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The Basics of Washington Criminal Defense

If you have been accused of committing a crime in Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma or any other part of Washington State, you will want to learn about Washington criminal defense.

This article will explain to you the basics of Washington criminal defense, including how to hire a Washington defense attorney.

Washington Criminal Law

Washington criminal law outlines all crimes in Washington and their respective punishments. Crimes are divided into two main categories: Misdemeanors and felonies.

Misdemeanors are lesser crimes. These usually involve minimal harm or damage to people and property. In addition, misdemeanor punishments usually entail less than a year in jail.

In Washington, there are two categories of misdemeanors.

The first is gross misdemeanors. These are more serious crimes. They are punishable by up to one year in jai and fines of up to $5,000.

A lesser misdemeanor is known as a simple misdemeanor. These are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 maximum fine.

Examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Speeding
  • Public intoxication
  • Trespassing
  • Simple assault
  • Vandalism

More serious crimes are known as felonies. In Washington, there are three classes of felonies: A, B and C. A is the most serious felony level, while C is the least serious. Punishments for each category of felony vary depending on the circumstances of the crime committed.

Examples of felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Manslaughter
  • Aggravated assault

Washington Criminal Defense Basics

When you are charged with committing a Washington crime, you retain the right to a Washington criminal defense attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.

Your criminal defense attorney will review the charges and the facts of your case. He will usually rely on the police report, witness reports and your own account to piece together what happened at the time of the crime.

If you do not plan on pleading guilty, the attorney will create a defense based on these accounts. A defense is a way for you to either deny or justify the criminal actions you are being charged with.

Examples of criminal defenses include:

  • Alibi: This defense argues you have been wrongly charged. This defense relies on an alibi witness who testifies why you could not have committed the crime.
  • Self-defense: This defense argues you acted with reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else from imminent harm. It is commonly used as a defense in assault cases.
  • Insanity: This defense argues that at the time of the crime, you did not understand the difference between right and wrong. It is used sparingly by criminal defense attorneys.

Hiring a Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

You should take the necessary steps to hire a criminal defense attorney. If you are incarcerated or are unable to conduct a search for an attorney, you should have someone you trust assist you with this process.

First, seek out names of prospective criminal defense attorneys. Ask friends and family members if they can recommend a Washington criminal attorney. You can also use a site like Just answer the brief online questionnaire, and will connect you to one or more Washington criminal defense attorneys.

Set up initial consultations with attorneys. These consultations are your opportunity to get to know the lawyer and inform him about your case. After this meeting, you can decide whether you want to hire the lawyer.

You will want to ask a number of questions during the consultation. Don't forget to bring a pen and paper to take notes.

Questions to ask include:

  • How long has the attorney been practicing criminal law in Washington?
  • Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours?
  • What does he think of your case?
  • What kind of fee arrangement does he use? How much will his services cost?
  • Will he be the only attorney working on the case? If not, who else will be?

Once you have had a chance to speak to the attorneys, you should be able to make a hiring decision.