Practice Areas

Juvenile Law

Domestic Violence

 

Practice Areas

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 Offender Registration

  • Adult Felony Criminal Offenses

  • Adult Misdemeanor Criminal Offenses

  • Domestic Violence Defense

  • Victim Defendant Representation

  • Domestic Violence Victim Representation

  • School Discipline

  • Child Abuse/Neglect

  • CPS Investigations

  • Domestic Violence Protection Orders

  • Anti-Harassment Orders

  • Parent Representation

  • Sexual Assault Protection Orders

  • Pre-Charging Representation

  • Firearm Rights Restoration

  • Sealing and Expungement of Records

  • Other Related Legal Problems

 

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 employment opportunities.

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 criminal mater.

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 Offender Registration

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 burden.

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 Offenses

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 conviction.

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 violence process.

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 Representation

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.

 

School Discipline

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 disciplinary process.

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 rights.

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.

 

   
 

Seattle Attorney, 2701 California Ave SW - 302, Seattle, WA 98116, (206) 933-2414