Being introduced into the Washington Criminal Courts criminal justice system can be a stressful and difficult time. You are probably plagued with uncertainty and doubt. You may feel like there is no one in “the system” who is looking out for you. No one ever imagines that being arrested and facing a charge in court will happen to them.Charged with a crime in Washington? Call now. (888) 246-5778.
Finding a qualified and trustworthy attorney to handle your case doesn’t have to be difficult. We have spent years in the Washington courtrooms defending regular people like you. We understand the stress you are under and know that we can help lighten the load.
An experienced attorney is key when facing criminal prosecution. We can be there to be certain your rights are being protected and your interests looked after at every stage of the process. Understanding the route a criminal case follows can be a great tool. With knowledge and understanding comes some amount of confidence.
Your entrance into the system typically begins with your arrest. You may have been brought in on a warrant, turned yourself in, or been arrested on the spot if an officer had probable cause to believe you committed a crime.
At the time of your arrest or shortly after you were brought into custody you would’ve been read your Miranda rights. We have all heard these rights recited on television but the importance of them is huge. If an officer fails to advise you of your rights, your case might not hold up in court.
This is why it is so important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible following an arrest.
The arraignment is typically your first appearance in front of a judge. It is here that you will have the opportunity to hear what your charges are and may be given the chance to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty). For more serious offenses you will not enter a plea at this stage, but will later be arraigned at the Superior Court level.
The judge will inform you of your rights again at this stage and remind you that you have the right to be represented by an attorney. If you have not already retained an attorney by your arraignment, now would be a good time to do it.
It is also at the arraignment that the judge will consider bail for the first time. Not all cases are eligible for bail and it comes down to how serious the charges you are facing and the courts belief on whether or not you will return for future proceedings.
Bail is a promise to return to court for future proceedings. Whether you are released on your “own recognizance” (no money required) or a cash bail, you are promising to return.
Before setting bail, a judge wants to ensure that:
1. You are not a risk to the community, and
2. You are not a “flight risk” (you will return).
There are a few different release options the judge may consider in your case.
Own Recognizance- If a judge releases you on your own recognizance (O.R. bond) she is trusting that you will return and not requiring you to put forth any money.
Cash Bail- A judge may require that you pay the entire bail amount in order to be released.
Surety Bond- Only a portion of the bail is required in a surety bond. Often times a bailbondsmen will promise the court that they will be responsible for the remainder of the bail if you fail to appear.
In all cases the prosecution wants you to either admit to some of the elements of your crime or be found guilty by the court. In the interest of this goal, they will often try to get you to agree to a plea bargain.
A plea bargain is an agreement between you (the defendant) and the prosecutor. The prosecutor agrees to either lower the charges against you or recommend a lenient sentence to the judge in exchange for your guilty plea.
A plea agreement can be reached at essentially any stage in the criminal process.
The majority of cases in the United States, end in a plea bargain.
Before Your Trial
Prior to your trial your case will go through many stages and smaller hearings. Your pre-trial, motions, and readiness hearings are all opportunities for plea agreements to be reached and to ensure the case is ready to go to trial.
This stage is often the longest as motions are filed and attorneys prepare.
Typically, your trial will follow a set guideline. While all cases are different, there are certain steps that each trial goes through. Some trials may last a few hours, while others can drag on for weeks. An experienced attorney can help set your expectations about trial.
1. Opening Statements: Each side (the prosecution followed by the defense) will have the opportunity to introduce their case. The prosecution will inform the jury what will be proven in the trial while the defense will refute the charges.
2. Presentation of Evidence: This stage of the trial can be the longest. It is during the presentation of evidence that the prosecution attempts to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed the crime you are charged with. This is where witnesses will be called and questioned by both sides.
The prosecution and defense take turns both in presenting evidence and questioning witnesses. This back and forth can go on indefinitely until both parties are satisfied.
3. Closing Arguments: Closing arguments are the last opportunity each side will have to address the jury and judge before the verdict. This is often where the attorneys really give it their best shot in attempting to sway the jury to their side.
4. Judge’s Instructions to the Jury: Also known as the judge’s charge this is where the judge informs the jury of their legal duties.
5. Jury Deliberations: The jury will retire to private chambers to decide your fate. A jury’s decision must be unanimous.
6. Verdict: Once the jury has reached a decision, the judge will enter a verdict. If you have been found guilty, the judge may sentence you that day but will most likely set sentencing for a future date.