Under the Government’s Thumb

No one who has the great privilege of living in the USA likes his or her freedom or liberties curtailed. In fact, freedom is potentially the single greatest benefit of living in the United States.  After all, freedom allows people the wonderful opportunity to “pursue the American Dream,” right? In Washington State if a person is convicted of either a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor crime, it is highly likely that his or her freedom will be decreased for at least somePulled Over period of time. The period of abridgment can range greatly, and depends on the type of crime the person is convicted of. For example, a person convicted of a DUI in Washington State faces the prospect of being on probation for a period of “up to” five years. Generally, however, a gross misdemeanor/ misdemeanor conviction in Washington State results in a probationary period of “up to” two years. Regardless of the amount of time, probation often stymies a person’s freedom and at a minimum causes the person to feel as if “big brother” is watching over him or her; there are often requirements to fulfill and a probation officer to periodically check in with during the probation period.

Typically when a person is convicted in a Washington State District or Municipal court, the presiding judge will listen to sentence recommendations and then impose a sentence that includes jail, a fine and “conditions of sentence”. The judge will often, however, “suspend” a portion (if not all) of the jail time and fine; in other words the convicted person is not required to do the suspended portion of the sentence at that time, it is left “hanging over his or her head”. This is courtroomdone for a number of reasons ranging from costs and jail overcrowding issues to a desire to “keep a person in check” for a specified period of time. Conditions of sentence are generally tailored to the type of crime the person is convicted of. For example, a Washington State DUI conviction will often result in the following types of conditions being imposed by the court: (1) have no criminal law violations or similar offenses, (2) don’t drive without a valid driver’s license and/or insurance, (3) don’t refuse breath or blood tests if lawfully requested by law enforcement, (4) don’t have a .08 or greater within two hours of driving, (5) get an alcohol assessment and do any recommended treatment and/or follow-up, (6) complete a victim’s panel and (7) pay any costs fees and assessments. Typically the court will put a person convicted of a gross misdemeanor/ misdemeanor on “active” or “inactive” probation (not “parole”), and if the person violates “conditions of probation” the court will set a “Review Hearing” to determine if it should impose jail time, a fine or add additional conditions of sentence. To that end, the court must have jail time and fine available to impose on the convicted person. Jail time, fine and additional conditions of sentence are available if the court chose to not impose the full amount of the jail time or fine at the initial sentencing, and alternatively “suspended” all or a portion of the sentence; in essence, the court would have, at the initial sentencing, put the convicted person under the government’s thumb by imposing “probation”. More often than not this is exactly what happens. It is the old “carrot and stick” theory; if a person violates conditions of sentence, he or she is facing the prospect of being punished with jail, a fine, and/or more conditions of sentence. This undesired exposure can last “up to” five years for a Washington State DUI conviction or “up to” one or two years for other types of misdemeanor/ gross misdemeanor convictions, respectively.

As noted above, probation may either be “active” or “inactive”. During active probation, an individual reports to a probation officer who is an extension of the court. In both King County District Court and Seattle Municipal Court active probation often results in visits to a specific probation officer who is assigned to the convicted person’s case. The probation officer monitors compliance with all court imposed conditions. Some probation officers are easy, others can be tough; the convicted person does not get to choose his or her probation officer. Often the convicted person is required to report any new criminal law violations to his probation officer, and in some jurisdictions the assigned probation officer may mandate the administration of random drug and/or alcohol testing. During an active Washington State DUI probation, the assigned probation officer will ensure compliance with all imposed alcohol treatment requirements, and often will require full access to, and disclosure from, the convicted person’s treatment provider. If the probation officer believes that the convicted person is not complying with the court’s sentence, or the convicted person’s treatment program, the probation officer will set a court hearing to have the judge review compliance, and to determine if sanctions such as jail, fine or additional conditions of sentence are appropriate. It isSobriety Test - Skeptical important to note that during a Washington State DUI probation period (active or inactive), the court is required by law to revoke thirty days of jail if a convicted person is found by a preponderance of the evidence to have: (1) driven a motor vehicle in Washington State without a valid license to drive and failed to possess proof of financial responsibility; (2) driven a motor vehicle in Washington State while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours after driving; or (3) refused to submit to a test of his or her breath or blood upon the request of a law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in Washington State while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. This period of confinement cannot be suspended or deferred; in other words, it can be argued that it is intended that these types of violations of probation will result in the convicted person doing actual jail time – 30 days to be exact.

A qualified Washington State criminal defense attorney will always attempt to minimize the impact of probation on his or her client’s life and liberty interests. These efforts can include minimizing the type of probation imposed by the court, minimizing the actual probationary conditions imposed by the court, and/or reducing the probationary period itself. Because of the significant consequences one faces when charged with a gross misdemeanor/ misdemeanor in Washington State, it is imperative that a person charged with a crime in Washington State retain a qualified criminal defense attorney in order to not only best minimize the myriad of legal consequences he or she faces, but also to protect his or her rights and liberty interests. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle criminal lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with crime in Western Washington. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

If you or a loved one is cited or charged with a crime in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Thurston County or one of the following cities or towns: Algona, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Burien, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, fife, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, Marysville, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, New Castle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Sea Tac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Sumner, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, and/or Woodinville, or any other city or town in Western Washington, call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900 for an initial free consultation.

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