing your car to be searched, or in any way helping the police acquire evidence against you.
HOWEVER. You can make these choices politely and peacefully. Declining to answer questions requires neither rudeness nor violence. Doing either escalates what is already a tense encounter. When one of the parties has a gun, that’s bad.
And what if the arrest was unlawful? Then you get to go home. No charges filed or no charges that stick. Talk to a lawyer and let them do their job. It might not be instantaneous but at least you won’t be in the hospital or the morgue.
If you’re interacting with the police, stay calm and don’t use violence. And if you or someone you know ends up arrested, give a lawyer a call.
Last week the Washington Supreme Court voted to raise the base penalty of traffic tickets by $12. Unfortunately the net result of that increase will be more than $12, and the increase will hurt our must vulnerable citizens. (more…)
Part my work as a Seattle DUI attorney is staying on top of legal developments in the field. Whenever our Court of Appeals or Supreme Court issues a decision, I receive a copy of the decision via email. A lot of these cases are simply affirming a person’s conviction; the court saying “Everything looks ok here.” But sometimes a conviction is reversed. In those instances the court is telling people “There was a mistake here and this should not happen again.” Today’s post is about the latter, a conviction reversed, and welcome guidance on a common situation.
Ever since I started my practice, people have been asking for a deal they see business do all the time. They suggested a way to add a little extra who choose my practice to represent their needs.
I took these suggestions seriously. While I do have a business to run, I do want to provide value to my clients as well. And considering how often this request comes across my desk, I knew this was something people cared about very much.
So I came up with something. My accountant and I looked at the books. We figured it was a great deal for the client, but would it bankrupt us? Was there a way to reward loyal clients, that also fit within the financial limitations of running a criminal defense practice?
Well after a lot of number crunching we figured out a solution. I’m happy to report on this, the first day of the fourth month of the year, I am able to offer my clients what they’ve been clamoring for: The Law Office of Noah Weil Frequent Offender Card! (more…)
Recently I was wrapping up a client meeting in my office. The case was going well. We got together to discuss updates and talk about a plan of attack for the remainder of the issues. The client seemed happy with how things were going and said as much. But then as he was packing up to head home, he said really took me aback: (more…)
“Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.” – Justice Louis Brandeis. (more…)
There are two breath tests.
Does that sound simple? Many, many drivers across Washington make a mistake when stopped by the police because they do not realize there are two breath tests. Some of my clients are among those people, and my job gets a lot harder when they treat one breath test like the other. So today let’s put the ambiguity to bed and explain the differences between the two breath tests. (more…)
As the year winds its way out, many people are discussing 2014. They’ll talk about what they accomplished, what they failed to accomplish, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. These are great conversations to have.
Another conversation emerged too. A conversation about the criminal justice system in America. Being a criminal defense attorney, I regularly have thoughts on the system. But today’s post is about the growing social consciousness of the criminal justice system itself. 2014 was a banner year for non-attorney, non-police officers to take a hard look at how our country accuses and processes people charged with crimes. (more…)
The last time I was pulled over was in 2007 for expired tabs. It was annoying. I paid the ticket.
The second to last time I was pulled over was in 2004 and that one was more interesting.