Tag Archives: Mt. Vernon Criminal Defense Attorney

Blake Case & Bail Jumping

HOW PROSECUTORS USE BAIL JUMPING CHARGES TO COERCE GUILTY PLEAS

Ever since the WA Supreme Court decided State v. Blake – which held Unlawful Possession  of Controlled Substance charges and convictions unconstitutional – I’m inundated with questions from defendants on what that means. Can other charges filed alongside the drug charge get dismissed? Are Bail Jumping charges dismissible, too?

Fortunately,  the WA Court of Appeals decided the issue and answered these questions. In State v. Stacy, the Court of APpeals found that the invalidation of the defendant’s  conviction for a Drug Possession charge does not affect the validity of his Bail Jumping convictions.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Here, Mr. Stacy seeks relief from personal restraint imposed following his 2019 plea of guilty to one count of Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substances (UPCS) and two counts of Bail Jumping, committed while charged with UPCS. He argues that under State v. Blake, which held UPCS charges and convictions unconstitutional, he is entitled to have all convictions vacated.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals’ decision is captured in two sentences below:

“The State concedes that under Blake, Stacy is entitled to have his conviction for unlawful possession of controlled substances vacated. But the invalidation of his conviction for unlawful possession of controlled substances does not affect the validity of the bail jumping convictions. State v. Downing, 122 Wn. App. 185, 193, 93 P.2d 900 (2004).” ~WA Court of Appeals

In other words, Mr. Stacy’s Bail Jumping conviction was upheld despite the fact his UPCS – were later found unconstitutional. The Court’s usage of State v. Downing was notable.

In Downing, the WA Court of Appeals upheld the defendant’s Bail Jumping charges even though his underlying Unlawful Issuance of Bank Check charges were dismissed. It reasoned that although no Washington cases addressed whether the charge underlying an allegation of Bail Jumping must be valid, the State is not required to prove that a defendant was detained under a constitutionally valid conviction.

With that, the Court of Appeals in Mr. Stacy’s case dismissed his UPCS convictions and upheld his Bail Jump convictions.

Please read my guide on Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Needle-Spiking

Needle spiking: Everything we know after women targeted in nightclubs |  Metro News

According to an article in the New York Times by reporters Megan Specia and , Britain has witnessed a disturbing spate of violence against women.

Apparently, women are being injected with drug-filled syringes at crowded pubs and nightclubs.  This is a variation of “spiking,” in which drugs are dropped into someone’s drink, a crime that often targets women. This phenomenon, called “needle spiking,” includes 12 incidents in Nottinghamshire. Police in Scotland are looking into similar reports.

Some who reported being spiked had effects “consistent with a substance being administered,” the police said in a statement.

According to the article, female students have made the majority of reports. However, some young men say they also have been victimized. The Nottinghamshire police say no other offenses, including sexual assault, have been linked to the reports of being injected. Also, there have been no known arrests for injecting someone. Regardless, authorities say they are stepping up patrols and working with local universities and hospitals to investigate.

But as these stories — and the fears surrounding them — have spread, young women have called for a boycott of clubs and also launched a petition calling for clubs to be required to search people on entering. To many women, the idea that they could be victimized by someone wielding a syringe at a nightclub is horrifying.

In England, concerns about drinks being covertly laced with drugs have long been an issue. A 2019 BBC investigation revealed more than 2,600 cases of drink spiking in England and Wales since 2015.

In Washington State, spiking someone else’s drink with drugs is illegal. It’s considered such a serious crime that it’s categorized as a Class B felony. In a 2016 study, researchers found that nearly 8% of 6,064 university students surveyed said their drinks had been spiked. Also, 1.4% said they’ve been the one spiking drinks or knew someone who did so.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Employees Lose Jobs For Refusing to Vaccinate

Unvaccinated Cops Should Be Fired; Use Their Salaries on Public Health

Today’s press release from the WA State Patrol reports that 127 people employed by WSP were separated from employment for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Those leaving include 67 troopers, six sergeants, one captain and 53 civil servants, according to the announcement.

The departures from the State Patrol are spread across the state. Over the next few days, leaders plan to gauge the impact of the departures and move resources where necessary. The State Patrol plans to make similar adjustments for departures from its civilian jobs and is looking to fill vacancies “as soon as possible.”

Longer term, the WSP will continue recruiting and plans to fill three classes of police academy cadets in the coming months.

WSP Chief John R Batiste said the State Patrol will do its best to keep staff from becoming overburdened from the departures. “We have the responsibilities of the agency to carry forward and I am not going to ask you to do more with less,” said Batiste in the press release.

About two weeks ago, WSP said 93 percent of its 2,200 employees had been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Seattle Times. Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said last week that across Washington, more than 90 percent of state workers had been vaccinated. Inslee announced in August that state employees, health care employees and school workers must be vaccinated or provide proof of medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18. According to the Associated Press, the mandate is believed to be among the strictest in the nation and covers more than 800,000 workers.

In other related news, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that police officers should get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and others.

Police unions across the country have urged members to resist vaccine requirements for their jobs. But Fauci said police officers should view vaccination as a key part of their job:

“Think about the implications of not getting vaccinated when you’re in a position where you have a responsible job, and you want to protect yourself because you’re needed at your job, whether you’re a police officer or a pilot or any other of those kinds of occupations.” Dr. Anthony Fauci,  Fox News Sunday.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Police Dying of COVID-19

Vaccinate the Police - The Atlantic

Excellent article by Colin McEwen of the Daily says that of the 264 police officers who died in the line of duty in 2020 across the United States, more than half died of COVID-19. These findings come on the heels of new data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (PDF) (NLEOMF).

Mark Singer, the Leonard W. Mayo Professor in Family and Child Welfare at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, also discussed some possible solutions during his recent lecture in Cleveland.

“COVID-19 is absolutely devastating police departments around the country,” said Singer, also deputy director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Mandel School. “I’m certain there are local departments that have been ravaged by this disease, as well as our hospitals’ staff, firemen and EMS. We need to do everything we can to promote healthy, safe first responders.”

The data does not include how many police officers were forced to miss work days because of COVID-19. However, the NLEOMF report noted that 145 police officers nationally died from complications related to the novel coronavirus. The organization verifies each reported death, according to its website.

According to the data, COVID-19-related fatalities were the single highest cause of officer line-of-duty deaths in 2020. The data—which includes federal, state, military, tribal and local law enforcement officers—highlighted an increase in fatalities by 96% from the 135 officers killed during the same 12-month period in 2019.

Singer noted that, in typical years, the causes of death for police officers are varied, ranging from automobile crashes and heart attacks to gun violence and other physical violence. He said there are several key factors why COVID-19 is the current leading cause of police officer deaths.

According to the article, Singer also suggested police officers should be moved to the front of the line for vaccinations.

“These first responders have to deal with this extra worry, in what’s already a tension-filled job,” said Singer, who was recognized for his role with the Partnership for a Safer Cleveland in 2018 at the grand opening of the Five Communities exhibit at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C.

He also touted the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 as a success, which guarantees law enforcement officers and their survivors federal benefits if an officer is killed or disabled by COVID-19.

“I think it’s important to recognize some of the unique dangers that police officers are facing,” Singer said . . . They want to come home from work from a dangerous job and be safe.” ~Jack Singer, Professor in Family and Child Welfare.

My opinion? I agree with Singer that police officers should be moved to the front of the line for vaccinations. Unfortunately, other news reports indicate their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public. The reluctance of police to get vaccinated threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Courts Are Clogged

Courts struggling with massive backlog because of pandemic

Excellent article by Denver Pratt of the Bellingham Herald describes how Whatcom County will use federal relief funds to aid courts in the growing backlog of cases that have transpired since the Coronavirus Pandemic.

According to Pratt, Whatcom County approved spending nearly $600,000 of federal relief funds to address the backlog of cases burdening the Whatcom County court system. The Whatcom County Council approved $598,319 for the county’s criminal justice and court system from the American Rescue Plan Act, the nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief measure that U.S. President Joe Biden signed in March.

Whatcom County will see roughly $44.5 million from the coronavirus pandemic relief measure. The funds are able to be used for three years. The money was part of a $1.6 million budget amendment  that the Whatcom County Council passed.

Apparently, Whatcom County’s court system is facing a  growing backlog of unresolved court cases stalled by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The money approved by the county council is an attempt to address those issues.

According to Pratt, the $598,319 will get distributed as follows:

▪ Whatcom County Clerk’s Office will receive $18,611 for a specialty court clerk.

▪ Whatcom County District Court will receive $88,178 for a clerk and a receptionist.

▪ The Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will receive $99,419 for two attorneys, one victim-witness coordinator and one legal assistant.

▪ The Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office will receive $262,506 for four attorneys, two investigators, one behavioral health specialist and two legal assistants.

▪ Whatcom County Superior Court will receive $129,605 for a court commissioner and a judicial assistant.

Due to an overload of cases, the Whatcom Public Defender’s Office has had to return cases to the county’s Office of Assigned Counsel for the first time. From January 2020 through July of this year, the public defender’s office sent back 609 felony cases and 115 District Court cases. That’s a marked increase from years prior, where in 2018, 34 cases total were returned, and 2019, 118 cases total were returned, the data shows.

Pratt also reports that the county also has 11 attorneys on contract to provide outside indigent defense, which includes lawyers from outside Whatcom County for the first time, The Herald previously reported. The return of cases of the Office of Assigned Counsel has led to the county’s budget for contracted indigent defense being almost used up as of mid-August.

My opinion? The Public Defender’s Office has skilled, hardworking attorneys. And obviously, they’re an extremely busy office. Criminal charges are nothing to contend with or take lightly. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. It’s important to hire an effective and competent defense attorney with the time and capacity to work your case.

“At The End Of The Day, It’s Race.”

U.S. Racism and Inequality Are Rooted in the Law

The Washington Courts website presented its findings on unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.

According to data collected by the Task Force 2.0: Race and Washington’s Criminal Justice System, bias and the legacy of historically racist laws and practices contribute significantly to racially disproportionate treatment and outcomes in Washington’s criminal justice system.

From more frequent police stops, searches, use of force, arrests, longer sentences, fewer non-prison sentencing alternatives, higher or more frequent fines, and higher rates of deaths at the hands of police, people of color are treated more harshly than White people from the first contact with the justice system.

The Task Force presented their findings to the WA Supreme Court over Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 29, and released their report to the public. The presentation was broadcast live on TVW and recorded for future viewing.

In addition to gathering data from the many points of contact throughout the justice system, Task Force researchers worked to identify reasons for disparities, often comparing “similarly situated” persons (those with similar crimes and criminal histories) and documenting differential treatment.

“At the end of the day, it’s race. At the end of the day, we see that disproportionalities persist in the criminal justice system.” ~Seattle University School of Law Professor Robert Chang

The Task Force report examines data on policing, prosecutorial decision-making, pre-trial release, sentences, incarceration, Legal Financial Obligations (court fines and fees), driver license suspensions, community supervision and reentry from incarceration, and more. The study also addresses the extensive impacts of contact with the criminal justice system on people’s mental and physical health, families, future employment, housing, and more.

Examples of Task Force findings include:

  • From 2013 to 2020 in Washington state, 253 people were killed by police. Based on each group’s relative population, Black people were killed at a rate 3.6 times greater than that of non-Hispanic White people; Indigenous people were killed at a rate 3.3 times greater; Latinos were killed at a rate 1.3 times greater; and Pacific Islanders were killed at a rate 3.3 times greater.
  • Data from four major Washington cities found that Black persons were 3.9 times to 10.6 times more likely to be subjected to use of force by police than White persons.
  • In fiscal year 2019 felony sentencing for non-drug offenses, Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) received significantly longer sentences than White defendants for the two most serious offense levels, and the disproportionality was pronounced for BIPOC defendants with lower criminal history scores.
  • Black persons, Indigenous persons, and Latina/os are sentenced to court fines and fees (Legal Financial Obligations, or ‘’LFOs’’) more frequently and at higher rates than White and Asian persons. Even after controlling for relevant legal factors, Latina/os are sentenced to significantly higher LFOs than similarly situated White defendants.

The Task Force was launched in mid-2020 by the deans of Washington’s three law schools following the death of George Floyd.

The Task Force will release recommendations for action by the end of the year, along with another report from a “task force within a task force” examining the state’s juvenile justice system. Speakers during the presentation pointed to the need for greater transparency and information sharing in all areas of the justice system, the need to examine the role and impacts of incarceration itself, the need for leaders from all branches and levels of government to be involved, and the need to acknowledge that even with neutral laws and policies, implicit bias influences the unequal application of those laws throughout the criminal justice system.

“We need to be intentional . . . Seven decades I’ve been dealing with this. And if we don’t make space for these hard conversations, 70 years from now we’ll be in the same place.” ~Retired King County Superior Court Judge J. Wesley Saint Clair

Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González, who was involved in the 2010 task force before he joined the Supreme Court, closed the presentation by thanking the presenters and the members of the task force for their ongoing work:

“We regret that this work is still needed, but we recognize that it is.” ~WA Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González

More background on the work of Task Force 2.0 can be found here.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime and race is an issue. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

 

Washington Department of Corrections Ends Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement: Punishment Or Cruelty? : NPR

People incarcerated at Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities will no longer be subjected to disciplinary segregation — being put in solitary confinement as a punishment — after state officials determined it is not effective.

Individuals in solitary confinement are locked in a cell for 22–24 hours per day with no social contact. The effects of solitary confinement on the human mind and body range from anxiety, depression, and heart palpitations to deteriorating eyesight, paranoia, and psychosis. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that approximately 25% of people in prison and 35% of those in jail who had spent 30 days or longer in solitary confinement during the previous year had symptoms of serious psychological distress. The rates were similar for those who only spent 1 day in isolation.

“This is indeed a historic moment in the department,” said DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange. “This is definitely a key step in becoming a human-centered organization by advancing proven correctional practices and methods that support individuals in change.

“The science is clear on this, and the science says stop doing it,” Strange said, adding that the practice has not been effective at deterring negative behavior.

The DOC refers to the practice as “disciplinary segregation,” and says the term “solitary confinement” is archaic and does not reflect the fact that incarcerated individuals receive programming and other benefits.

The agency made the change after collecting data on the practice of isolating incarcerated people for punishment. It found that of the 2,500 incidents where people were subjected to disciplinary segregation from Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020, the majority — 57% — were disciplined for nonviolent infractions.

People who received disciplinary segregation on average spent from 11 days to 16 days in isolation. Many had already been subjected to administrative segregation, which involves isolating a person for the safety of themselves or others, while their disciplinary hearing was pending. Since most received credit for that time served in administrative segregation — which will remain in effect — the actual time spent in disciplinary segregation was relatively short, the DOC said.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the DOC’s decision “is the right thing to do.”

My opinion? Good decision. Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of solitary confinement is its skyrocketing effect on rates of self-harm and suicide among incarcerated individuals: Though only 3–8% of the incarcerated population in the United States is in solitary confinement, they represent 50% of prison suicides.

Prison should be avoided. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

No More Traffic Heroes

Traffic Q&A: What happens if I report an HOV violator? | Tacoma News Tribune

According to Kiro 7 News, after 37 years, the “764-HERO” program used to report carpool lane violators will end on Sept. 22.

The Washington State Department of Transportation began the program in 1984 to educate high-occupancy lane violators about the purpose, rules and benefits of the freeway lanes. The goal was to encourage travelers to call 1-877-764-HERO to help enforce HOV lane rules in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It was expanded in 2010 to include Washington State Ferries waiting lanes.

After receiving reports from the phone number, WSDOT mails first-time violators educational materials. Second-time HOV lane violators are sent a letter from WSDOT, and third-time violators are sent a letter from the Washington State Patrol.

According to Kiro 7 News, the program is ended because most drivers are familiar with how HOV lanes and ferry lines work. The Washington State Patrol will continue to issue violations.

Over the next few months, crews will begin removing the “764-HERO” signs across King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The signs will be gradually replaced with signs showing the fine for improperly using HOV lanes. Violators could be fined $186 for the first offense. Repeat offenders face up to $536. Increased fines also apply to motorists who have a mannequin, doll or dummy.

My opinion? An HOV ticket may not seem serious. The fine is usually fairly small and you may just be tempted to pay the infraction. However, HOV tickets are moving violations. Your insurance company could raise your rates as a result.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime to include Reckless Driving. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Not a Toy, Still a Gun

Kessler Arms 12Ga. Bolt Action Shotgun

In State v. Gouley, the WA Court of Appeals held that an antique shotgun that was missing a bolt action was still a “firearm.”  The State merely has to establish that the shotgun was a real gun, not a toy gun.  The State was not required to prove that the firearm could be rendered operational with reasonable effort and within a reasonable period of time.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Gouley was convicted of a felony and was under community supervision when he missed an appointment with his community corrections officer. Because of Gouley’s failure to report, the Department of Corrections issued a warrant for Gouley’s arrest.

Several officers attempted to locate Gouley at his listed residence to execute the warrant. The officers found Gouley asleep in his bedroom. In searching the bedroom, the officers discovered a shotgun under Gouley’s bed. Gouley was previously convicted of a serious offense and was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

After Gouley was placed in the squad car, he said the shotgun was given to him by his great uncle. The shotgun was a 20-gauge bolt action shotgun made by Kessler Arms. Although the company was out of business, the shotgun is not rare and is relatively inexpensive. When the shotgun was discovered under Gouley’s bed, it was missing a bolt action assembly and was not operable in that condition.

The State charged Gouley with one count of First Degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
and one count of Escape from community custody.

At trial, the judge instructed the jury on the definition of “inoperable firearms.” The instruction said that a “temporarily inoperable firearm that can be rendered operational with reasonable effort and within a reasonable time.” Also, a “disassembled firearm that can be rendered operational with reasonable effort and within a reasonable time” met the definition of a firearm. Gouley consented to the use of this instruction. The jury convicted Gouley as charged. Gouley appealed on arguments that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain his conviction.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals defined the term “firearm” under the statute. A “firearm” is a “weapon or device from which a projectile or projectiles may be fired by an explosive such as gunpowder.” Furthermore, a firearm need not be operable in order to qualify as a firearm under the statute. Instead, the inquiry is whether the firearm is a “gun in fact” rather than a “toy gun.”

The Court reasoned the evidence sufficient to show that the device at issue was a firearm  because it was a gun in fact and not a toy. “Although the shotgun was missing a bolt action, Schoeman testified that the gun could be made operable and could fire if a bolt or bolt assembly is inserted into the receiver.”

The Court raised and dismissed Gouley’s argument the firearm was inoperable. Gouley pointed to the fact that there was something wrong with the firing pin of that firearm or maybe the trigger spring, or the firing pin spring.

“However, the fact that the shotgun was defective or inoperable when it was discovered does not mean that the shotgun was a toy, or anything other than a “gun in fact.” And whether the device was a gun in fact is the only relevant determination that the jury had to make.” ~WA Court of Appeals

Ultimately, the Court reasoned the evidence established that the firearm possessed by Gouley met the definition of firearm. With that, the Court of Appeals upheld Gouley’s conviction.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

“Unlawful” Isn’t “Knowing”

This man has had so many scooters stolen he can't get theft insurance anymore - Wales Online

In  State v. Level, the WA Court of Appeals held that the term “Knowledge” cannot be inferred from the use of the term “Unlawfully” in the context of a Possession of Stolen Motor Vehicle charge.
BACKGROUND FACTS
A police officer stopped Mr. Level for driving a moped without wearing a helmet. The condition of the moped led the officer to suspect it was stolen. A review of the moped’s VIN confirmed this suspicion. The State charged Mr. Level with possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The Prosecutor’s charging documents, in pertinent part, said the following:
“The crime of Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, Count 5, the maximum penalty for which is 10 yrs. imprisonment and/or $20,000 fine, plus restitution, assessments and court costs, in that the said Jacob Daniel Level in the County of Stevens, State of Washington, on or about July 22, 2019, did unlawfully possess a stolen motor vehicle, to-wit: a Taotao Scooter, the property of (victim’s name omitted); Contrary to RCW 9A.56.068(1), and against the peace and dignity of the State of Washington.”
A jury convicted Mr. Level of the stolen vehicle charge. He timely appealed on arguments that the charge failed to apprise him of any component of knowledge. Consequently, this violated his constitutional right to notice and required reversal of his conviction.
COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS
The Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Level.
“The crime of possession of a stolen motor vehicle includes an element of knowledge,” said the Court. “The type of knowledge required has two components: the defendant must both knowingly possess the motor vehicle and also act with knowledge that the motor vehicle had been stolen.”
The Court raised and dismissed the State’s arguments that allegations of “‘unlawful and felonious’” conduct sufficient imply guilty knowledge in the context of drug and firearm offenses. “But none of our decisions have held that knowledge can be inferred from the use of “unlawfully” in the context of a possession of stolen property charge,” said the Court. Furthermore, the court reasoned that proof of knowledge is multifaceted. The State must not only prove knowing possession, but also that the defendant knew of the object was stolen.
“Given the state of the law, an information’s allegation that the defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to convey an inference that the conduct was done with a mental state of knowledge.” ~WA Court of Appeals
Thus, reasoned the Court, the inclusion of the adverb “unlawfully” in the charges does not satisfy the requirements of sufficient notice.
Next, the Court held that the remaining language in the State’s charges was insufficient to fill in the gaps. Although the State tried to salvage its charges by pointing to the allegation that the moped was the property of someone other than Mr. Level, that contention was inadequate. “It says nothing about Mr. Level’s knowledge. It merely confirms that the moped was stolen,” said the Court. With that, the Court reversed Mr. Level’s conviction.
My opinion? Good decision. In criminal law, the defendant must have both the Mens Rea and Actus Reus to commit the crime. Mens Rea refers to criminal intent. The literal translation from Latin is “guilty mind.” A mens rea​ refers to the state of mind statutorily required in order to convict a particular defendant of a particular crime. Actus Reus refers to the act or omission that comprise the physical elements of a crime as required by statute.
The only exception is if the charged crime is a Strict Liability crime. Strict liability exists when a defendant is liable for committing an action, regardless of what his/her intent or mental state was when committing the action. Crimes like DUI, possession crimes and statutory rape are all examples of strict liability offenses.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.