Legalizing Drugs in Snohomish and King County

The Snohomish County prosecutors have a new policy not to file criminal charges against people caught with less than 2 grams of drugs. The decision was made to reduce their heavy caseloads and to allow prosecutors more time to focus on serious offenses. King County has adopted a similar policy.

Not everyone believes this is a wise decision. The criminal justice system and the threat of incarceration forces people to make critical life changing decisions. Addicts are more likely to seek treatment when jail is hanging over their head. Some fear that the changes will lead to an increase in property crime and eventually could result in a rise in more serious offenses.

It’s a bold shift in policy but it’s worth the gamble. Let prosecutors use their resources on serious cases and give small time addicts a chance to avoid a felony conviction. Most addicts want to overcome their addiction and have made multiple attempts to do so. The new policy gives them a second chance at rehabilitation but social service programs need public support to avoid a shift back to mass incarceration.

Contact our office to learn about your options if you have been charged with a drug offense in Snohomish or King County.
Michael P. Sheehy
(425) 778-6900
19000 – 33rd Ave West, Ste 100
Lynnwood, WA 98036

Startling Video of Seattle Police Shooting at Fleeing Vehicle

Police Officers have a dangerous job and are expected to run toward danger, make split second decisions, and risk their lives to help others.   The decisions they make can have life altering consequences.  The question is whether they should be held to the same legal standard as an average citizen when they make a poor decision in the line of duty.  Washington enacted the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.

Police officers cannot be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without evil intent.   Proving malice or evil intent makes it virtually impossible to prosecute an officer even if he committed a wrongful killing.  Fatal police shootings have been determined unjustified but not sufficient to prosecute under the evil intent standard.  Remember John T. Williams and Charleena Lyles?   Only one officer has been prosecuted in the last decade in Washington State for an unjustified killing and that resulted in an acquittal.

On the other hand, the legal standard for the average citizen is much different.   A person can be prosecuted for murder if they acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally.  The Government does not need to prove whether the person had evil intent or not.  Citizens can assert self-defense and use deadly force if they believe they are facing grave danger.  Why shouldn’t law enforcement officers have the same standard?  Why must the State prove an additional element of evil intent for an officer?  Unfortunately, if the law is not changed, we will continue to have officers recklessly shooting at a fleeing vehicle that is not endangering anyone.

Watch the video.  The driver attempted to run the officer over and has been charged with multiple felonies.  The officers had a right to discharge their firearms when the car drove toward them.  But, the officers are being investigated for misconduct because they continued to shoot at the fleeing vehicle when it was no longer posing a threat to law enforcement officers or the public.  Was their conduct reasonable or not?

Tougher Distracted Driving Law Begins in July

Who has not used a cell phone while driving? Beware! A tougher texting while driving law went into effect on July 23, 2017. Ten percent of Washingtonians use their cell phones while driving at any given time according to a recent study. Unfortunately, distracted driving kills 9 people every day, injures 390,000 people every year, and makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash. The Washington Legislature passed an Act called Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) to address concerns with distracted driving. Studies show the distraction from using your phone is equivalent to the impairment of a person who is two times over the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A DUIE is a traffic infraction, not a criminal law violation like a DUI. However, distracted driving can turn into a criminal offense if the driver’s inattention causes an accident or a fatality. A person can be charged with reckless driving,vehicular assault, and even vehicular homicide for carelessly driving a car that is involved in an accident. The new law permits hands-free calling but prohibits a driver from holding a cell phone while accessing, composing, or VIEWING data on their phone including messages or pictures.

Essentially, there is no hand-held cell phone use while driving.
* Even when stopped in traffic or at traffic lights
* Includes all electronic devices even tablets, laptops and video games
* No typing messages or accessing information
* No watching videos or using cameras

You CAN USE YOUR DEVICE if you are:
* Hands-free and can start use by a single touch or swipe of your finger
* Parked or out-of-the-flow of traffic
* Contacting emergency vehicles

A traffic citation cost $136, will be reported to the department of licensing, and can impact your insurance rates.

The Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma

The City of Everett received national attention after they filed a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for recklessly supplying OxyContin to drug traffickers in order to maximize the company’s profits. Everett has been swept by a wave of overdoses, crimes, and homelessness as a result of opioid addiction. This epidemic impacts every corner of our society. Hopefully, the city can put the money into more rehabilitation programs if they win the suit.

http://www.heraldnet.com/news/nbc-reports-on-city-of-everett-lawsuit-against-purdue-pharma/

The funding could increase enrollment in Drug Court and provide other alternatives to confinement including treatment for addicts committing non-violent offenses. Currently, the Snohomish County Superior Court has several alternative programs available to people who are charged with drug possession. I had a client tell me one program was a life-changing event but it was not easy and required many hours of hard work each month.

The Adult Drug Treatment Court (ADTC) is a therapeutic court, which handles cases involving addicted offenders through supervision and treatment. Drug Court program participants are usually involved in an intensive out-patient treatment program where they initially attend meetings three times a week. The meetings taper off as a person moves into a different phase of the program. Drug Court members must also attend a minimum of three sober support meetings and be prepared to provide a random urine sample for drug testing.

Additionally, members are required to obtain employment and receive a GED in order to graduate from the drug court program. They are required to partake in Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). MRT is a structured program that focuses on changing your thinking and behaviors that lead to problems of drug use, relationship difficulties, and negative lifestyles. Members are not permitted to visit bars, hookah shops, adult entertainment venues, and casinos. They authorize the drug court team to enter their residence to verify a sober lifestyle.

The drug court team includes a Superior Court Judge, a prosecutor, a public defender, treatment professionals and law enforcement. Their goal is to facilitate and monitor a person’s progression in the program. They meet in Court for group sessions and will ask about a person’s successes or struggles with the requirements. Sanctions for a violation include reprimands, jail, additional treatment, or termination from the program and sentencing on the underlying felony offense. They have a high failure rate and only truly motivated individuals will graduate from the program. Participants make a sacrifice but those who graduate are eternally grateful and will have a new outlook on life without a felony conviction on their record.

Please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows your options and eligibility to get into drug court, TAP, or request a first time offender waiver (FTOW), or reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor. You should understand these terms before your case is resolved. Know your rights and what the best option is for you.

What’s the difference between expunging , vacating, & sealing a criminal record?

A person’s criminal record can easily be found on the internet. The Washington State Patrol (WSP), Identification and Criminal History Section is considered the official gatekeeper of criminal records in Washington State. Convictions and arrests are made available on a WATCH report on the WSP website at https://watch.wsp.wa.gov/.

A criminal conviction can have severe consequences beyond jail time if a person does not expunge, vacate or seal his record. A record can make you ineligible for employment. A crime “against a person” or crimes relating to financial exploitation will prohibit employment at nursing homes, child care facilities, boarding homes, school, hospitals, or any other place with a vulnerable population. A criminal record can also impact a person’s access to the following:

  1. Private and public housing
  2. Voting rights
  3. Student loans
  4. Military service
  5. Traveling to Canada
  6. Firearm possession
  7. Legal status to remain in the United States

In some cases, the stigma of an arrest or conviction maybe reversed through expunging, vacating, or sealing a charge. It’s important to understand the difference between the three and the eligibility requirements.

The differences between Expunging, Vacating, and Sealing are as follows:

  • Expunging a Record: Expunging a record means the arrest information will be physically destroyed. The Washington State Patrol is the only agency that will expunge arrest records. However, to be eligible the arrest must not have resulted in an “adverse action” against the arrestee. Adverse actions include convictions, bail forfeitures, deferred sentences, and stipulated order of continuance even if the case is dismissed after completing affirmative conditions. Essentially, only arrests that are never filed in court, acquittals, or outright dismissals can be expunged.
  • Sealing a Record: The actual court file is sealed and limited information is available on the Judicial Information System (JIS) and Superior Court Management Information System (SCOMIS). JIS and SCOMIS databases are used by Court staff and the public to review criminal records. However, a sealed record does not restrict the release of information that is already on the internet or part of a private database.
  • Vacating a Conviction: The Court will withdraw the guilty plea and dismiss the charge. The WSP will delete the record from the WATCH report and you can officially say you have never been convicted of the offense. However, private companies maintain databases without updating their records and may continue to disseminate incorrect convictions on the internet. We encourage Clients to send a letter requesting they update their database or face civil liability.

Attorney Sheehy has successfully vacated, expunged, and sealed files across Washington State. Contact him for an honest assessment and whether it’s worth pursuing post-conviction relief. Contact the Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy to determine your eligibility.

5 Reasons You Will Be Denied a Concealed Pistol License

We live in an era of non-stop budget cuts and law enforcement agencies are often at the receiving end. The police cannot be everywhere and gun advocates believe crime and mass shootings will be reduced if more guns are possessed by law abiding citizens in public spaces. All fifty states allow their citizens to carry a hidden firearm in public with a permit. In the State of Washington, carrying a pistol that is concealed while you are in public is a misdemeanor criminal law violation unless you have a concealed weapons permit (CPL). It is also a crime if you carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a CPL.

Well-meaning, law-abiding gun owners could be violating the law without knowing it. I would highly recommend applying for a CPL if you own a firearm. All you need is to bring $52 and a driver’s license to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office or the Sheriff’s office where you live. They will conduct a background check to determine your eligibility.

Here are the 5 most common reasons you will be denied a CPL:

  1. You are subject to a restraining order, protection order, anti-harassment order or any other order prohibiting contact with a person or prohibiting possessing a firearm
    • Be aware that many family law cases involving divorce incorporate a restraining order that prohibit possessing a firearm.
  2. You have ever been committed to a mental institution or deemed mentally defective.
  3. You have a felony conviction in this State or elsewhere. Vacating the conviction may help the approval process for your CPL application. Click here to contact the Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy to determine your eligibility.
  4. You have unlawfully used a controlled substance within the past year.
  5. You have a convictions for any of the following crimes committed by one family member against another:
    • Assault IV
    • Coercion
    • Stalking
    • Reckless Endangerment
    • Criminal Trespass in the first degree
    • Violation of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order restraining the person or excluding the person from the residence

Protect your rights and apply for a CPL

Recent Challenges to Breath Test in DUI Cases

Washington State law requires a person to provide a breath sample to determine alcohol concentration if a police officer suspects they are driving under the influence. A person may refuse to take the test but will face enhanced penalties and a police officer may seek a search warrant for the person’s blood. Generally, after an arrest on the side of the road, police officers are required to transport the person to the police station and read the “Implied Consent Warnings for Breath” if they are seeking the suspect’s breath test results. The “Breath Warnings” advise a person of his rights and the penalties he could receive if the results are .08 or higher. The subject signs the “Warnings” and his signature is used as an acknowledgement that he made an informed decision to either provide or refuse a breath test.

On December 6, 2012 the marijuana legalization Initiative 502 became law. It permits the use and possession of marijuana for adults 21 years and older. In response to I-502, the Washington State Legislature changed the DUI statute making it illegal to drive a motor vehicle after using marijuana with 5 ng or more of THC in a person’s blood. The new law has not caught up with most police agencies and they are still using the old DUI “Warnings.”

The old DUI “Warnings” do not inform suspects of the driving license suspensions associated with being under the influence of marijuana. The Defense Bar started challenging the breath test results due to the inaccuracy of the warnings. Some Judges have suppressed the breath test results but most have yet to decide on the issue. If granted, the remedy is suppression of the BAC results, not an outright dismissal of the case. In many instances, the Prosecution can still prove a DUI charge without a breath test result, but you have a greater chance of having the charge reduced. Contact your attorney to determine if your Judge has heard this issue.

New Relief for Juvenile Sex Offenders in Lynwood

This new relief is helping to remove the stain of a criminal conviction and lift the sex offender registration requirement.

Juvenile sex convictions in Washington have short-term consequences including confinement, registration as a sex offender, and court ordered sexual deviancy treatment.

A mere charge or allegation can negatively impact a person’s ability to seek gainful

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Financial aid
  • Educational Benefits
  • Personal Relationships

Unfortunately, juvenile sex charges also have other unforeseen and long-lasting consequences that can create a psychological barrier straining relationships with family, friends, and significant others. Many young Juvenile offenders in the past were trapped, unable to vacate or seal their records, and forced to live with the conviction for the rest of their lives. It is well documented that many of them will have difficulty finding legitimate jobs and developing intimate relationships as they move into adulthood. Should we brand eleven-year-old offenders for the rest of their life? Is it too early to give up on them?

The Washington State Legislature believes it is too early and enacted a law to help convicted Juvenile Sex Offenders.

In 2011, the Washington State Legislature agreed that we have an obligation to rehabilitate sexual assault offenders and passed a law allowing some Juveniles the ability to vacate and seal their records.

It was decided as a matter of public policy that the toll on society for permanently branding a Juvenile at such an early age was too great. They considered research that children’s brains do not fully develop until their twenties and the impact it has on decision making abilities. This is by no means an excuse for committing a crime but it was a factor the Legislature considered before enacting the Juvenile Vacate law.

What You Need to Know to Vacate Your Record in Lynwood

Few people know that a Juvenile Sex Offender may vacate and seal his or her sex offense conviction. It is important to understand not all offenders are eligible to seal their records under this law.* For those that are eligible, it will not be an easy and quick process. A person must prove to the court that they have been rehabilitated and no longer pose a risk to society. The court will consider numerous factors including:

  • Nature of the offense
  • Criminal behavior before and after the offense
  • Noncriminal behavior before and after the offense
  • Compliance with supervision
  • Length of time since the offense
  • Participation in treatment
  • Input from the victim, law enforcement, and probation
  • Stability in employment and housing

Normally, we encourage our clients to seek a current risk assessment by a professional State certified therapist and voluntarily participate in a polygraph examination. Our Lynwood sex crime attorneys must also provide proof of that the offender successfully completed sexual deviancy counseling. It is not unusual for our office to take additional steps including interviewing family and friends. We will provide a “biography” of the Respondent to support our Petition to remove him or her from the sex offender registry.

A Judge and Prosecutor will hear the evidence to determine if a person is an appropriate candidate to lift the sex offender registration requirement and to have his or her record vacated and sealed. If granted, the charge will be dismissed and the file will be sealed. A person will officially be able to state on employment applications and elsewhere that he or she has never been convicted of the offense.

It may not be the answer for everyone, but the Legislature has determined some Juvenile Sex offenders deserve a second chance. Contact the Law Office of Michael P. Sheehy in Lynwood to determine your eligibility. Everybody makes mistakes – but should the mistakes you made as a child live with you for the rest of your life?

*Adult Sex offenders are generally not eligible to vacate their record and certain Juvenile Sex offenses are statutorily prohibited as well.

DISCLAIMER

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Michael P. Sheehy and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.