Man reviewing double jeopardy law with attorney

What Is the Double Jeopardy Law and How Does it Apply to My Seattle Criminal Case?

Being accused of a crime is not the same as being guilty of a crime. The state must prove every legal element required for the crime for a defendant to be found guilty. In many cases, there may be one or more legal defenses that apply in your case. Working with a Seattle criminal defense attorney to explore defenses to criminal charges, including the defense of double jeopardy, is the best way to increase your chances of being acquitted of criminal charges.

What Is Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is a protection granted in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment is known more for giving us due process and the right against self-incrimination. 

The Fifth Amendment does not refer to “double” jeopardy. The Amendment states that you cannot be placed in “jeopardy of life or limb” twice for the same offense. What that means is that you cannot be tried for the same crime more than once. If a jury or judge finds you not guilty of a crime, the government cannot attempt to try you for the same crime again. The clause also prevents the government from appealing a not guilty verdict in criminal court.

The double jeopardy clause also protects you from being tried for crimes that would include proving the same elements of the crime for which you were found not guilty. In other words, the government cannot try you for a lesser crime that involves the same facts and legal elements of the crime you were acquitted of at trial.

How Does Double Jeopardy Affect My Criminal Case?

There are instances in which you could face federal and state trials for the same conduct. You could also face trials in different states for the same conduct. Therefore, double jeopardy may not protect you in all cases, if the alleged acts took place in multiple states or both federal and state courts have jurisdiction.

Also, if a grand jury decides not to file charges, you could later be charged with a crime based on the same facts and circumstances. You have to be charged with a crime and a jury has to be empaneled against you for double jeopardy to attach to your case. At that point, the prosecutor cannot dismiss the charges and decide to file charges based on the same conduct at a later time.

Generally, double jeopardy does not attach if a jury cannot return a verdict. If the judge declares a mistrial because of a “hung” jury, the prosecutor can usually pursue another trial without worries of double jeopardy. If the judge grants a mistrial for other reasons based on the defendant’s request or the defendant does not object to the mistrial, double jeopardy may not apply. 

Contact a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney for More Information 

Double jeopardy is often misunderstood. Many people assume that double jeopardy attaches to every case as soon as they are arrested. This assumption is not correct. You should seek legal counsel to determine if double jeopardy can be used as a valid defense in your case.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need legal advice now. Contact Jennifer today to discuss your case. She will aggressively investigate the matter to develop a defense strategy based on the facts and circumstances of 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.

Judge ruling on a verdict.

Charged as an Adult vs. Charged as a Juvenile: How Judges Decide

The justice system for adults in Washington has the goal of punishing offenders found guilty of crimes. However, the goal of the Juvenile Justice System in Washington is to provide treatment for the rehabilitation of minors found guilty of a crime. Thus, the punishments in juvenile court are less severe for many of the same crimes committed by adults. Therefore, a Seattle juvenile criminal defense attorney works to keep the charges in juvenile court. However, some cases are automatically transferred to adult court. 

Auto Decline of Jurisdiction by Juvenile Court

Some serious offenses committed by minors automatically result in being charged as an adult. These offenses are referred to as “auto decline” offenses. The adult judicial system has exclusive jurisdiction of offenders 16 and 17 years of age charged with rape of a child in the first degree and other serious violent offenses. 

With the approval of the court and consent of the prosecutor, exclusive jurisdiction may be waived. However, it is unlikely that jurisdiction will be transferred to the juvenile court in cases of rape in the first degree or when the juvenile has a previous criminal record.

In cases involving serious crimes committed by minors 15 years of age or under, the court has discretionary whether to transfer jurisdiction to the adult system. A prosecutor must file a motion with the court requesting the transfer of the case to the adult judicial system. The court holds a hearing to consider the relevant facts in the case.

Each side presents arguments for or against charging the minor as an adult. Judges may consider any relevant fact when deciding whether to charge a minor as an adult. However, in most cases, judges make the decision based on factors including:

  • The seriousness of the crime (sex crimes and violent crimes are more likely to be transferred to the adult judicial system);
  • The age of the minor (minors who are 16 and 17 are most likely to be charged as adults, but the seriousness of a crime could result in a younger minor being charged as an adult); and,
  • The minor’s criminal history (a criminal history can indicate that the rehabilitation efforts of the juvenile system did not work).

What is the Impact of Being Charged as an Adult?

If a minor is charged as an adult for a crime and convicted of that crime as an adult, it is likely that any future crimes committed by the minor result in adult charges. Once a minor is charged as an adult, the minor faces the same criminal penalties an adult faces for a conviction. Therefore, a minor could face up to life in prison if convicted of some crimes.

However, a judge does have the discretion to deviate from mandatory enhancements and standard sentencing ranges for juvenile defendants charged as adults. The judge may consider the mitigating qualities of youth when ordering a sentence. 

Contact a Seattle Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

If your child is charged with a crime, it is important to consult a Seattle juvenile criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact Jennifer today to discuss how she can help you fight to keep the case in juvenile court where diversion programs can avoid severe punishments. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of juvenile 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.

Someone signing a restraining order.

Do I have to Give Up My Guns if I have a Restraining Order or No Contact Order Against Me?

Many people in Washington value their right to own firearms. However, if you are involved in a domestic dispute, the other party may request a restraining order or a no contact order. Both orders could restrict your right to own and possess a gun. To protect your legal rights, you may want to contact a Seattle protection order attorney as soon as possible to discuss potential responses and defenses that can help you retain your gun rights.

Restraining Order vs. No Contact Order

Both orders may result in a loss of gun rights. 

Restraining Orders are issued after a petition in civil court by a person who seeks protection from domestic violence. On the other hand, a No Contact Order is issued by a criminal court after a person has been arrested for domestic violence. 

The orders are independent. There does not need to be an arrest for the court to issue a restraining order. Likewise, the court does not require parties to prove that they are seeking a dissolution of marriage before a No Contact Order is issued. The court may require a No Contact Order as a condition of the release from jail of a defendant arrested for criminal domestic violence.

The judge in either order may require that the party subject to the order immediately surrenders all firearms and dangerous weapons. The person may also be required to surrender a concealed pistol license and be restrained from obtaining a concealed pistol license while the order is in effect. No Contact Orders and Restraining Orders may also prohibit a party from obtaining, accessing, and possessing any firearms and dangerous weapons.

What Should You Do If You Are Served With a Restraining Order or You Are Issued a No Contact Order?

Violating a No Contact Order or Restraining Order is very serious. Therefore, read the order carefully so that you understand the terms of the order. Do not attempt to contact the person protected by the order, including asking someone to contact that person, go anywhere near that person, or go anywhere that the order restricts you from going.

Following the instructions in the order for surrendering your firearms and your concealed pistol permit. Do not attempt to purchase or “borrow” firearms. Examine the claims against you listed in the order and make notes about your relationship to the person protected by the order. Write down what you can remember about the incidents listed in the order. As soon as possible, contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights and your options for fighting the Criminal Case and related No Contact Order or Restraining Order.

Contact Our Seattle Domestic Violence Attorney for More Information 

Your legal rights can be severely restricted by a No Contact Order or Restraining Order. The matter is extremely serious. You need immediate legal counsel to protect your rights. Contact Jennifer today to discuss how you can respond to the order so that you can protect your gun rights and other legal rights.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence 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.

Police officer with someone's phone in his car.

Can the Police Search My Cell Phone Records Without a Warrant?

As with most questions of law, it depends on the facts and the circumstances in your case whether the police could search your cell phone records without a warrant. If your arrest was based on a search of your cell phone, contact a Seattle domestic violence defense attorney immediately to discuss your options. If the warrantless search violated your rights, any evidence obtained during the search might be inadmissible in court.

Searching Cell Phone Records Without a Warrant

Federal and state laws regarding cell phones continue to evolve as technology becomes more advanced. 

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that the police in the case required a search warrant to obtain cell tower location information for the defendant’s cell phone. Chief Justice John Roberts concluded in the majority opinion that the defendant had a privacy interest in records involving his whereabouts that required the government to obtain a search warrant to access. 

Four years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous order in the case of Riley v. California stating that warrantless searches and seizures of the digital content of a cell phone during an arrest violated the Constitutional rights of the defendant. Police officers had the right to examine the phone to ensure that it could not be used as a weapon, but to examine the contents, the officers needed a warrant.

Therefore, it would seem that police officers need a search warrant to obtain the digital content from your cell phone unless the officers have probable cause for a warrantless search. However, that may not always be the case.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled that an abandoned cell phone may be searched without a warrant. The defendant abandoned a stolen vehicle and left his cell phone in the vehicle. The court concluded that since the defendant voluntarily abandoned his cell phone, he also abandoned his privacy interest protected by the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, a search of the cell phone contents by police officers without a warrant did not violate the defendant’s Constitutional right to privacy. 

Whether you agree with the court’s opinion or not, if you abandon your cell phone, it may be subject to a warrantless search by police officers. Furthermore, there could be other exceptions to the rule requiring officers to obtain a search warrant. Additionally, if an officer wants to search your cell phone, he is likely to place the cell phone into evidence during your arrest until he can obtain a search warrant from a judge.

What Should You Do If a Police Officer Requests to Look at Your Cell Phone?

Respectfully state that you do not consent to a search of your cell phone. Do not resist arrest or try to take back the cell phone. Clearly state that you do not give your consent to a search of the contents of your cell phone.  Do not provide your password, fingerprint or other information to unlock the phone, even if the police seize the phone.

As soon as possible, contact an attorney for advice. If police officers searched your cell phone without a warrant, any information obtained during the search could be inadmissible if your legal rights were violated.

What type of Information Can Be Acquired by Searching a Cell Phone?

Cell phones can provide several types of evidence that may or may not be helpful to your case.  First, cell phones can provide location information and times based on when a cell phone connected with a particular cell phone tower.  Cell phones also carry logs of incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, emails, and photographs.  These types of information have been used as evidence to help prove a wide variety of criminal charges including domestic violence, gun, drug, child pornography and other charges.

Contact a Seattle Domestic Violence Attorney for Help

Cell phone records can be used as evidence in a domestic violence case. If you are the subject of an investigation or officers arrest you for domestic violence, call Jennifer Horwitz Law today to discuss your options for fighting the charges.  Jennifer also has extensive experience defending other types of cases that may implicate cell phone evidence, such as:  sexual assault, child pornography, sexual exploitation (including sting operations), drug and gun cases.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence 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.

Statue of Justia with man charged with domestic violence in the background.

How Do You Get a Domestic Charge Dropped?

The laws in Washington State are unforgiving for domestic violence charges. A person can be arrested for domestic violence, even if the alleged victim does not wish to press charges. If you were arrested on domestic violence charges, your best choice is to contact experienced a Seattle domestic violence defense attorney to discuss defense strategies for domestic violence charges.

Mandatory Arrests for Domestic Violence

According to Washington domestic violence laws, an officer will arrest a person without a warrant if that person is 18 years of age, and the officer has probable cause to believe the person committed a domestic violence offense within the past four hours. State law also requires mandatory arrest when a person violates a civil protection order or no contact order.

In most cases, the person remains in jail until he or she appears before a judge. If a no contact order is not in place, the judge typically issues a no contact order as a condition of release.  This can mean, for a couple living together that the person charged must immediately find a new living situation. 

Even if an officer does not make an arrest, the police officer must complete a police report after responding to a domestic violence incident. The prosecutor may still file charges after reviewing the police report. 

Getting Domestic Violence Charges Dropped

Once you are charged with domestic violence, the charges will then only be dropped in response to a motion for dismissal or a prosecutor’s request for dismissal of the case. The judge presiding over the case reviews either your defense attorney’s motion or the prosecutor’s request and decides whether the case should be dismissed. 

Even if a witness changes his or her story or the victim does not want to pursue a domestic violence charge, the prosecutor or judge may determine that the case should proceed. Therefore, getting domestic violence charges dropped once they are filed is often very difficult. Your attorney must be able to show the court or the prosecutor that the evidence is not credible or sufficient for the prosecution to proceed or that a legal issue will prevent certain key evidence from being admissible. An experienced criminal defense attorney, who regularly represents people charged in these types of cases,  is critical in your fight to get domestic violence charges dropped.

Building a Defense Strategy for a Domestic Violence Case

Working with an attorney to develop one or more strategies for arguing in favor of dismissal of domestic violence charges is your first line of defense when charged with a crime. Your attorney analyzes the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and the charge to determine the best way to attack the state’s case against you.

Examples of defenses to domestic violence that might result in the charges being dropped include, but are not limited to:

  • The police officer did not have probable cause for the arrest;
  • Your legal rights were violated;
  • The victim’s story and injuries are inconsistent with the investigation and report;
  • You were defending yourself from attack or threat of harm; or,
  • The victim had a motive to fabricate the accusation and it can be demonstrated that the victim has made previous false allegations, lied about previous conduct by the person charged or is not telling the truth in the criminal case.

You can increase your chance of having domestic violence charges dropped by contacting an attorney immediately and BEFORE you make any statements to the police.  Be respectful to the police, but exercise your right to remain silent. Do not provide a statement to the police or answer questions without consulting an experienced domestic violence attorney.   Do not have any contact with the alleged victim or witnesses in the case. It is a crime to try to influence what witnesses in a criminal case will say about the accusation. Follow all orders of the court, including no contact orders.

Seattle Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

The consequences of a domestic violence conviction in Washington can be serious. You could face significant jail time, probation, no contact orders, loss of employment, revocation of firearms rights, loss of child custody, and an order to complete domestic violence or anger management treatment programs. 

Seattle domestic violence defense attorney Jennifer Horwitz understands the seriousness of the charges against you. She aggressively fights to protect your legal rights and will diligently investigate your case. Jennifer Horwitz will fight inside and outside of the courtroom to get you the best results possible in your case. Contact her today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence 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.

Domestic violence victim who needs a protection order.

How Do You Obtain a Protection Order?

Domestic violence is a serious problem in America. Many victims worry about their safety if they leave or if the abuser leaves.  Seattle protection order attorney Jennifer Horwitz can help you obtain a protection order prohibiting the person responsible for the abuse from contacting you or coming near you.

What is a Domestic Violence Protection Order?

A domestic violence protection can prevent a victim (protected person) from having any further contact with the person who is stalking, harassing, threatening or abusing them (respondent). A protection order can:

  • Prevent the respondent from entering places where the protected person may be located, including the person’s work, residence, school and other locations where both people may see each other.
  • Prevent the respondent from contacting the protected person by any means, including by telephone, in person, email, text, or mail.
  • Prevent the respondent from using a third party to contact the protected person.
  • Prohibit stalking, harassment, cyberstalking, and electronic surveillance.
  • Require the respondent to surrender all firearms

There are a variety of protection orders provisions that a court might enter in a domestic violence situation. The  terms of the protection order depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.

For example, an order can require the respondent to stay a certain distance away from the petitioner and locations where he or she may be and can limit other conduct on the part of the respondent that is threatening, harassing, intimidating or hurtful to the petitioner.

Who Can Get a Protective Order?

A protective order can apply to certain individuals who are in a domestic relationship, including:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Adult persons who reside together or previously resided together
  • Persons who are dating or previously have dated
  • Adults related by blood or marriage 
  • Individuals with a legal parent-child relationship and biological children

Petitioning the Court for a Protective Order in Washington

Individuals must file a petition with the court when they are seeking a protective order. Initially the petition and any supporting documents are filed ex parte, or without the respondent present.  Typically, the Court will then set a hearing about two weeks after the filing of the petition for the respondent to present his or her response and come to court. After the petitioner files the petition ex parte, the Court will typically issue a temporary order for the protection of the petitioner that will be in effect until the case can go to hearing with both sides present.  Before the full hearing, the respondent may submit reply documents to the Court, explaining why an order is not necessary, why the accusations in the petition are not true, or making any other arguments responding to the accusations made in the petition. The petitioner may then submit additional response documents addressing any issues raised by the respondent. The court reviews all of these submissions before having a full hearing on the petition.  If the petition meets the requirements of the statute and shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the petitioner is the victim of domestic violence, the court will issue a final protective order, typically for one year. In very serious cases, a court may consider entering an order for longer than one year.  

 At the hearing, both parties have an opportunity to argue their side of the story.  If you have an attorney representing you, they will prepare your submissions, and argue the case for you in court. 

How Can An Experienced Attorney Help You Get a Domestic Violence Protection Order?

  • By helping you prepare your petition;
  • By helping you identify the important facts, evidence and witness statements to present to the Court;
  • By helping your back up the claims in your petition through the preparation of declarations from you and other witnesses;
  • By helping you gather other information that may be helpful to the Court, such as prior police reports, medical records, floor plans, pictures, phone records;
  • By taking the lead on organizing the evidence and laying out the case for the Court;
  • By arguing your need for a protection order to the judge;
  • By helping you take measures to protect yourself while you are awaiting the order of the court.

Contact Our Seattle Protection Order Attorney for Help

Being in an abusive relationship can greatly affect your life and even be life-threatening.  If you are afraid for yourself or someone you are close to, contact Seattle protection order attorney, Jennifer Horwitz for help.  She can help you devise a plan for your safety and the safety of your children while she petitions the court for a protective order. She can also help you plan how to protect yourself before and after the protective order is entered. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of protection orders 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.

Police officer at a prostitution sting operation.

What You Need to Know About Prostitution Sting Operations

Prostitution stings are a common method used by the police to combat prostitution.  In a typical sting operation, undercover police officers pose as prostitutes and communicate with clients to set up appointments to engage in commercial sex acts.   Often, following a major prostitution sting, the police share information about the operation with the media in an effort to dissuade others from engaging in similar behavior. It is important to note that the police must follow specific guidelines when carrying out such operations. Otherwise, they run the risk of entrapping people to commit crimes, and this provides those accused of crimes with a valid defense. Below is an overview of what you need to know about prostitution sting operations in Washington. 

Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation (Patronizing or Soliciting a Prostitute)

Prostitution is the act of engaging or agreeing to engage in sexual conduct with an individual in exchange for a fee. Solicitation is a term that is used to describe several acts, including:

  • Paying or agreeing to pay a fee to someone in exchange for performing a sexual act, and
  • Requesting that someone engage in sexual conduct in exchange for a fee.

Soliciting a Prostitute is is also referred to as Sexual Exploitation in several jurisdictions in Washington.  It can also be called Patronizing a Prostitute. These terms are all interchangeable ways of describing the act of paying someone to engage in sexual conduct for a fee or making an agreement for payment in exchange for sexual conduct.

Sexual Exploitation Penalties

The act of patronizing a prostitute, often charged as sexual exploitation, is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine, 90 days in jail, or both. In addition, other costs and penalties may be involved, including probation, community service, and mandatory classes. 

Prostitution Sting Operations

The authorities sometimes catch prostitutes and their customers in the act of exchanging money for sexual acts, but this is not the primary way that they fight prostitution. Rather, more recently authorities have a new focus on using sting operations, where buildings are rented by law enforcement who pose as prostitutes.  Law enforcement will set up a storefront that apparently offers “massage,” but actually has no licenses posted and often has suggestive pictures on the sign or inside.


Entrapment is a possible defense to a sting operation that results in charges for patronizing a prostitute or sexual exploitation. Entrapment occurs when the authorities persuade an individual to commit a criminal act that the person would otherwise not commit. The police must walk a very fine line in sting operations.  They may go to far when they make initial contact with the target (encouraging a person walking by to enter into the storefront from the street) or when the person entering the storefront is seeking a conventional legal massage and police pressure that person to engage in sexual conduct during the massage.  However, police are allowed to offer sexual services as part of the massage and see how the target of the sting operation responds to that suggestion.

Have You Been Arrested in a Prostitution Sting Operation?  

If you are accused of patronizing a prostitute, also known as sexual exploitation,  in Seattle or elsewhere in Washington, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. At Jennifer Horwitz Law, attorney Jennifer Horwitz will deploy her considerable experience with these types of cases as well as her Harvard education to defend you against this charge. Jennifer has a strong track record of obtaining dismissals and not-guilty verdicts in Seattle criminal cases, and she will vigorously pursue a successful outcome in your criminal case in Seattle and Washington state. Please contact Jennifer Horwitz right away to begin strategizing about your defense.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of Washington 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 accused of sexual assault standing by window.

What to Do If Someone Has Accused You of Sexual Assault

You thought an encounter you had in the past was a consensual encounter, but then you are contacted by law enforcement and told that the person on the other end of the encounter is now accusing you of sexual assault.  What steps should you take? 

Don’t Give “Your Side of the Story” to Law Enforcement

A Detective may contact you and just ask for “your side of the story.”  Do not sit down and discuss anything with law enforcement without first consulting with an attorney who is experienced in handling sexual assault cases.  You may believe that it will help you to tell your side of the story, but law enforcement is trained to find inconsistencies and problems with an account that suggests that the person being interrogated is not being honest.  Law enforcement is also allowed to use subterfuge to try to obtain an incriminating statement. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to claim they have physical, medical or DNA evidence that they actually do not have.

Don’t Agree to Make a Written Statement to Law Enforcement

Once you make a written statement to law enforcement and sign it, you are stuck with that statement.  Do not give any written statement to law enforcement without first consulting with an attorney who is qualified to handle sexual assault cases.  Written statements can come back to haunt someone under investigation for a sexual assault allegation.

Do Not Agree to Take a Polygraph Test to “Clear You”

Law enforcement sometimes suggests that you take a polygraph test to “clear” someone of accusations made against them.  The problem is that polygraph tests are highly subjective and can be influenced by the questions asked, the polygrapher, the environment of the test, medications and other factors.  If you believe a polygraph test may clear you, then retain a qualified attorney who regularly handles sexual assault cases. That person will have a relationship with a polygrapher who is not an employee of law enforcement and who can do an independent polygraph test that does not have to be shared with anyone unless it is helpful to you.

Save Pictures, Emails, Cards, Texts and Videos that May Be Relevant 

Often when an accuser says that something happened without their consent, other communications suggest the opposite.  When an accusation of this nature is made, it is important to save all communications with the accuser which can show that they continued to have contact with you and were not afraid of you.  Sometimes, the accusation follows on the heels of a breakup or revelation that the dating relationship is over and the accuser actually engages in stalking of the accused before making the accusation.  This kind of documentation can be critical information in building a defense.

Do Not Attempt to Contact the Accuser 

It can be tempting to reach out to the accuser and try to understand why they are making the accusation against you.  You should not have any direct contact with the person making the accusation after you become aware of it. It is important not to provide any basis for any additional accusations, such as harassing the accuser or tampering with them as a witness.  

Retain An Attorney Experienced in Handling Sexual Assault Cases

An experienced attorney may be able to take steps to head off charges before any are filed or convince law enforcement that no crime actually occurred.  It is also possible that the person making the accusation to law enforcement will seek a SAPO (sexual assault protection order) and it will be very important, if there is an ongoing investigation into possible criminal charges, that you get qualified counsel on board to assist you in responding to the request for a SAPO.  Your attorney will help you decide how to respond to the request for a protection order without compromising your right to remain silent while a criminal investigation is pending.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence 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.  

A couple meeting with attorney to discuss sexual assault allegation.

What to Do When Facing a Delayed Accusation of Sexual Assault

A false accusation of sexual assault places your reputation, livelihood, and freedom on the line. But what happens if the allegations are from months or even years ago?  Below is an overview of some steps you can take to protect yourself when facing a delayed accusation of a sexual assault. 

Do Not Meet with Law Enforcement or Give a Statement

Law enforcement may reach out to you to make you aware of the accusation and to get “your side of the story.”  You should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles sexual assault cases before meeting with law enforcement or speaking with them by phone.  If law enforcement calls you, obtain the name, direct phone number and/or email of the person calling and politely tell them that you are not in a position to speak with them right now.

It is important that you not subject yourself to questioning from law enforcement without consulting an attorney.  Your attorney can communicate with law enforcement to determine the specific nature of the allegation and time period of the accusation. Law enforcement officers are trained to use tactics to confuse you or get you to admit things that might help their case before you even understand the nature of the allegations. Law enforcement may make you feel like the whole issue will be put to rest if you just cooperate, but do not fall into this trap. Law enforcement is allowed to mislead you in order to further the investigation of their case.

Do Not Voluntarily Provide a DNA Sample

Often there is no physical evidence such as DNA from a crime victim who delays their report of a crime.  However, it is always possible that the accuser has an item of clothing or something else that they will produce to law enforcement at the time of their report to attempt to bolster their claim.  The safest course of action is to decline to voluntarily provide a DNA sample until you have consulted with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you.

Do Not Agree to Take a Polygraph By Law Enforcement

Sometimes law enforcement will suggest that you take a polygraph to show that you did not commit the crime that you have been accused of.  Do not agree to take a polygraph without consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney first. Polygraphs are highly subjective tests and the stressful environment of being administered a polygraph by law enforcement can influence the results.  In other words, an innocent person can “fail” a polygraph, due to the stress of taking the test, unrelated mental health issues or medications they are taking. If you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney, they will have their own relationships with polygraphers who work with them.  They can work with the polygrapher to come up with relevant questions and to create a setting that is less stressful than a law enforcement setting. A polygraph administered by a defense polygrapher also does not have to be shared with anyone if it is not helpful to the defense. Do not consent to a law enforcement polygraph test, even if police are telling you they are administering the test to “clear” you of the accusations.

Be Aware of Law Enforcement Search and Seizure Tools

Law enforcement has several tools at their disposal to further the investigation of their case.  It is important if you become aware that someone has come forward with a delayed report of a sexual assault that you understand tools law enforcement could use to further investigate the case.

Law enforcement could request a search warrant of your home, car or storage space if they are able to articulate probable cause to believe they will find evidence of the crime in those areas.  With a delayed reporting situation, a warrant might not be granted because of the argument that the search is not timely and the issue is “stale.” However, there are searches that law enforcement can conduct without a search warrant.  For example, they can search garbage and recycling put outside your house without a warrant. This includes recovering cigarette buts or other items that might contain your DNA.

In addition, law enforcement can obtain a warrant to record a phone conversation between you and your accuser.  Washington is a two-party consent state and recording conversations between two people is illegal without the consent of both parties or a warrant.  It is a common law enforcement tactic in delayed reporting cases to have the accuser call the person they say abused or assaulted them (if they are not strangers) and confront them with the accusation to see how the accused responds.  These recorded calls, obtained after securing a warrant, can yield important evidence for the prosecution of the case. There is also a concern about the crime of witness tampering if there is a conversation with the accuser where it appears that the person accused is trying to discourage the accuser from pursuing the accusation.  

The lesson here is to be very careful in your further communications with the person who you have learned made a delayed accusation of sexual assault.  

Consult an Attorney Before Responding to Contact from Child Protective Services

If the report of sexual assault is against a child and you still have children living in your home, it could trigger an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS).  It is important that you consult with a qualified attorney before speaking with an investigator for CPS because the information gathered by CPS could be shared with law enforcement.  Additionally, a CPS investigation could have important consequences for you or your family, depending on the outcome of the CPS investigation. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you navigate a CPS investigation in a setting where there may also be an investigation by law enforcement.

Hire an Attorney with Experience Defending Sexual Assault Cases Immediately

A delayed report of sexual assault is a unique situation that can benefit from the immediate involvement of legal counsel.  This is true even if charges have not been filed. It could make an important difference in your situation if you immediately contact a sex crime defense attorney and only discuss the accusation against you with that attorney.  You should not discuss the details of your case or the accusation with the police, the accuser, a therapist or even your family until you have first contacted an attorney. An attorney will advise you on how to proceed and will defend your innocence based on a number of common weaknesses in cases involving delayed reports of sexual assault, including:

Lack of physical evidence

When a significant amount of time has passed since the alleged crime, this can make it difficult for investigators to build a case of sexual assault. A long delay may result in a lack of DNA and other biological evidence. In addition, there may not be pictures or other documentation of physical injuries that the accuser alleges they suffered from the event. 

Memory issues

In cases in which there isn’t any physical evidence, a complainant’s ability to recount specific details of the event is extremely important to his or her case. When this information is lacking or inconsistent, your attorney may be able to use this to make your case stronger.

If you are facing a delayed accusation of sexual assault, contact Jennifer Horwitz Law today

As noted above, if you’re facing a delayed accusation of sexual assault in Seattle, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible. Even if you haven’t been formally charged with a crime, you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side. Jennifer Horwitz has both the experience and expertise to defend you against a delayed report of a sexual assault. 

Jennifer Horwitz is a criminal defense attorney who has spent her career representing clients who’ve been accused of committing rape and other sex crimes. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jennifer has a strong track record of obtaining dismissals, reduced charges and not-guilty verdicts in rape cases. 

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. 

Attorney and man discussing no contact order.

What Is a No Contact Order?

When an individual in Washington is accused of domestic violence, the court frequently issues a no-contact order. There are two types of no contact orders in Washington: (1) pre-trial and (2) post-conviction. Both types of no-contact orders prevent the person accused in a domestic violence case from having contact with the alleged victim. Below is an overview of no-contact orders in Washington. No contact orders are different from civil protection orders that can be obtained in a number of situations. Read this blog on the different types of protection orders if you are interested in protection orders that are not connected to a criminal case. 

Pre-Trial No Contact Orders  

A pre-trial no contact order can preclude contact between the person charged and:

  • The alleged victim of the domestic violence crime, 
  • The children of the person charged if they were present for the alleged crime or are, themselves alleged to be the victims of the crime;
  • The alleged victim’s workplace and home (even if the person charged also lives there).

People are often surprised to learn that a pre-trial no-contact order can force the person accused of domestic violence out of his or her home and can keep them apart from their children before there is even a conviction for a crime. And unfortunately, a pre-trial no-contact order remains in place until the case is resolved or the judge specifically orders it lifted. 

How Does a Pretrial No Contact Order Get Lifted or Modified?

Typically, a pretrial no contact order will only be lifted or modified at the request of the alleged victim.  The alleged victim must work with their attorney or the victim advocate to set a hearing to address the no contact order.  Modifications might include allowing phone or email contact to discuss financial issues or issues around shared children, sharing “custody” of pets, or allowing contact within the confines of a couples’ counseling appointment. 

The court may be willing to lift a no contact order, especially if there is evidence the accused is addressing some underlying issue that may have led to the accusation, such as substance abuse issues, but the court also may only be willing to modify the order or leave it as-is while the case is pending.

Even if the accusation is false, the court will want to hear from the alleged victim on what their “safety plan” will be if the order is lifted.  A safety plan assures the court the alleged victim has a plan for keeping themselves safe in their dealings with the accused person. The alleged victim will need to work with their attorney or the advocate to develop a safety plan to present to the court.

How Does the Person Accused Get Their Personal Belongings out of a Shared House if a No Contact Order is Imposed?

The court will often authorize a one-time “civil stand by” for law enforcement to accompany the accused person to the shared dwelling to pick up needed personal items.  The no contact order must have a written provision authorizing a law enforcement officer to stand by in order for the accused person to avail themself of this option to collect their belongings.

Post-Conviction No Contact Orders

A post-conviction no-contact order is issued after a criminal conviction or as part of a resolution of the case. This type of order can carry the same types of restrictions as a pre-trial no-contact order. Post-conviction no contact orders generally stay in place for at least one year but can vary depending on how the case was resolved and what the prosecutor has agreed to recommend to the court.

Penalties for Violating a No Contact Order 

In Washington, the first-time violation of a no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor. A person who is convicted of violating a no-contact order can be fined up to $5000 and receive up to 364 days in jail. In addition, since the violation of a domestic violence no-contact order is considered a crime of domestic violence, an individual who is convicted of violating a no-contact order forfeits his or her right to own or possess a firearm–even if no gun was involved in the alleged domestic violence incident.  Multiple violations of no contact orders can result in several misdemeanor charges or felony charges for a third offense.

Let Jennifer Horwitz Law defend you against domestic violence accusations

A domestic violence accusation can be a life-altering event. If you’ve been accused of or charged with domestic violence, you should retain an experienced Seattle domestic violence defense attorney immediately. Attorney Jennifer Horwitz will treat you with respect and compassion as she fights to get the best possible result in your case. Jennifer has a proven track record of success in domestic violence cases, and she’ll do everything in her power to obtain a positive. Whether through her strategic negotiation skills or courtroom litigation experience, Jennifer has the tools at her disposal to fight your domestic violence charges. Please contact Jennifer today for a consultation. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence 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.