Overview of Court Procedures and Options in Criminal Cases

Pre-charge Stage

If you are suspected of committing a crime, hiring an attorney before you approached by police can be a very effective means of protecting yourself and can sometimes allow you to completely avoid criminal prosecution. Warrants for arrest and search warrants may be issued allowing police to search a person, their property and belongings or to take a person into custody. Call now, we are here to help: 360-213-0013 for your free initial consultation.

Although in many non-violent felony and misdemeanor cases, prosecutors and courts issue notices to appear that are mailed or served personally on the defendant, sometimes police will simply arrest the suspect.  If you are arrested or served, you have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during any questioning and court procedures.  Having an attorney prior to appearing in court can help you protect yourself and prepare to deal with conditions of release.

First Appearance and Arraignment

Typically in Southwest Washington courts, bail and release conditions are determined by the judge at the first appearance and a return date or dates are sent.  A plea may be requested, but in felony cases, another hearing, called arraignment, typically follows within a short time period.  At arraignment, the defendant will usually be asked to enter a plea.  Getting an attorney involved before entering a plea or speaking with the judge can help you protect your rights, help you to avoid giving the prosecutor statements that can be used against you, and preserve all of your options.  Certain misdemeanors qualify for arraignment by counsel without personal appearance of the accused.

Pre-Trial Hearings and Procedures

It is usually during this period that your attorney will gather information from the state, including the police reports and any other evidence the state may use in its case.  Some kind of pre-trial hearing is usually scheduled to give the parties a chance to see if they can resolve the case before trial and to handle any pre-trial matters, like motions to suppress evidence or other motions.  Aggressive attorneys often conduct an independent investigation during the pre-trial stage and will interview state’s witnesses and may file appropriate motions.  Sometimes pre-trial motions are used and bargaining chips.  Your aggressive attorney will use available angles to try to get the case dismissed, if possible, or obtain the best available offer for pre-trial settlement, if you are at all interested in settling the case.  If you are focused on fighting, this is where your attorney digs in, fights important pre-trial battles and prepares to attack the government’s case during trial.

Making all of your court appearances is extremely important.  Prosecutors often file additional charges of bail jumping when defendants miss court and this can seriously complicate trying to resolve a case.

Alternative Resolutions

Depending on the county or jurisdiction, some cases may be resolved without entering a guilty plea to a charge or by entering into special programs that can drastically reduce the amount of jail or prison time that might otherwise be imposed.  These options vary greatly, depending on location, the seriousness and the type of charge, and may include diversion programs, deferred prosecutions, and drug or mental health court and treatment alternatives.  Ask your attorney whether any of these options might be available to you.

Whether you choose to fight or you are looking for damage control … having an experienced, skilled, and aggressive attorney will provide you with the ability to make an informed decision and choose your best option from those available with confidence.  Sometimes choosing your options is a matter of weighing the possible costs and benefits and determining the kinds of risks you are willing to take.

Ms. Dalton is a skilled and experienced fighter who takes the time to find out what clients want and need and fights for the best result possible.

Get help now by calling 360-213-0013 for your free initial consultation.