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If You Are A Victim Of A Crime, Is It Fair To Wait 14 Months For The Suspect To Get Charged?

If You Are A Victim Of A Crime, Is It Fair To Wait 14 Months For The Suspect To Get Charged?

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Hi, I’m Ray Hrdlicka, and today we’re sitting with Spencer Freeman, an attorney in Pierce County, Washington and all the other adjacent counties in the Puget Sound area. Today, I want to talk with Spencer about an article that describes a criminal case backlog up in King County, in the Seattle area. And this backlog, the tag line of the article, says that because of this backlog — and he’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment here — because of that backlog, it was 14 months before a repeat offender was charged. 14 months. And they describe this system as being out of custody investigation and why it takes so long, and the backlog on that. So Spencer, thank you for joining us today.”

“Let’s talk about that a little bit. That sure seems like, between a time that a criminal case occurs — well, the act occurs, let’s say that, right? And then the arrest occurs. It’s a long period of time. Memories fade, things — a lot more things can occur. Witnesses can become unavailable. It sure sounds like the justice system isn’t actually getting to the justice part.”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“Sure, that’s the easy observation on its face, right?”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Right, that’s why I wanted to start talking about it.”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“Yeah, you’ve got — an incident occurs, an officer responds, writes the report, submits it to the prosecutor’s office for charging, and then the prosecutor’s office can’t get to it for a certain period of time. But part of that reason is that prosecutors — if an officer arrests somebody and puts them in jail as a result of a crime, then the prosecutors have a very limited period of time to review the police reports and make a decision on charging. So when there’s a lot of people being arrested and put in the jail, and the prosecutor’s focus has to be there, the constitution…”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“What is that limited amount of time?”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“Forty-eight hours. Otherwise, they’ve got to be released. They’ve got to make a determination of probable cause, they’ve got to be charged. So you’ve got an immediate focus that’s constitutionally mandated to be right there. So what happens is those cases that come in the day after, whenever that officer files it, they don’t have that same level of import because you’re not going to lose out on something by not reviewing it. And so then they start to build up. And in the mid-‘90s when I worked for the City of Tacoma, we had a significant problem with backlogs, and we worked hard to get through those because there is a time limit. It’s not like it just can go forever.

On gross misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is two years and on simple misdemeanors, it’s one year. So if you don’t get it done in that time, you’ve lost the ability. Now hopefully if you have somebody who is a high-volume repeat offender, you’ve got a prosecutor’s office that’s working closely with the police that understand that’s who that is, and that can somehow be bumped up for review past the other backlog of cases that are sitting there.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“So you mentioned misdemeanors, simple and…now, what about felonies? Can a felony sit on somebody’s desk for more than a year?”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“For sure. You know, felonies, depending on the crime, have a much longer statute of limitations. In fact, if it’s a murder charge, there is no statute of limitations. So yeah, it could sit for a lot longer. And it’s a challenge for a prosecutor’s office to prosecute cases that are starting to get old, for all the reasons that you have said: Witness memories fade, witnesses become unavailable, sometimes the criminal defendant themselves become — you can’t find them.

So it becomes a bigger challenge, and from a criminal defense attorney standpoint, the older the case gets, the easier it is for us to handle it. Or the better it is for us to handle it. And if you think about a case that gets filed 15 months after an incident and it takes a year after that to get to trial, you’re more than two years after incident and maybe, maybe not, the evidence is still there.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Well, actually, you raise a good point. And this is a perspective that I think you can give us, because you’ve worked both in the prosecutor’s office and of course now for 20 plus years as a criminal defense attorney. So you have a case and the person is out of custody, but essentially, all of the evidence is available. Is it simply a matter of getting to it in the stack of folders that’s on somebody’s desk? Or is it waiting for further investigation?”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“Well, so listen — I doubt that, at least in my experience, that in that stack you’re talking about, that there’s any active investigation going on. They are usually waiting for review by the prosecutors. You know, they may call them in a further investigation status, but that’s a label and likely not actually having ongoing investigation. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t cases where that’s true. But generally speaking, it’s just waiting for review.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Again, headlines, sensationalism — it makes it look like the justice system isn’t obviously serving up its plate of justice on the criminal environment and the alleged criminals that commit the crimes in King County. But it’s obviously not that case.”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“No, and what you hope for, is you hope a good working relationship between the prosecutors and the police, so when you do have somebody that really needs to be looked at quickly, that can happen. You know, an officer could have — when I was prosecuting, could walk into my office and say, ‘Listen, I want you to look at this right away. They are not in custody, but here’s why it’s important.’ And you can have that relationship. But also understand that nothing is perfect. So you can have those relationships, but something gets stuck somewhere and it doesn’t get looked at for a while.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Well, thank you for giving us a perspective. I know everybody that reads the article, they get a different viewpoint. Thanks once again, Spencer.”

Spencer Freeman – Criminal Defense Attorney – Pierce County, WA

“Thank you.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“Bye-bye.”

Born and raised in Colorado, Mr. Freeman stayed in the Pacific Northwest after graduating cum laude from Seattle University School of Law in 1995, at which time he was awarded the National Order of Barristers by the National Board of Governors. After gaining extensive trial experience as a prosecutor for the City of Tacoma, Mr. Freeman worked locally for several small law firms focused on personal injury and criminal defense. In 2000, he began to work at a downtown Seattle law firm, where he worked with some of the best lawyers in the nation. During the better part of the next six years, Mr. Freeman was blessed to do work for one of the largest national television providers litigating matters involving the theft of encrypted satellite signals. During this time, he worked closely with corporate counsel and assisted in developing and managing a national litigation campaign. He appeared in federal courts throughout the nation, gaining extensive experience in both federal court litigation and the pursuit of intellectual property thieves attempting to hide on the Internet.

In late 2005, Mr. Freeman decided to open a practice in Tacoma, where his family was growing. Mr. Freeman’s connections locally and nationally nourished his practice over time. He has served the local community as well as handling cases in federal courts across the country. Locally, Mr. Freeman has assisted local businesses in such matters as contentious shareholder disputes and individuals in matters ranging from catastrophic injuries to class A felonies as well as lawsuits against insurance companies for bad faith claims practices. He tried a Whatcom County Superior Court case for a bail bond company that resulted in the first appellate law in Washington truly outlining the rights of fugitive recovery agents. He has tried cases in many counties throughout the State of Washington, argued before the Court of Appeals Division I and Division II and the Washington State Supreme Court.

Mr. Freeman’s practice has taken him beyond Washington State, where he has handled cases for national Internet multi-media companies enforcing copyrights in states such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and California. In those cases, he has successfully argued for jurisdiction in the United States against individuals that reside in other countries. Mr. Freeman also represented a publisher against sheriffs regarding First Amendment Rights to distribute a magazine in county jails, resulting in arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the first case law of its kind. He has argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals five times and submitted a briefing to the United States Supreme Court.

On more than several occasions, Mr. Freeman has been retained by parties on the near eve of a trial solely for purpose of being lead trial counsel. One such successful case was against the U.S. Department of Justice in their first trial attempting to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act for the actions of independent contractors.

Mr. Freeman’s passion and strength lay in front of a jury. He finds a beautiful balance between fact witnesses, statutes, case law, rules of evidence, and the different contexts of each jury. Most cases find a resolution before trial, but the best resolution occurs when counsel is prepared to try the case. And, when a case cannot find resolution, Mr. Freeman loves to go to work.

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