Charged with a Crime in Washington?
Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Charges and Penalties
A criminal conviction can drastically affect the rest of your life. You may face the possibility of jail time, fines and other penalties, and your reputation may be damaged. Additionally, a conviction may prevent you from finding work and/or housing in the future. Since so much hangs in the balance, you should always work a criminal defense lawyer with a history of success. Even innocence is not always an ironclad defense – law enforcement and prosecutors may not care about your side of the story, but will simply focus on getting a conviction. An attorney can work to enforce your rights and expose any misconduct or negligence that may have led to your arrest. In many cases, a good lawyer can get your charges or penalties reduced, minimizing the negative impact on your life.
If you have been arrested or someone you know was taken into police custody, then you should find a lawyer as quickly as possible. No matter what kinds of charges you face, from a misdemeanor to a felony, finding an attorney you trust is essential. To speak with a local Washington criminal lawyer today, consult our local listings.
What Are the Basic Types of Criminal Charges?
The type of criminal charge you face may vary depending on the nature of the alleged crime. Although each state has its own specific classifications, the general types of charges are:
- Infraction. An infraction is the least serious type of charge you can face. In fact, some states handle infractions as civil cases, rather than criminal cases. Traffic violations and other minor offenses usually fall into this category. Jail is generally not a possibility for infractions, so you are not entitled to a jury trial and the state will usually not appoint you a lawyer. However, you can still hire one of your own.
- Petty offense. Some states categorize low-level criminal conduct as petty offenses. This may include illegal acts like gambling, disturbing the peace, public indecency, pollution violations and theft of items of low value.
- Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a more serious charge and county courts typically handle these cases. Common misdemeanor charges include assault, criminal trespass, theft and certain drug crimes, including possession and sale.
- Felony. This is the most serious type of criminal charge and state and/or federal courts usually handle these cases. Common felonies include murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, vehicular homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and certain drug crimes.
In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the charges you face. If the court reduces your charge from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor, for example, then the repercussions you face may be much less serious.
What Is the Penalty for a Misdemeanor in Washington?
Each state has its own system for classifying misdemeanor and felony charges, and penalties may vary as well. Misdemeanors are the less serious offenses, and are divided into simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. The general penalties you may face for different types of criminal charges in Washington are:
- Gross Misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors in Washington are punishable by up to 364 days in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Driving while under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs as a first offense is a gross misdemeanor.
- Misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is a the least serious type of crime in Washington, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Examples of simple misdemeanors are simple possession of marijuana, shoplifting, and disorderly conduct.
What Is the Penalty for a Felony in Washington?
Like misdemeanors, each state has its own system for what qualifies as a felony and what penalties may result from a conviction. Felony crimes are much more serious than misdemeanors and include such offenses as rape, armed robbery, burglary, and sales or distribution of illegal drugs. In Washington, possible felony charges and penalties include:
- Class A Felony. Class A felonies, which are the most serious types of classified felonies, are punishable by prison sentences which can include life, as well as fines of up to $50,000. After aggravated first degree murder, which may be punishable by the death penalty, these are the most serious crimes in Washington. Most rapes are class A felonies.
- Class B Felony. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. A class B felony conviction can result in a prison term of up to ten years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. Theft of property (other than a firearm or motor vehicle) worth more than $5,000 is a class B felony.
- Class C Felony. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Third degree assault of a child is a class C felony.
Felony crimes are further classified by their “seriousness” in a complicated system under Washington State sentencing guidelines. Fifteen seriousness levels exist from Level I to Level XV which carry corresponding sentencing ranges for each level.
Need a Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer? We Can Help
If you are facing any level of criminal charge, then a qualified lawyer may be essential to protecting your future. Additionally, if someone you know is currently in police custody, then you may wish to reach out to a lawyer on his or her behalf. To find a Washington criminal defense lawyer in your area, then consult our attorney listings. If you have general question about criminal law or certain charges, then do not hesitate to ask the lawyers.