Facing criminal charges in Washington state is an unfortunate experience. Criminal charges have a devastating effect on the lives of those charged regardless of whether or not the accused is found guilty. In these circumstances, a strong criminal defense lawyer in Washington is an invaluable resource. The criminal defense and court process in the state is long and complex, and there are basic things you should expect to occur. You should always seek professional legal counsel to guide you through it.
The General Washington Court Process
When you have been charged with a crime such as DUI in Washington, you must participate in the legal court process. You have the right to be notified of the charges you face, which formally takes place during your first appearance before the judge. This is called your arraignment.
Your arraignment is your formal opportunity to hear the charges against you and to enter a plea. Three pleas are possible, including “guilty” “not guilty” or “no contest.” In general, a plea of “not guilty” is advised unless otherwise suggested by your experienced criminal defense attorney. A plea of “guilty” is an admission of guilt and a plea of “no contest” is essentially a guilty plea because you are neither admitting nor denying you were responsible for the crime.
An arraignment is not a trial, it is a time to simply hear the charges against you. Oftentimes your criminal defense lawyer speaks on your behalf. This is also an opportunity for the judge to decide whether or not to post bail.
Pretrial Hearings and Motions
Your arraignment is followed by pretrial hearings and motions to allow the court to resolve issues that may arise when your case is pending. A pretrial hearing is an opportunity for the parties involved to request the case be continued so as to properly investigate the details and negotiate with prosecutors. Issues such as access to evidence, witness testimonies, and the investigation can be settled by the judge at this time. Pretrial proceedings ensure your case is ready to go to trial.
Trial & Sentencing
Many cases are resolved before the trial, but some cases do reach the final step. Jury trials can consist of six or twelve randomly selected jurors, depending on the criminal charges you face: six jurors for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges, and twelve for felony charges. These jurors deliberate all the evidence presented to determine whether or not you are guilty of the charges against you. A bench trial allows the judge to be the only one making that decision.
All sentencing decisions are made by the judges in Washington even if you are found guilty by a jury. During the sentencing of a trial the prosecutor is allowed to make recommendations to the judge. You and your lawyer can make a recommendation as well in most circumstances.
Proper Court Conduct
Court proceedings are to be taken very seriously, as if you are going to a job interview. This is also how you should dress for each appearance you make. Be sure to arrive 30 minutes early to ensure that you are on time for each appearance. Maintaining a sense of innocence and showing respect for the court go a long way.
When facing criminal charges you should expect the need to hire a criminal defense attorney like Daniel J. Murphy, Jr. of Murphy’s Law Offices for strong legal representation. Attorney Dan Murphy specializes in DUI, drug offenses and medical marijuana cases throughout Washington State. Now is not the time to take your chances. Contact Murphy’s Law Offices by calling (253) 312-6122 for a free legal consultation.