A: The maxim that “silence is golden” is especially true with regard to criminal proceedings. Under the Federal Constitution and the Washington State Constitution, every citizen has a right to remain silent when they are suspected of criminal activity and are contacted by the police. It is critically important that anyone in that position should clearly and unequivocally express their intention to exercise their constitutional right to remain silent, and to clearly and unequivocally request access to legal counsel. All too often, we have experienced situations where we are reviewing a police report with a client, and the client is indicating that the police report does not accurately reflect the statements the defendant actually made to the police, or that the defendant’s statements have somehow been misconstrued or interpreted incorrectly by the police. These types of problems, which can be very serious, can all be avoided by a defendant’s exercise of his or her right to remain silent. Once this right is asserted, the police are not allowed to conduct any further interrogation. A defendant’s exercise of his or her right to remain silent cannot be used against the defendant in any way. It cannot even be the subject of later comment by either the police or the prosecution. As silence cannot be misconstrued or misinterpreted, the first rule is to always exercise your right to remain silent, and to request assistance of legal counsel immediately.
A: Criminal proceedings can be commenced in various ways. With regard to felony charges, the proceedings can be commenced by the arrest of the defendant, which then requires court appearances to be scheduled within time periods prescribed by court rules. They can also be commenced by the prosecutor’s office directing a summons and an information to the defendant, which describes the charges being brought against the defendant, and notifies the defendant of the time when the defendant is required to appear in court to respond to those charges. It is critically important that anyone who is charged with any type of criminal offense pay very careful attention to all court dates, and always attend court on all scheduled court dates. It is very important that anyone who is arrested, or is summoned into court, immediately obtain assistance of counsel, who can then immediately begin to take steps to safeguard the interests of the defendant.
A: Another important aspect of criminal procedure is the issue of whether the evidence which the prosecutor wants to use in any criminal proceeding was lawfully obtained, and whether it is admissible in support of any criminal charges brought against the defendant. Both the Federal Constitution and the Washington State Constitution contain provisions
that forbid use of any evidence in court that was obtained as the result of an illegal search or seizure of the defendant or his property. Many criminal proceedings, such as charges of unlawful possession of drugs, weapons or other items usually depend on the ability of the prosecution to have the items seized by the police admitted into evidence in that case. Consequently, one of the first issues to be addressed by defense counsel is whether any such evidence was obtained as a result of an unlawful search or seizure, and to seek suppression of that evidence, which would prevent the state from using that evidence in support of the charge against the defendant. Very often, in the event that the court agrees that the evidence was obtained by the state as a result of an illegal search or seizure, suppression of that evidence will result in a dismissal of the charges against the defendant.