Criminal practice in the modern age is replete with pitfalls for those who are inexperienced. Prosecutor’s Offices are divided into specific areas of practice which allows the attorneys to quickly become knowledgeable and experienced in those specific areas. What’s more, both prosecutor’s offices and law enforcement agencies spend large portions of their budgets on training so they are aware of the law, science, and latest techniques of investigating and prosecuting crimes. The results are clear. Studies show that the conviction rate for those charged with felonies has steadily risen over the last few decades. Sadly, so too has the rate of wrongful convictions. Despite larger budgets for law enforcement and an increased reliance on forensic science, a criminal justice system that prides itself on proof beyond a reasonable doubt regularly convicts innocent people.
Defendants who hire attorneys without the same level of training and experience as the prosecutor handling their case are at a huge disadvantage. When Zach left the prosecutor’s office to start his own criminal defense practice he brought with him an experience and skill set that is not only unique to criminal defense but invaluable to his clients. Nowhere is this experience more important than in the most technical and emotionally charged crimes that can be brought by the state.
Responding to societal pressure, in recent years both State and Federal law enforcement agencies have dedicated large amounts of resources into the investigation and prosecution of sexual offenses committed over the internet. As a result, the number of arrests and convictions for these offenses has skyrocketed. Although many of these offenses do not involve an actual victim, they should not to be taken lightly. The consequences of being found guilty of an internet sexual offense include sex offender registration, lengthy prison sentences, mandatory sex offender treatment, and the loss of any property associated with the crime. Having spent years working alongside law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of these offenses, Zach possess a unique understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different types of charges and how best to defend against them both factually and legally.
Internet sex offenses range from the online viewing and distribution of images of minors engaged in sexual activity to the use of the internet to meet or arrange to meet others for illegal sexual activity. With the help of huge amounts of money from the federal government, the investigations into these offenses by local law enforcement have become increasingly aggressive and sophisticated. Here in Washington the Seattle Police Department has an entire unit, the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit, that not only investigates internet crimes that occur in Seattle but is also part of a nationwide ICAC Task Force. This task force, funded with federal tax dollars, links together ICAC Units from cities, states, and countries all over the world and allows law enforcement agencies to work with each other and investigate cases across state lines and international borders.
As a prosecutor Zach spent years assigned to work directly with the ICAC units of local and federal law enforcement agencies helping to advise and oversee their investigation of sex offenses committed over the internet. His duties included advising law enforcement on the state of the law and keeping them apprised of changes in the law, helping to draft, review, and approve search warrants, being present during “sting” operations in order to advise and help build strong cases, and charging, negotiating, and prosecuting cases once an investigation was complete. In addition, Zach attended weekly meetings of the local ICAC task forces and attended numerous national conferences and trainings on issues related to the investigation and prosecution of online sex offenses. As a result, he has a keen understanding of how these cases are investigated, the strengths and weaknesses of different investigative techniques and factual scenarios, the legal issues that these cases present, and how best to approach plea negotiations and trial.