FAQs

Understanding the nature of your legal problem is critical to avoiding mistakes early in your case. Please review the Quick Info Sheets page which includes the Who, What, When, Where and How.

When faced with criminal charges, many potential clients have questions they’d like to ask prior to meeting with a lawyer. We have included answers to a number of frequently asked questions below. If you have any other questions, please contact Burke Brown Attorneys.

Do I need attorney?

Should I Go with the Public Defender?

How Do I Pick An Attorney?

How Can I Be Charged When There Is No Evidence Against Me?

Does It Matter That I Have Never Been In Trouble Before?

Since I’ve been Charged, Am I Going to Jail?

How Can My Child Be Charged with Rape of Child When He Himself is a Child?!

I’m Charged With Domestic Violence, Is It Better to Have a Female Domestic Violence Attorney?

Will this go on my record?

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Do I need attorney?

Yes, when you are facing criminal charges, a protection order, a CPS investigation, or educational disciplinary proceeding then your good name, future opportunities, employment or career and liberty may be at stake. You do need an attorney. Why?  Because the things you could lose are some of the most important things in your life.  That is nerve wracking and frightening. In that emotional state, you are already at a disadvantage in terms of taking care of yourself and your situation.

Or, you might think that there is no evidence and the judge or prosecutor will see that and side with you.  Don’t assume your opinion of the evidence and the court system is accurate. Since you’re probably not one who has been through this numerous times, you probably don’t know the ins and outs and strategies and rules that would be most successful. And an experienced attorney does. You need an attorney with a cool and objective perspective who knows the people, the rules, the courts, the possibilities and has the skills to stand by you and protect you in an intimidating court system.

Should I Go with the Public Defender?

Maybe.  If you don’t have sufficient funds to pay for counsel, then yes, you should go with the public defender.  (But note that public defenders are not appointed for protection orders, antiharassment orders, criminal charges that are under investigation or cps investigations). If you have the funds to pay for counsel, then you should retain counsel. You will receive more frequent attention and greater resources will be applied to your case. And you can hand pick your attorney vs. having a randomly assigned attorney, of unknown skill and commitment to you or your case, appointed to you.

How Do I Pick An Attorney?

Look to experience, client reviews, the attorney’s communication style and fees. Do you trust this person and understand him/her when they talk to you about what’s going on with your case and your life.  First and foremost, you want someone with good communication.  Chances are if the attorney has good communication skills with you, they will have the same with the prosecutor, judge and jury.    Experience is key too. Number of years in practice means the attorney has seen and handled hundreds if not thousands of cases with similarities to yours.  Common sense tells you that with each case, the attorney gains more knowledge and becomes better.  And what have prior clients said? Try to find that out too.  They have walked in your shoes with this very attorney, that tells you a lot. If there  are no client reviews, that might tell you something too.

How Can I Be Charged When There Is No Evidence Against Me?

If there is truly no evidence, then you won’t be charged or the charges should be able to be dismissed with some basic competent advocacy. But often times what a person who is unfamiliar with the system thinks is evidence is much different from what is accepted as evidence in court.  Obvious evidence is photos, witness bystanders, tangible items, etc.. But evidence is also the word of just one person – even one person who is of questionable background or character.  People can be charged based on the word of one person alone. And, even scarier, is that people can be charged even if the only witness is recanting (i.e, withdrawing or disputing allegations that the accused committed a crime).  But, if you are in the unfortunate position of facing charges, be thankful that the evidence consists of the word of only one person – that’s less evidence to discredit which may well mean a greater chance of success!

Does It Matter That I Have Never Been In Trouble Before?

As a general rule of thumb, this matters less the more serious the offense.  If you are charged with a serious felony, adult or juvenile, the prosecutor is far more concerned with community protection and punishment.  In less serious offenses, like misdemeanors, it can help you to obtain more lenient treatment from the court or prosecutor. In the domestic violence arena, if you are arrested or charged with domestic violence, the police will question the alleged victim about prior uncharged incidents and this can influence a prosecutor in how hard they prosecute.  But the bottom line is it is much better to have never been in trouble before than to have been in trouble.

Since I’ve been Charged, Am I Going to Jail?

Not necessarily and not if I can help it.  All criminal offenses are jailable offenses; that’s the hallmark of a criminal case – a person’s liberty can be taken away.  But it’s reasonable in most juvenile offenses and misdemeanor offenses, to avoid jail. Felonies are more challenging. However, it’s absolutely a premature assumption to conclude that just because you’ve been charged, jail is in your future.

How Can My Child Be Charged with Rape of Child When He Himself is a Child?!

A very good question.  But the simple, and unfortunate, answer is in how the law is written. Our criminal laws can all be applied to children over the age of 12, and sometimes younger. Rape of a child requires only that there be a specific type of sexual act, that the alleged victim is under the age of twelve and not married to the accused and the accused (the accused) is 24 months older than the alleged victim. That means a twelve year old can be charged for certain consensual sexual acts with a child who is under 10.    That’s the law but that doesn’t have to be the endpoint.

I’m Charged With Domestic Violence, Is It Better to Have a Female Domestic Violence Attorney?

I used to say no to this question just because the gender stereotyping bugged me.  But I have changed my answer and accept that gender stereotypes can be real and helpful.  What I now say is that I, as a female domestic violence attorney, find that my gender can help my clients in many ways. First, regarding how it looks to have a female standing by your side. I think superficially that can create a favorable impression of you, but obviously you need more than just a woman standing by your side. A woman lawyer can more easily attack the credibility of an alleged victim without being seen as another man beating up on her.  A woman lawyer can have special insights into alleged victims motivations and actions which can prove to be invaluable.  This is along the same lines as a man likely having better insights into male locker room behavior.  There are just some things you can do and know better by virtue of being a member of the club.

Will this go on my record?

If you have already been charged in court or if a protection order has been filed, then there is already a record. A record is a document or database that contains information.  Some records are private, most are public.  Court records, including juvenile offense court records are public.

Here is an example of a record in King County Superior Court – Juvenile Division. Is is for a youth named Malika Calhoun (the teenager who received national attention after she kicked her shoe at an officer and was then the recipient of the officer’s force).

This information is readily viewed on a public court website.  So yes, court proceedings, criminal or civil result in the creation of a public record.   It is more about WHAT goes on that record rather than whether a record exists at all.  If there is a court proceeding already a matter of record,  it is best that the record ends in a favorable way to you – not guilty, charge dismissed, petition dismissed, case diverted, etc.