Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about criminal law that we receive as defense lawyers at Green & Ritchie, PLLC. If you have questions you need answers to, we invite you to call us at 360-450-2434. We provide a free initial consultation for all criminal law matters.

What areas do you service?

We represent clients in Vancouver, Battle Ground, Washougal, Camas, La Center, and throughout Clark County in Washington.

What should you know if you have been accused of a crime?

Being charged with a criminal offense can be a life-changing event. The decisions made at the initial stages of a criminal investigation or criminal case can be critical to the ultimate outcome. If you believe that you are being accused of a crime, it is very important to seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible to discuss the implications of the investigation or charge. Everyone accused of a crime has the Fifth and Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights to remain silent and receive legal counsel. Knowing how and when to assert those rights is critical and should be discussed with an experienced criminal defense attorney before it’s too late.

What are Miranda Rights?

Miranda Rights, or Miranda Warnings, are written warnings read by law enforcement to criminal suspects in custody or prior to a custodial interrogation. The purpose is to protect a suspect’s Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination, and also the Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. Police must read the suspect Miranda Warnings prior to custodial interrogation to preserve the admissibility of any subsequent statements against the suspect in a criminal proceeding. It is important to note that police are only required to read Miranda Warnings to a suspect if they intend to conduct an interrogation of that person in custody (or have detained them to the extent that they are not free to leave).

A criminal suspect has the absolute right to remain silent, but you must expressly invoke, or state, that right to prevent the police from attempting to interrogate you. Additionally, your criminal defense attorney will want to discuss any custodial interrogation with you in detail to determine whether or not the police have violated your rights. If they have, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to render incriminating statements inadmissible in court.

Why do I need to hire my own attorney?

Anyone who has been arrested or charged with committing a crime needs a skilled criminal defense attorney. When you are facing criminal charges, it is imperative that you have an experienced defense attorney who can explain (1) the nature and consequences of the charges filed; (2) all available defenses; (3) whether there are plea bargains or alternate resolutions available; (4) and the prospects of an acquittal at trial.

It is very important to find a criminal defense attorney at the outset whom you can trust to give you the best legal advice AND achieve a successful outcome of your case. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint you a public defender if you qualify as indigent. However, it is important to understand that the level of service, and the amount of time and effort put into your case, can be compromised by the volume of cases assigned to most public defenders. When you hire a private criminal defense attorney, you are paying for not only their skill and expertise, but also the peace of mind that your attorney is doing everything necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.

How does bail work?

The court may set bail in cases where there are concerns about the defendant reappearing for future court dates or there is a safety risk to the community if the defendant is released. On felony cases, it is common for the court to require bail. Cash bail can be posted with the Clerk’s Office. However, in most cases, the best option is to contact a bail bondsman to post bail on your behalf. The typical fee for bail bondsman is 10 percent of the bail amount.

In some cases, it is possible for your attorney to argue for a bail reduction by showing the court that the defendant is not a flight risk and has significant ties to the community.

What is supervised release?

Supervised release is a pre-trial release program that allows a defendant to remain out of custody while his or her case is pending. It is typically required for all felony charges. It can also be required for misdemeanor domestic violence and driving under the influence (DUI) charges when the accused has prior criminal convictions and/or alcohol is allegedly involved. In those cases, the accused may be required to undergo alcohol monitoring or install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

If you have been ordered onto supervised release, it is very important to understand the conditions of release and make sure you are in compliance with them.

What happens when I go to court?

Appearing in court on a criminal case is not the same thing as going to trial. The distinction is important because trial, if it occurs at all, is the last step in defending a criminal case. Prior to trial, there will often be a number of mandatory appearances that a defendant is required to attend with their attorney while the case is pending. Typical issues that are addressed at these hearings are the timing of the trial, outstanding discovery disputes, motions to suppress evidence, or other preliminary matters. Your attorney should prepare you in advance so that you know what to expect at each stage of your criminal case.

What should I know if I am charged with a domestic violence offense?

The domestic violence designation can be added to most criminal offenses if the alleged victim is a “family or household member.” It does not necessarily mean that there is physical violence alleged. Rather it simply signifies that the complaining witness has the necessary relationship with the accused.

If you have been accused of a domestic violence offense, you are potentially subject to a number of life-changing consequences, including the loss of your right to bear arms and a court-imposed no-contact order with the alleged victim. Additionally, a domestic violence conviction can result in compulsory participation in a year-long domestic violence perpetrator program.

Domestic violence defense is a highly specialized area of criminal defense. Your attorney should have extensive experience in this area of law in order to achieve the best possible outcome or resolution.

How can the police prove a DUI?

There are a number of different ways the prosecution can seek to prove a DUI. If alcohol is alleged to be involved, the prosecution will initially determine whether the arresting officer obtained a breath sample result from an approved breath testing machine. If so, they will most assuredly seek to introduce that as evidence of your guilt. In Washington, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) result over 0.08 g/mL is per se evidence of guilt for DUI. If, however, there is no BAC result due to a refusal or otherwise, the prosecution will seek to show that at the time of driving you were appreciably affected by intoxicants.

In marijuana DUI cases, police will often attempt to get a warrant to obtain a blood sample. A blood result of 5 ng/mL or higher is per se evidence of guilt for DUI. Additionally, as in all other drug-related DUI cases, the prosecution can also seek to show that you were appreciably affected by drugs at the time of driving.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

In Washington there are three classifications of crimes: felonies, gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. A felony is any crime that is punishable by over a year in jail. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

How do plea deals work?

For a number of reasons, the prosecution and the defense may sometimes agree to resolve a criminal matter with a plea bargain. A plea bargain occurs when a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense than what was initially charged. This may result in a lighter sentence and fewer consequences for the defendant.

Can I get a conviction vacated?

In Washington, certain offenses can potentially be vacated. Oftentimes people refer to this as expunging their record, however in Washington the statutory term is vacate. Not all convictions are eligible for vacation and a number of other criteria must be satisfied as well, including time spent in the community crime-free. To determine whether you are eligible to vacate a conviction, contact an attorney to look into the matter for you.

Can I get the record of my arrest deleted or sealed?

In Washington, in very limited circumstances you can delete an arrest if the arrest did not result in a conviction or entry of diversion. Additionally, it is possible to seal a court record upon petition to the court. To determine whether you are eligible to delete non-conviction data or seal a court file, contact an attorney to look into the matter for you.