Best Washington Criminal Lawyers
Finding the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Washington
Getting arrested or charged with a crime in Washington can be a scary and overwhelming experience. The good news is there are many excellent criminal defense attorneys in Washington who can help. This article provides tips on how to find the best criminal lawyer for your specific case.
Ask Friends and Family for Recommendations
A great place to start your search for a criminal lawyer is by asking friends, family, and colleagues if they have any recommendations. While they may not have needed a criminal attorney themselves, they may know someone who has. Word of mouth referrals can provide insights into lawyers’ responsiveness, communication style, and effectiveness that you can’t find on their website.
Search Online Directories and Reviews
Online legal directories like Avvo and Lawyers.com allow you to search for criminal defense lawyers by location and area of practice. You can read profiles for each attorney and see ratings and reviews from former clients. This can give you a good sense of their experience, case results, and client satisfaction.
Look for Experience with Your Type of Case
Not all criminal attorneys have the same expertise. Look for a lawyer who has significant experience with your specific charges. For example, a DUI lawyer will have very different skills and background than a lawyer defending white collar crimes. Consider size of law firm as well – a solo practitioner may not have resources to take on complex federal cases.
Understand Billing Rates and Fees
The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can widely vary. Some charge flat fees for certain services, while others bill by the hour. Make sure you understand exactly how you will be billed, and what rates to expect. Also ask if they offer payment plans or take credit cards.
Meet with Attorneys Before Hiring
It’s always smart to meet and interview a few criminal lawyers before choosing one. This gives you a chance to assess their experience, communication skills and compatibility. Many will offer free initial consultations. Prepare questions in advance and be upfront about your charges and goals.
Check Credentials and Disciplinary History
Before committing to an attorney, verify their law license through the Washington State Bar Association. You can also check for any disciplinary actions taken against them. Ethical lawyers will have no issues providing this information.
Understand the Criminal Justice Process
The more you educate yourself on how the criminal justice system works, the better prepared you’ll be. Resources like WashingtonLawHelp.org cover topics like your rights when arrested, the arraignment and bail process, plea bargains, and what to expect at trial.
Common Criminal Charges in Washington
Some of the most common criminal offenses charged in Washington include:
- DUI – It’s illegal to drive in Washington with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. Penalties get progressively more severe for repeat offenses.
- Domestic violence – Also called domestic abuse, this includes violent crimes committed against a spouse, family member or intimate partner.
- Assault – From minor scuffles to first degree assault, this covers physical attacks causing bodily harm.
- Drug crimes – Possession, distribution, trafficking and manufacturing illegal drugs all fall under Washington’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
- Theft – Stealing property or services valued over $750 is considered felony theft in Washington.
- Sex crimes – Rape, child molestation and other sexual offenses are aggressively prosecuted.
Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case
Every criminal case is unique, so it’s important to choose an attorney who fits your specific needs. Here are some tips:
- For drunk driving, look for a lawyer focused on DUI defense who is familiar with common errors made by police and breathalyzer testing.
- If facing domestic violence charges, consider a lawyer experienced with protection orders and minimizing penalties in family violence cases.
- For drug crimes, find an attorney versed in Washington’s drug laws and possession thresholds, as well as sentencing guidelines.
- White collar crimes often benefit from lawyers who understand complex financial transactions and can negotiate with prosecutors.
Be open and honest with prospective lawyers about all details of your case. This allows them to give accurate advice and assess if they are the right fit for you. If a lawyer ever makes guarantees or promises about a specific outcome, get a second opinion.
Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Here are some key questions to ask when interviewing potential attorneys:
- How long have you been practicing criminal law, and what percentage of your caseload is criminal defense?
- What is your track record with cases similar to mine, and what were the outcomes?
- Are you taking on my case personally, or handing it off to an associate or partner?
- What are the risks and possible penalties I’m facing if convicted?
- What defenses could apply in my case, and what is your overall legal strategy?
- What are your estimated total fees through trial, and what billing arrangements do you offer?
- How often will you communicate case updates and involve me in key decisions?
Preparing a Strong Defense
An experienced criminal lawyer has many strategies to raise doubt and get charges reduced or dismissed. Here are some of the most common legal defenses used in Washington criminal cases:
- Invalid search – Evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure can be suppressed. This excludes it from trial.
- Miranda rights violation – Any self-incriminating statements made while in police custody before being read your rights can be inadmissible.
- Self-defense – Using reasonable force to protect yourself or others against harm can justify assault, battery and even homicide charges.
- Alibi – Being able to conclusively prove you were somewhere else at the time a crime occurred is a powerful defense.
- Mistaken identity – Eyewitness misidentification is a common contributor to wrongful convictions.
- Entrapment – When police improperly coerce you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn’t.
In addition to raising defenses, lawyers negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges, alternate sentencing, or even getting charges dropped completely. An aggressive litigator can make all the difference.
The Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
Trying to navigate the criminal justice system alone is extremely unwise. An experienced attorney brings many advantages, such as:
- Knowing how to protect your legal rights and avoid self-incrimination.
- Conducting in-depth investigations to uncover evidence and witnesses.
- Negotiating with prosecutors for plea bargains or reduced charges.
- Filing motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence.
- Presenting the strongest arguments in your defense at trial.
- Understanding complex sentencing guidelines and alternatives to jail time.
While every case is different, studies show people represented by lawyers are less likely to be convicted and receive shorter sentences. Having an advocate in your corner can make all the difference.
When to Hire a Lawyer
It’s important to engage a criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. Here are some key times when legal help is crucial:
- During police questioning – Invoke your right to counsel immediately to avoid self-incrimination.
- Before submitting to a breathalyzer or field sobriety test – An attorney can advise you whether this evidence may hurt your case.
- Shortly after being arrested and booked – Counsel can often negotiate bail and release conditions.
- Prior to your first court appearance – Early plea negotiations can sometimes resolve cases quickly.
- During the pre-trial phase – Your lawyer can build a defense strategy, file motions and subpoena witnesses.
The bottom line is contacting an attorney immediately gives you the best chance of a favorable outcome. Don’t wait until charges are filed or the case progresses too far.
Finding the Best Lawyer for Your Case
Facing criminal prosecution is daunting, but the right lawyer can empower you to make smart decisions while aggressively defending your rights. Do your research and ask lots of questions to find the ideal attorney. With an experienced legal advocate on your side, you can achieve the best possible result and move forward with your life.
Here are some of the top-rated criminal defense lawyers in Washington to consider:
- Peter Holmes – Seattle criminal defense lawyer with over 25 years experience. Past-President of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
- Jeffrey L. Kradel – Former prosecutor now representing clients in DUI, domestic violence, sex crimes, and felony cases in Seattle.
- Charles Peterson – Skilled Spokane criminal defense lawyer handling both state and federal charges for over 35 years.
- John Henry Browne – Prominent Seattle attorney who has defended high profile clients including serial killer Ted Bundy.