man on computer

Entrapment and Prostitution Charges

Innocent people can be arrested due to mistakes or police misconduct. One form of police misconduct that could possibly be used as a defense in a prostitution case is entrapment.

Police often rely on sting operations to make prostitution arrests. Officers pose as prostitutes or customers. However, officers must follow very strict guidelines when conducting prostitution stings. In this article, our Seattle criminal defense attorney explores entrapment as a possible defense to prostitution charges in Washington.

Using Entrapment as a Defense to Prostitution Charges in Washington

Entrapment is an affirmative defense in a criminal case. You must raise the defense at trial and prove the legal elements required to prove the police misconduct.

The Revised Code of Washington §9A.16.070 states that entrapment is a defense to the prosecution of a crime that:

  • The crime originated in the mind of the police officer or someone acting under their direction; AND,
  • The defendant was induced or lured to commit a crime they had not otherwise intended to commit.

It is not enough to show that the police officer offered a person the opportunity to commit a crime. The officer must have tempted or persuaded the person to commit the crime.

Therefore, walking up to an undercover police officer and asking for sex in exchange for money probably will not stand the test for an entrapment defense. On the other hand, an undercover police officer approaching you without any invitation to offer sex could be the beginning of a defense. You might have said no several times, but the undercover officer used forceful and compelling arguments to persuade you to have sex for money.

It is crucial to understand that prostitution stings are not solely performed on the street. Undercover copies can pose as customers or prostitutes online, in chat rooms, or on Craig’s List. It is also wise to remember that an undercover cop does not need to admit they are a police officer if you ask them.

What Should I Do if I Am Arrested on Prostitution or Prostitution-Related Charges?

Prostitution is a sex crime. You could face severe criminal penalties depending on the person’s age and other factors. Talking with the police is not your best option in this situation.

Instead, you should remain silent except for asking for a lawyer.

Trying to talk your way out of a prostitution charge will likely worsen matters. If you have a valid entrapment defense to prostitution charges in Washington, you do not want to mess up the defense by giving officers statements they can use against you in court.

Call a lawyer and only discuss the matter with the attorney. An attorney can investigate the charges against you, including analyzing the state’s evidence. Your lawyer develops the best defense strategy based on the evidence in your case, including using all potential defenses available to help you beat the charges or negotiate a fair plea agreement.

Call Now for a Free Consultation With a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

Were you arrested for prostitution in Seattle, Washington? If so, do not plead guilty or accept a plea deal until you talk with an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney. You could be innocent of the charges based on entrapment. Contact Jennifer today for a consultation to discuss your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of criminal law. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

police searching individual's car

Ask the Attorney: Should I Ever Give Police Consent to Search My Car, Home, or Person?

Interactions with the police can be high-stress situations. It is essential to know your legal rights and what Washington law requires. You should contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney at once if the police want to search you, your car, or your house. You should always be respectful and, for your own safety, try to avoid a confrontation.

In this Ask the Attorney blog, we cover the question, should I ever give police consent to search my car, home, or person?

When the Police Can Search Your Car

According to the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, the police can search your vehicle for the purpose of making an inventory of the contents of your car if it gets impounded and taken to a towing company’s yard. Also, law enforcement can search your car for weapons that could be within your reach while you are seated inside your car. They usually may not open your closed glove compartment or closed bags that are inside your vehicle.

The police might ask for your consent to perform additional searches of your vehicle, but unless you give your consent, they usually have to obtain a search warrant before searching other areas. There are several exceptions to this general rule.

Do You Have to Allow the Police to Search Your Home?

If the police have a search warrant, they typically do not need your permission to enter your home and conduct a search. If law enforcement has an arrest warrant for someone who lives at your address, they can enter your home to serve the arrest warrant without your permission.

Another situation in which the police can enter your home without your consent is when they reasonably believe that someone on the premises is in danger or is injured. Emergencies are usually a valid reason for the police to enter and search without a search or arrest warrant.

What About Stopping Me on the Street?

Let’s say that you are walking in your neighborhood, minding your own business. Can the police just come up to you and stop you? Maybe. If the police see you violating a law or an ordinance, like jaywalking or littering, they can stop you in public. If they have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime like an assault, or that you have an outstanding arrest warrant or committed a previous crime, they can stop you and ask some questions.

The issue arises when the police want to frisk or otherwise search someone at a street stop. The officers must have a legal reason to detain the individual and have a reasonable belief that they have a weapon to frisk them without a warrant. Other items, like drugs, discovered during a frisk for weapons can get seized as evidence.

The bottom line is that consenting to a warrantless search is sometimes voluntarily giving up your legal rights, but sometimes the police do not need a warrant to search a person, their vehicle, or their home. These situations are legally challenging, and the stakes are high. If possible, you will want to get guidance from a Seattle criminal defense attorney about consenting to a warrantless search by the police. Get in touch with Jennifer today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

criminal trial

Paths to Resentencing

Thanks to developments in the law in Washington State, you or someone you care about could be able to go back to court for a new sentence, assuming that the new sentence would not be greater than the original sentence. This blog will discuss five different ways that people serving life or long prison sentences could get sentence relief in our state.

If you think that you or a loved one might fall within one of these paths to resentencing, you can talk to a Washington criminal defense attorney to get started.

Three Strikes – Robbery Removed

Second-degree robbery convictions used to count toward the “three strikes” rule in Washington. Under the three strikes rule, getting convicted of three crimes on the “most serious offenses” list resulted in an automatic life sentence, regardless of the standard term of imprisonment for the third offense.

Washington took robbery in the second degree off of the three strikes rule most serious offenses list and made the change retroactive. The change in the law mandates resentencing hearings for people who got sentenced under the old rule. A person who got sentenced as a persistent offender can request a new sentencing hearing.

Youth Sentencing

People who got sentenced to life in prison without parole for aggravated murder offenses committed before they turned 18 can get a new sentencing hearing. This change in Washington law was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that sentencing minors to mandatory life sentences is unconstitutional. 

Young Adult Sentencing 

If a person got sentenced to mandatory life without parole for a conviction of aggravated murder for an offense committed when the offender was between the ages of 18 and 20 years, they can get a resentencing hearing. The sentencing must have happened before March 2, 2017, because at that point, trial courts received the right to exercise discretion when sentencing minors charged as adults. Before that date, courts had to impose a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Simple Possession Statute Declared Unconstitutional

Individuals who got sentenced under the previous statute that criminalized simple possession of a controlled substance can get a new sentencing hearing because that statute is no longer valid. The person’s conviction can get vacated. Also, if a conviction under the old statute counted in the individual’s offender score, they can get a resentencing hearing using their new offender score after deducting the simple possession conviction.

Also, there have been several changes to the drug offense statutes in our state in the past few years, but not all of those changes were made retroactively immediately. The legislature fixed this oversight and now allows people to request resentencing hearings if they got sentenced under the old laws and their new sentence would not be longer than their previous one.

A Catch-All Category

Finally, we have all heard stories on the news about someone who got convicted of a crime and sentenced to what sounds like a shockingly long sentence relative to the offense committed.  Washington created a law that allows prosecutors to ask for a resentencing hearing when the sentence the person is serving does not serve the interests of justice. 

No matter what category might be applicable to your situation, you will want to talk to a Washington criminal defense attorney about requesting a resentencing hearing. Contact Jennifer today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

criminal defense attorney with client

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Facing Criminal Charges in Washington State

Getting charged with a crime is an intense situation that might cause a person to make mistakes that could come back to haunt them. Sometimes, the police do not have enough evidence to make a case against you, but they bluff, hoping that they can trip you up and give them something they can use against you.

Your first call after getting arrested or charged with a criminal offense should be to a Washington criminal defense attorney. This blog will cover some of the common mistakes to avoid when facing criminal charges in Washington State. 

First, Do Not Escalate the Situation

There are tragic stories on the news on a regular basis about what can happen when an interaction with the police turns violent. You can only lose in these situations, so you do not want to provoke the officer. Stay calm and polite. Do not resist arrest. Do not be rude or disrespectful. Your words and conduct can get used against you.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

Continuing with the theme of your words getting used against you, the U.S. Constitution grants you the right to remain silent. Simply tell the police that you want to talk to an attorney, and then keep quiet. Anything you say can get used to justify a search warrant or get told to the jury in court.

Wait until you talk to a lawyer about your case before answering questions from the police. Your attorney can advise you on how to respond to the questions. Also, be sure to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Warrantless Searches

Usually, the police must first obtain a search warrant before coming into your residence or searching your vehicle. There are some exceptions, but most of the time, they need a warrant. The police might pressure you to consent to a search when they do not have a warrant by telling you that you have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide. Resist the temptation to give in. Politely refuse the search and call a lawyer.

Tell Your Lawyer All the Facts

Some people try to outsmart the system, even their own attorney. They withhold crucial information from their lawyer. When a criminal defendant does this, they prevent their attorney from being able to prepare a defense on that issue. Your lawyer will not appreciate getting blindsided at trial with no opportunity to get evidence to counter the hidden facts.

Do Not Agree to Certain Types of Samples

You should not voluntarily provide evidence without a court order or the advice of your attorney. This includes clothing, handwriting, fingerprints, a blood sample, or any other bodily fluid. The prosecution will use these items against you. They might not have been able to get a court order based on their existing information, so they would not have been able to obtain the sample without your help.

Hoping the Charges Will Disappear

A common mistake is to desperately hope the criminal charges will somehow go away on their own or if you tell your side of the story to the police or prosecutor. Valuable time slips away when people delay talking to a lawyer. A Washington criminal defense attorney can start protecting your legal rights as soon as they start working on your case. Contact our office today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

victim of domestic violence crying on stairs

Domestic Violence and No Contact Orders Involving Roommates and House-Guests

Washington has an unusually broad definition of some of the words within the laws that apply to allegations of domestic violence. As a result, a person who does not have a current or former romantic relationship with you could make an accusation of domestic violence and seek to have you removed from your own home.

Navigating these waters can be complicated and tricky. One misstep could haunt you for years with your career and your ability to find decent housing. You will want to work with a Seattle domestic violence defense attorney before that happens to you, because undoing that kind of harm can be difficult, if not impossible. Here is an overview of domestic violence and no contact orders involving roommates and house guests.

Who Can Be Subject to Washington’s Law About Domestic Violence and No Contact Orders

People usually think of spouses, domestic partners, or people who are dating as those whom the domestic violence and no contact orders laws are intended to protect. They might be surprised to find out that people who have never had a romantic relationship could find themselves facing domestic violence accusations under these laws.

Let’s say that you had a roommate during college, shared an apartment with a friend, or temporarily let someone stay in your house while they looked for a place to rent or buy. Any of those people could file charges of domestic violence against you under Washington’s domestic violence and no contact orders law.

Potential Consequences of Allegations of Domestic Violence

If a judge issues a no contact order based on allegations of domestic violence, the defendant could be forced from the residence. Additional possible fallout from being on the receiving end of a no contact order for domestic violence can include:

  • You could have a criminal record that could follow you throughout your life. If the judge finds you guilty of the allegations, the judge will sentence you to specific terms and conditions.
  • You could have long-term social stigma from getting charged with domestic violence, even if not found guilty.
  • Your current employer might fire you based merely on allegations of domestic violence. If you get convicted of a charge, it could be difficult to find future employment. You might not get a chance to explain your side if a prospective employer does not give you an interview because of what showed up in your background check.
  • You could have difficulty finding housing in the future. If you rent your apartment or house, your landlord could evict you.

With the possibility of any of these adverse outcomes, you would want to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible to try to avoid getting a no contact order entered against you.

How a Lawyer Could Help You If You Get Accused of Domestic Violence by a Roommate or Houseguest

Sometimes, an attorney can help someone accused of domestic violence by a roommate or houseguest by asking the court to create an exception to the usual no contact order and allow you to remain in your home when the accuser is a platonic housemate. It might be possible, through an attorney’s assistance, to have the accuser legally removed if they are a mere houseguest and have no legal right to remain in the home.

A Seattle criminal defense can protect your rights and housing if a housemate, roommate, or guest accused you of domestic violence. Contact our office today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

gavel and law books

What Happens at an Arraignment?

Usually, the first significant court appearance in a criminal case is the arraignment hearing. The arraignment hearing can have an impact on the rest of your criminal case. With so much at stake, you will want to have a Seattle criminal defense attorney at your side handling your arraignment.

If you have never attended an arraignment before, you might have anxiety or worry about what will happen at the event. It could relieve your stress if you knew what to expect. This blog will provide some answers about what happens at an arraignment.

What to Expect at an Arraignment in Washington State

An arraignment is usually the first time a defendant appears in court after getting arrested and charged with a criminal offense. Although the arrangement does not tend to take a long time, these are the typical things that happen at the hearing:

  • The judge reads a prepared statement advising the defendant of their rights under the constitution.
  • The judge then reads the criminal charges that the state has filed against the defendant.
  • The person accused of the criminal offense enters a plea
  • The judge will deal with bail for the accused, either setting, adjusting, reinstating, or exonerating the bail of the defendant. 

If you plead guilty as charged, you will skip trial and proceed to sentencing. If you want to have a trial, you will need to enter a plea of not guilty. You will want to have the advice of a criminal defense attorney before this hearing and get represented by a lawyer at the hearing.

What Can Happen if a Defendant Does Not Attend Their Arrangement

Law enforcement will bring the defendant to the arraignment if the person is in jail at the time scheduled for the hearing. Many people get released after their arrest and told when to appear for their arraignment. There are severe consequences if a defendant fails to appear for an arraignment.

Usually, the judge will issue a bench warrant and send an officer out to arrest the defendant and bring them to the courtroom. When this happens, the defendant faces a new charge of failure to appear, in addition to the existing criminal charge for which they got arrested. Going forward, the defendant could now get sentenced for both offenses.  

Your Rights at an Arraignment

A criminal defendant has rights under the United States Constitution and the Washington state constitution. These rights include:

  • The right to remain silent, also called the right against self-incrimination. 
  • The right to a trial by jury.
  • The right to have a lawyer represent them. A court-appointed public defender could represent the defendant if they cannot afford to hire their own criminal defense attorney.
  • The right to confront the prosecutor’s witnesses and produce their own witnesses for their defense.
  • The right to a speedy trial.

Many people accused of a crime give up some of their constitutional rights without realizing that they did so. A criminal defense attorney can explain these rights to you and discuss how they apply to your situation. 

A Washington criminal offense attorney could aggressively protect your constitutional rights and help you go after the best outcome possible in your circumstances. For help with your case reach out to our office today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

handcuffs on criminal

The Legal Process of a Criminal Case in Washington State

The legal process of a criminal case in Washington state is complicated, but a Washington criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the various steps and fight aggressively for the best possible outcome in your situation. Every case is different, but considering the multiple negative consequences a criminal conviction can have on your life, hiring a lawyer from the very beginning could be a smart decision.

Initial Stages of a Criminal Case in Washington State

After the police investigate and identify a suspect, law enforcement might file a case in court if they have not yet arrested the suspect. If a suspect gets arrested, law enforcement has 48 hours to find probable cause. If they cannot find probable cause within 48 hours, they must release the suspect. 

If they do find probable cause, the prosecutor will review the case. At this point, the prosecutor has three options: 

  1. Send the case back to law enforcement for additional investigation.
  2. Decline the case based on insufficient evidence.
  3. File the case in court.

The type of charge will determine where the case gets filed.

Case Filed in Washington State Court

Misdemeanors get filed in Washington State District Court or a city’s Municipal Court while felonies get filed in  Washington State Superior Court for the county where the crime allegedly occurred. For both misdemeanors and felonies, there will be an arraignment at which the defendant pleads not guilty, and the court will address the conditions of release and set a bail amount for the defendant to post in order to be released.  Your attorney cannot bring a motion to reduce bail or change other conditions of release unless they can show a “change in circumstances” from when the initial bail determination was made.  

Process for a Misdemeanor in Washington State

Once the arraignment has been completed, a future court date will be set for a pretrial hearing (also called a case-setting hearing in some courts).  At the Pre-Trial Hearing, the case could get set for a plea, for motions, for trial, or simply continued to another Pre-Trial date because one or both sides need more time to engage in plea negotiation or to investigate the case. The prosecutor and defense attorney will each engage in their own investigations and negotiate with each other.

If a defendant enters a guilty plea, after which there will be a formal plea hearing and sentencing. Sentencing hearings are almost always set after the plea hearing for felony cases.  For misdemeanors, the plea and sentencing often occur in the same hearing.  If the plea remains Not Guilty after further investigations and negotiations, the case may be set for a Motions Hearing, if there is an issue to be litigated before the trial starts.   Defense counsel might argue to suppress some of the evidence if it was obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights. The prosecutor might seek to add charges to the case if the investigation revealed additional suspected crimes.

Eventually, if there is not a guilty plea, the criminal case will go forward to a jury trial. There are three possible outcomes from a jury trial in Washington State:

  1. The jury finds the defendant not guilty of the charges.
  2. There is a mistrial or hung jury, which often results in further plea negotiations or a subsequent trial.
  3. The jury finds the defendant guilty of one or more of the charges, after which there will be a sentencing.

These steps are the usual process in most criminal misdemeanor cases in Washington State. There can be some variations from one case to another.

Procedures for a Washington State Felony

After the Arraignment in the Washington State Superior Court, there will be an Omnibus Hearing. The Omnibus Hearing is similar to the Pre-Trial Hearing for misdemeanor cases. At the Omnibus Hearing, the case could get continued, set for a plea, set for motions, or set for trial. 

When a defendant enters a guilty plea, they will have a Guilty Hearing, followed by a Sentencing Hearing. If the defendant continues to plead Not Guilty, there will be one or more motion hearings, then a jury trial. The jury in a felony case in Washington State can reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty, or there could be a mistrial or a hung jury.

You can talk to a Washington State criminal defense attorney about your legal options if you get charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Washington State. Get in touch with Jennifer today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.


How Is Extortion Prosecuted in Washington State?

You might be surprised that you can get charged with a felony, have to pay thousands of dollars in fines, and even go to jail for what you thought were mere words. Extortion gets treated as a severe crime in Washington State. If you are charged with extortion, you will want to contact a Washington criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Some of the legal strategies your lawyer could use are only available at certain stages of the process, and you want to give yourself every possible chance for a good outcome. In this article, we will take a look at the elements of an extortion case in Washington State and how a case is typically prosecuted. 

Elements of Extortion Under Washington State Law

A person can commit the felony of extortion if they try to coerce someone else to hand over money or assets or perform services by threatening violence or damage to the person’s reputation. You can still get charged with extortion for a failed attempt at extortion. In other words, if the person refused to do what you wanted and went to the police, you could end up facing felony charges without ever having received the thing you wanted.

The threat of violence or other harm + trying to obtain something of value in exchange for not harming the person = extortion. 

How Extortion Gets Prosecuted in Washington State

Extortion in the first degree gets prosecuted as a Class B felony. If convicted, the offender can get sent to a state correctional facility for as long as 10 years. The fine can be as high as $20,000. The court can impose both incarceration and a fine.

Extortion in the second degree gets charged as a Class C felony. The fine could be up to $10,000. Incarceration in a state correctional facility can last as long as five years. The sentence can include incarceration and a fine.

Examples of Situations That Could be Considered Extortion

You can see examples of extortion frequently on television shows and movies, even though people rarely get arrested for it in those stories. Blackmail is extortion. Bribing a government official like a police officer or an inspector to do something or look the other way are also common examples of extortion.

Here are some other examples of conduct that can be extortion:

  • Threaten to reveal something embarrassing about the victim or another person or cause harm to the victim or another person if the victim does not have sexual relations with the person making the threat.
  • Threaten to go to the police and reveal that the person committed a crime unless they pay you money.
  • Threaten to expose a person’s private information unless they give you something of value.
  • Try to force the person to give you their purse or wallet by threats of violence to them or another person.
  • Try to get the person to pay money or property for your testimony in court. 
  • Threatening to hold someone against their will until they or some other person pays money or transfers some property to you.

If you were charged with extortion or are concerned that you might face charges in the future, your best strategy is to talk to a Washington criminal defense attorney right away. Contact Jennifer today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

Judge's gavel

What Is the Punishment for Embezzlement in Washington?

Embezzlement is a type of theft in Washington, and it carries the same possible punishments as theft. The offense can get charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, with varying degrees. Each charge has different possible penalties.

If you got accused of embezzlement or charged with theft, a Washington white-collar crimes attorney could protect your legal rights and help defend you from the charges. Let’s address the question, what is the punishment for embezzlement in Washington? 

Gross Misdemeanor – Third-Degree Theft

If the items or assets a person embezzles have a value of less than $750, they can get charged with theft in the third degree, which is a gross misdemeanor. The sentence could be a fine of up to $5,000. Also, the judge could sentence the offender to as much as a year in the county jail. It is possible for a sentence to include a fine and jail time.

For example, a person convicted of embezzling $500 of electronic equipment they were supposed to repair and return to the owner could have to pay a fine of as much as 10 times the value of what they took.

Class C Felony – Second-Degree Theft

If the value of what got embezzled was more than $750 but less than $5,000, the charge could be theft in the second degree, which is a class C felony. Getting convicted of a felony carries its own set of negative consequences, in addition to the possibility of going to state prison for as long as five years. The potential fine for the charge of second-degree theft can go up to a maximum of $10,000. As with other theft convictions, the offender could get sentenced to incarceration or a fine, or both.

Let’s say that a person had a financial emergency and wrote a check for $1,000 from the company’s checking account. That one check could cause them to lose five years of freedom and owe $10,000 in fines.

Class B Felony – First-Degree Theft

This Class B felony charge involves the theft of more than $5,000 worth of assets or property. In addition to the standard impacts of a felony conviction, the offender could get sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. 

A large corporation required an employee to do a great deal of travel on company business. One day, the worker submitted fraudulent travel expense forms in the amount of $7,000. The employee said they attended a business conference, but they actually took their family on vacation. The business conference was fictitious. The $7,000 family trip could send the worker away to prison for a decade with a fine of up to $20,000.

Factors Used in Sentencing

Theft convictions come with a range of possible sentencing, so how does the judge decide to let one person have the low end of potential penalties but throw the book at someone else? One of the tools judges use is the defendant’s offender score, which can include the individual’s criminal history, other current offenses, and other factors. 

A Washington criminal defense attorney can work tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome in your situation. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.

Man reviewing law documents with attorney

Possible Defenses for Embezzlement Charges

You might think that you are not at high risk of getting charged with embezzlement if you do not work at a bank or an investment company, but it is surprisingly easy to find yourself facing criminal charges of embezzlement. If that happens, you need to know what defenses you could raise to try to avoid a conviction. 

Your first call should be to a Washington white-collar crimes attorney who can build a strong case for you based on your facts. Your lawyer will talk to you about the possible defenses for embezzlement charges that might be applicable in your situation.

An Overview of Embezzlement 

At its core, embezzlement is just a type of theft. Borrowing from the petty cash box because you forgot your wallet and needed to pay for lunch could get charged as embezzlement. Helping yourself to copy paper, pens, and other office supplies could be embezzlement. 

You do not have to take items from your employer to get charged with theft. A person who works in home health care might take an item from a client’s home. Someone running a crowd-funding campaign to help pay for someone else’s medical bills might use some of the funds to pay their own personal expenses.

If you have lawful access to someone else’s assets or money, taking or using that asset fraudulently for your own purposes without permission is embezzlement that could get charged as theft. Embezzlement falls under the theft laws in Washington. Embezzlement does not have its own separate laws. Theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony in our state. 

Defenses to the Theft Charges

Defenses to embezzlement generally focus on intent, deception, and lack of authorization. Theft is a crime of intent. In other words, you must have intended to take something that you knew was not yours. 

Let’s say that you were waiting at a bus stop. When the bus arrived, you picked up a backpack that you thought was yours, and boarded the bus. The real owner of the backpack called the police, who arrested you for theft. The two backpacks looked surprisingly similar. You could defend against the charges by saying that you picked up the wrong backpack by accident. You did not intend to steal the other person’s backpack.

Also, you did not use deception to gain possession of the other person’s backpack. For example, you did not intentionally switch the locations of the backpacks to try to deceive the other person. 

Authorization is another common defense to embezzlement charges. One person at a company might make improper claims of theft because they do not know all the facts. Someone in middle management might observe you walk out of the office carrying one of the office laptops and accuse you of embezzling company property. They did not know that your direct supervisor authorized you to take the laptop home for the weekend to finish a report. 

The middle manager might say that you wrongfully took company property or had unauthorized control or possession of the laptop. In a situation like this, the truth is your best defense against embezzlement charges because your actions did not constitute embezzlement or theft. 

Criminal charges of any kind of theft could blemish your good name and reputation. With so much at stake, you will want to talk to a Washington criminal defense attorney at once. Contact our office today for help with your case.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.