US Supreme Court Hands Down Major Ruling on Gun Possession Case

Last month, the United States Supreme Court held in a 7-2 opinion that the government is required to demonstrate a defendant charged with unlawful possession of a firearm (a) possessed a firearm and (b) the defendant knew not to possess a firearm in the prosecution of gun possession cases. Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion for the court. Justice Samuel Alito was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas in the dissent. It should be noted, the defendant in the matter was prosecuted under a law that bars people who are in this country illegally from possessing guns. As such, it will be interesting to see how these possession cases will be litigated in the future when not prosecuted under the above referenced law. In any event, it appears knowledge will be key in the future prosecution and defense of these cases.

In Washington State the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the Second Degree is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Each firearm possessed under RCW 9.41.040 is considered a separate offense.

See this recent PBS article:

Sentencing Reform on the Horizon in Washington State

Washington’s criminal sentencing laws have remained the same since 1981.  However, it appears that may change in the foreseeable future.  Yes, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981 with the assistance of the Council of State Governments Justice Sentence could look vastly different in a couple of years.  The Sentencing Guidelines Commission recently adopted a report urging lawmakers to consider two new approaches to imposing sentences in the state.  The commission consists of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.  It seems two options are being considered.  [Read more…]

One Person’s Junk May Be One Person’s Treasure but First Not Without a Search Warrant in Oregon

The Oregon Supreme Court last month overturned five decades of case-law to the contrary by ruling Oregonians retain privacy interests in the garbage they leave on the curb for pick up.

[Read more…]

New Laws in Effect in Washington State regarding DUI Administrative Hearings

Attention: As of January 1, 2019, new laws are in effect in Washington State regarding DUI Administrative Hearings with the Washington Department of Licensing. The following law changes are effective immediately.

A request for an Administrative DUI Hearing with the Department of Licensing must be postmarked within 7 days of the date of arrest, or within 7 days of the date the notice was given. If your request is not made within this time frame, you will have waived your right to a hearing. Before the new law change went into effect on January 1, 2019, the driver had 20 days to request a DUI Hearing with the Department of Licensing. The old law is now void. 20 days has been greatly reduced to 7 days to request a hearing following notice.

[Read more…]

Solitary Confinement: The Antithesis of Rehabilitation

A recent article in GQ offers a horrifying look at the use of solitary confinement in America’s prison system.  GQ interviewed 48 current and former prisoner in addition to correction officials, attorneys, researchers and activists.  This is a must read article for all criminal defense attorneys and attorneys advocating for prisoner rights.  In essence, in the mind of this reader, solitary confinement is devoid of rehabilitation.  Its pure punishment, if not torture with financial and societal costs. [Read more…]

The 6th Amendment to the US Constitution Requires It

If you are criminal defense attorney representing documented and undocumented non-us citizens in the criminal justice system, you should absolutely-100% be advising them to discuss their circumstances with immigration attorneys. Criminal defense attorneys should also be conferring with immigration attorneys. [Read more…]

Opposition to Recreational Marijuana in AZ Intensifies

In November, Arizona residents will vote on Proposition 205 (2016) regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana in their state.  The decriminalization of marijuana is a topic of interest to me.  As a criminal defense attorney in Washington, I routinely represented clients in the criminal justice system faced with felony and misdemeanor marijuana offenses pre-passage of I-502 (which appeared on the general election ballot in Washington in 2012). [Read more…]

“Cite” No Longer a 4-Letter RE Unpublished Opinions (Washington)

Last week in Washington State GR 14.1 went effect.  I am not sure its the type of change in the law that will garner much press, but for attorneys (especially criminal defense attorneys) its a pretty big deal.  Why?  Let me explain.  Dating all the way back to my first year of law school, we were all taught it was a major no-no to cite an unpublished opinion.  Citing an unpublished opinion was unprofessional, unethical and a sanctionable act. [Read more…]

Are Jury Trials Headed Toward Extinction? Not Really. But the Numbers Aren’t Good.

Interesting recent article in the New York Times on the declining number of jury trials both criminal and civil in our judicial system. The article begins with a trial judge in the Federal District Court in Manhattan recalling only one criminal trial in the four-plus years he’s been on the bench. That’s a sobering number when you consider the size of the district in which Judge Jesse M. Furman sits. [Read more…]

State v. Wisdom, 187 Wash.App. 652 (Division 3) w/ Comments

In 2015, the Washington State Court of Appeals Division 3 decided State v. Wisdom, 187 Wash.App. 652.

The defendant in the case was arrested because the truck he was driving in was stolen.  Subsequent to his arrest, a toiletry bag on a seat in the truck was searched by law enforcement.  The search led to the recovery of illegal drugs. Wisdom told the officer there was methamphetamine on the seat of the truck.  But never consented to the police officer’s search of the toiletry bag.   [Read more…]