Liza Burke represents those accused of wrongdoing or
those who are involved in the several interrelated practice areas:
Juvenile Criminal Offenses
Juvenile Sex Offenses
Juvenile Relief from Sex
Adult Felony Criminal
Adult Misdemeanor Criminal
Domestic Violence Defense
Domestic Violence Victim
Sexual Assault Protection
Firearm Rights Restoration
Sealing and Expungement of
Other Related Legal
Juvenile Criminal Offenses
Juveniles as young as twelve (and
in some instances, younger than twelve) can be detained, arrested for and
charged with crimes just as an adult can be charged. A common misconception is
that a parent has a right to notification prior to arrest or investigation; this
is not the case. Another common misconception is that juvenile court
authorities will be more lenient. These assumptions of leniency can lead
parents and youth to make mistakes in handling an arrest, interactions with law
enforcement and the court process itself. These mistakes usually involve the
giving of incriminating statements and evidence that are later used to support
and prove a serious criminal charge.
While it is true that relative to
the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system is not as
punishment oriented. However, the juvenile justice system does impose
punishment. Juveniles can be publicly charged, convicted, and incarcerated in a
local detention facility or a state institution. The charge and conviction can
remain open for public viewing and dissemination from a period of years to a
lifetime. The stigma of conviction alone can limit educational, social and
The prosecutor's job is to
prosecutor crimes that he or she thinks can be proven. It is not the police or
prosecutor's role to bring the understanding, love and support of a parent to
their job and they don't do so! Therefore, it is critical that a parent and
youth immediately seek counsel to understand and protect their legal rights in
juvenile criminal matters.
The good news is that there
are many dispositional alternatives available to youth, a juvenile still has a
constitution right to a trial (albeit a trial by judge only), and many first
time offenses carry a standard range called "local sanctions" which allows the
judge to sentence within a range of penalties that include 0 to 12 months of
community supervision (probation), 0 to 150 hours community service work, 0 to
$500 fine and 0 to 30 days detention.
Although "local sanctions" are not
too harsh, all too often an attorney without experience in juvenile court
matters, even attorneys who are criminal defense attorneys, will take on a
juvenile court case and not have sufficient knowledge of the special aspects of
juvenile justice to get the best results. Just because your child is a juvenile
in juvenile court, does not mean his or her case is simple or the results will
not have big effects on his or her life. Concerns regarding incarceration and
impacts on education, jobs, social relations and a youth's own self-image and
ambition are all factors in identifying the best path and result in a juvenile
Given that the future of a child
is at stake, the goal should always be the best possible result, not just
a satisfactory result.
Juvenile Sex Offenses
Juvenile sex offenses are at the
top of the most serious charges that are filed in juvenile court. These charges
can carry life altering, lifelong consequences.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of our
Washington State laws, a child himself can be charged with raping or molesting a
child. Child molestation and child rape are based on the type of sexual contact
between the children, the age of the youngest child and the number of months
between the youngest child and the older child. A child that is only 12
years old can be charged with child molestation or rape of a child and these
types of sex offense charges are filed every day in Washington State.
It is fair for a parent to hope
that the prosecutor will go easy on your child because he was only 12 or 13
years old. However, age of your child alone will not automatically sway a
prosecutor. The prosecutors charge 12 and 13 year olds with sex offenses
regularly. Working in conjunction with you, your child and perhaps other
experts, it is up to your child's attorney to identify the factors that lead to
either a favorable negotiated resolution or that secure a win at trial. Age
can be one of those factors if presented correctly.
It does not matter that the
alleged victim or his or her parents do not support criminal prosecution. This
fact alone will not control a prosecutor's decision to dismiss or reduce a
charge, but it is a factor that is considered by the prosecutor's office given
the emotional and personal nature of a sex offense charge.
There are particular aspects of a
sex offense charge that youth and his or her parents need to understand and
negotiate their way through the juvenile court sex offense proceedings. Parents
need to understand how to identify when, who and how to obtain specialized
evaluations and counseling. Parents also need to be prepared for extensive
"conditions of release" and detention review issues. The role of the "JPC"
(juvenile probation counselor) should be explained and understood. Aside from
developing any possible defenses to the charge, these are critical other issues
in juvenile sex offense cases and youth and their parents should always proceed
with skilled private counsel if possible.
Liza Burke has represented kids
charged with juvenile sex offenses such as indecent liberties, rape of a child,
child molestation, assault with sexual motivation, communication with a minor
for immoral purposes, luring and rape in Snohomish County Juvenile Court, Kitsap
County Juvenile Court and King County Juvenile Court and the charges were most
often Rape of a Child and Child Molestation. Ms. Burke's clients have been
youth coming from all types of communities including Mercer Island, Bellevue,
Issaquah, Seattle, Bothell, Kenmore, Everett, Auburn, Kent and Bainbridge and
most of her clients who have been charged with sex offenses are good kids
planning to go to college.
Ms. Burke works hard to ensure
that her youth clients' futures remain intact and bright.
Juvenile Relief from Sex
Juveniles convicted of a sex
offense are required by law to register with the county sheriff. In many
instances, this is the extent of registration. At a minimum, it can be
personally troublesome to be a registered offender and an inconvenience as
well. At its worst, it can trigger flyers and an internet listing as a
registered sex offender.
The good news is that the law
provides an avenue for relief from registration. Provided there has been no
reoffense and the petitioner can prove that the purpose of future registration
is no longer served by requiring ongoing registration, the court can relieve a
person of the duty to register. This is not an insurmountable burden, but it
does require some preparation to ensure the petition to the court is solid and
likely to succeed.
Adult Felony Criminal Offenses
The right combination of the wrong
factors at any given point in any person's life can lead to a criminal charge,
even a felony charge. Certain jurisdictions may charge every possible charge up
front in an effort to leverage a plea. In King County, the prosecutor's office
will often file conservatively which means that not every possible charge is
filed at the beginning of the case and the charges can be raised, or additional
charges can be added, if the person charged sets his or her case for trial.
Thorough investigation, research, effective communication and strategic approach
increase one's chances in making the best trial or negotiation decisions.
Many felonies may end up reduced
with effective advocacy. Many lower level felonies may be "expedited" if the
charge fits within the prosecutor's expedited guidelines. This means that a
felony is reduced to a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, felonies do not have to
result in jail time.
However, serious felonies require
a more intense level of strategy, skill, investigation and trial preparation.
Many more serious felonies such as arson, robbery, higher level assault and sex
offenses cannot or should not be resolved short of a trial. Trials are heard by
a jury of twelve people. Those twelve must agree unanimously before a
conviction can be imposed. The burden is on the State to satisfy each of the
twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of a person's guilt. This is a high
In short, there are many avenues
and protections that can be explored before the "worst case" scenario. The
ultimate protection is the jury trial.
Adult Misdemeanor Criminal
Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor
offenses are defined by statute. Common misdemeanors include DUI, Assault and
Domestic Violence. Some traffic offenses can actually be criminal traffic
offenses such as Hit and Run, Reckless Driving, Negligent Driving, etc. The
offenses most vigorously prosecuted are DUI and Domestic Violence. The latter
often is prosecuted by specialized prosecutors with training in domestic
violence and who focus on nothing other than domestic violence prosecution.
DUIs carry a host of penalties far beyond jail that can impact a person's
ability to accomplish the basics of daily life.
Many misdemeanor offenses may be
maneuvered into a favorable outcome. Many jurisdictions have prosecutors who are
interested in resolution of a case for budgetary and time resource reasons. Many
jurisdictions have ways of resolving misdemeanors that do not result in
Of course, not all jurisdictions
offer favorable processes for resolution or prosecutors who are ready to offer a
deal. The good news is that a private attorney has vastly more time and
resources to devote to preparing a case than the general city attorney will
have. While at first the notion of the government charging a person with a
crime is daunting, hard work, persistence and knowledgeable representation
levels that playing field.
Domestic Violence Defense
Today's domestic violence justice
system response can cause the head to spin it is fast, formidable and, at
times, unfair. A swift and sure domestic violence response system is certainly
excellent for victims of domestic violence, but it can also provide excellent
ground for false accusations of domestic violence to take route and destroy
lives, careers and families.
An allegation of domestic violence
alone will usually trigger an arrest and jail for whomever the police determine
is the "primary aggressor." That determination is often made by a single law
enforcement officer who does not have sufficient information to dig below the
surface of a situation. An officer will often make an arrest decision based
only on relative physical size, emotional demeanor and a comparison of
injuries. Once the officer picks the primary aggressor, that person is headed
to jail and stays there until bail is set. Just one or two days in jail are
enough to cause stigma, job loss, emotional chaos, estrangements from children
and other negative life impacts. And this is only the beginning of the domestic
Once arrested for DV, it is almost
certain a no contact order will issue. No contact orders are frequently violated
either inadvertently or intentionally. No contact order violations usually
result in additional charges being filed. Additional charges reduce the
leverage that may have existed on the original charge. It is a very common
human inclination or honest mistake to violate a no contact order. A first
approach may be to seek recall or modification of the no contact order. This, in
itself, is a piece of work, but should be discussed and explored. Failing that,
it is critical to get educated quickly on how to avoid common pitfalls that
exist in almost every case involving a no contact order.
There are domestic violence courts
and calendars, such as those in Seattle Municipal Court and King County District
Court, that are structured primarily to ensure victim safety and offender
accountability. While the accused retains the right to a jury trial and proof
beyond a reasonable doubt, courts attempt to ensure that domestic violence cases
proceed quickly so that victims do not recant, reunite with the accused or in
some other way opt out of participating in prosecution. Expediting the
pretrial stage can serve that purpose but it can also affect a defendant's
ability to fully investigate and prepare the most effective defense for trial.
Expedited case processing timelines can also affect the ability to prepare the
best negotiating positions. It is critical to work with an attorney who
understands how to expand or work within these timelines effectively.
During the domestic violence case,
pressures from the alleged victim, children, family members or forced separate
housing situations exist. These pressures require managing in a way that might
not otherwise exist if criminal charges didn't exist. Many steps outside of the
courtroom while a domestic violence case is pending can affect how a person is
treated by the court and the prosecutor during and at the conclusion of a case.
Most people, once they understand the domestic violence enforcement system, are
able to take care of business and their cases effectively. The domestic
violence prosecution system is a challenge that should not be underestimated,
but it can also be successfully handled.
Victim Defendant Representation
Many women and men who are accused
of domestic violence are actually victims of domestic violence. They either were
acting in self-defense, set up entirely, or the victim of ongoing abuse that
prompted a violent act in response. Unfortunately, our domestic violence
response system is not perfect and tends to make arrest and investigatory
decisions based upon superficial factors. These factors might include who
called 911 first, who was more upset, who had the greater apparent physical
injury. Sometimes gender bias plays a role. Many abusers know how to work the
domestic violence response system to their advantage.
Representation in these
circumstances requires an intense multifaceted approach that will include many
of the steps taken in any domestic violence defense but will also include
gathering information from other sources. The first step for a victim defendant
should be attempting to educate and persuade the prosecutor as to the true facts
of the situation. Many good prosecutors will pay close attention to evidence
that the defendant is actually victim.
In the civil domestic violence
protection order context, the same level of work is involved but on an expedited
basis because of the different timelines applicable to these proceedings. In the
civil domestic violence protection order context, it is the judge or
commissioner who must be convinced that the petitioner is actually the abuser.
Fortunately, the law does recognize that there are circumstances where the
petitioner is actually the abuser and authorizes the court to realign the
parties and make the original petitioner the respondent and the restrained party
under a protection order.
Domestic Violence Victim
A victim of domestic violence is
not represented by the prosecutor or by the prosecutor's victim's advocate. If
a victim of domestic violence does not wish for prosecution to proceed, the
prosecutor does not have to follow the victim's wishes. If a victim of domestic
violence does not want a no contact order, the prosecutor does not have to
follow the victim's wishes. The victim's advocate may not advocate for a
victim's desires in all circumstances.
The prosecutor represents that
city or county that is bringing the charges. The prosecutor's interests are in
offender accountability, victim and community safety. In many instances, the
prosecutor will have concerns or interests that a victim may not have regarding
victim safety or offender accountability. This does not mean that the
prosecutor will not listen to a victim. However, a victim may feel that to be
truly heard or to have his/her wishes acted upon may take the assistance of
someone who works within the domestic violence system and talks to domestic
violence prosecutors every day.
In some circumstances the
prosecutor and victim advocate may proceed exactly how a victim would like for
them to proceed, but the victim does not feel adequately protected by the steps
taken by the prosecutor. For example, there may be time limits to the length of
the no contact order sought by the prosecutor. In these circumstances, the
victim may wish to seek a civil domestic violence protection order and seek a
longer term of protection. In those proceedings, the defendant may appear and
contest the issuance of the order and a victim may wish to have counsel speaking
and advocating for his or her interests.
Sometimes a victim simply wants
their own independent advisor regarding the legal proceedings surrounding him or
her. Again, the prosecutor and victim's advocate serve a role that is not the
same as having an advisor and advocate that has 100% loyalty to only to the
victim and his or her wishes and needs.
Students have a right to a public
education and certain due process rights if the school attempts to take that
right away. Students also have an obligation to follow school rules and not
disrupt the welfare or order of the school environment. Kids are kids and
teenagers are teenagers and they can make mistakes. Parents and kids alike do
not want educational opportunities curtailed because of a an alleged behavioral
problem unrelated to academics. Unfortunately, in this post-Columbine world,
schools are quick to suspend and interrupt a student's education.
There are important due process
rights that your child has. If there is a long term suspension (suspensions
over 10 days long) or expulsion, your child has a right to a hearing and certain
prehearing rights. The hearing does not take place in juvenile court or a
court of law, but it is a hearing that must be conducted in compliance with the
law. Unfortunately, school officials are not lawyers and often do not follow the
law when suspending or expelling a student from school. Most parents aren't
lawyers either and are confused and overwhelmed by the expedited nature of the
To assert your child's student
rights, you must affirmatively request a hearing within very short timelines 3
days for long term suspensions. This is much different from having a
conversation with the principal. A common mistake for parents is to confuse
this step with the more formal administrative hearing authorized by law. This
vital right to contest the suspension may be waived by a confused parent who
fails to act quickly.
A parent and student also have the
right to demand and inspect prior to the hearing, the evidence that will be
offered at the discipline hearing. This should be done in writing and delivered
quickly to the right person at the school. Persistence in follow up is
imperative as many schools do not prioritize these requests despite the law.
There are other rules that are
required as part of "due process" for the student that should be asserted and
understood. Liza Burke helps parents and students understand and assert these
One key determination to make is
also whether the student is facing or may face a possible criminal charge in
juvenile court. If so, it is important to consider that ANY statement your child
may make in the course of defending himself/herself in the school disciplinary
context may also be used against your child in a possible criminal proceeding.
Most parents do not want their child taken out of school, but have greater
concern for a possible criminal proceeding. The latter can have its effects on
school and future opportunities as well. Liza Burke offers consultation and
representation in this area and assists parents and students in identifying the
most protective and effective strategies.