Title 10 of the Revised Washington Code is known as the Criminal Procedure; it is essentially a framework of laws that deals with the processing of offenders right from arrest to sentencing.Comprising of 43 chapters from 10.01 to 10.108, the criminal procedure lays down the law for filing a formal complaint against an alleged offender, his/her arrest by a law enforcement officer the issue of an arrest order, bail and release on bond along with trial formalities and requirements and sentencing guidelines.
Pursuant to Chapter 10.31, a warrant is issued against an individual after a formal complaint in writing is filed with a magistrate of the criminal court in Washington. Once the sitting judge establishes probable cause, the warrant is issued and this will undoubtedly lead to an arrest.
However, a law enforcement officer also has the authority toapprehend an individual without an arrest warrant so long as the crime was committed in his/her presence, or he has reason to believe that the individual in question has committed a crime or will commit a crime. An officer of the law can enter any property, at any time to execute an arrest under the provisions of a court issued order for detention.
After the suspect is arrested, the police will question him; however, he is not legally bound to confess or admit to any wrongdoing. The person can also request the presence of an attorney while he/she is being questioned. The sheriff’s department is then legally bound to present the alleged offender before the court for the arraignment.
This is the first appearance of the arrested individual before the court; in the arraignment hearing, formal charges are filed against the person and he has to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or innocent. Depending on the nature of the crime, risk factor and prior criminal history of the person in question, the court may/may not release the individual on bail.
Whether he is remanded to police custody or is granted bail, the next step in the judicial process entails a preliminary hearing.In these hearings, the judge ascertains that there is probable cause to make the charges stick against the person in question. Additional charges may be added at this time and the District attorney may also request for readjustment of the bail.
If the magistrate is convinced that there is enough evidence to implicate the alleged perpetrator, the case is forwarded to the Superior Court For trial. Once again, an arraignment hearing is held and the offender is notified of the formal charges filed against him and his constitutional rights. At this point, the defendant is expected to file a plea in the matter.
Before the actual trial, a pretrial conference is held in which attorneys from both sides discuss the case. This is the time when a plea bargain may be offered to the defendant. Finally, the matter goes to trial and if found guilty, the offender is sentenced based on the nature and severity of his crimes.
Even after being convicted, a person does have the legal right to request a sentencing hearing in which the accused offers an explanation for why the judge should give him the minimum penalty.
If the defendant is acquitted, all charges against him are dropped and often his/her name is removed from the state maintained criminal records database.On the other hand, if found guilty, he/she is sent into the Washington state prison system.
People who cannot afford the services of an attorney can request the state to provide legal counsel to fight the matter on their behalf. Also, a conviction may lead to more than just incarceration. In case of many offenses, it can lead to a range of consequences from a monetary penalty to the loss of right to hold a firearm and vote etc.
If convicted in the trial court, the defendant can file an appeal against the judgment in an appellate level court. If defense can prove that the lower court did not follow Washington Criminal Procedures when disposing the case or that the defendant was denied a fair trial, it can lead to the reversal of the conviction and/or change in the sentence.