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Washington Court Records

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What To Do If You Are On Trial For A Crime In Washington?

In Washington, crime refers to the violation of state or federal government laws. The Washington Criminal Code embodies the state’s criminal laws.

Following a criminal offense, the alleged offender is arrested and charged to court. During the apprehension, the arresting authorities are required to notify the individual of their crime. The arrested person will then be arraigned in a court where they may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Criminal cases in Washington usually require that the alleged person hire an attorney or accept a court-appointed option if they cannot afford one. The following steps are the steps preceding a criminal trial in Washington:

  • Arraignment: here, the judge notifies the individual of the charges filed against them. It also requires that the alleged party file a plea unless advised against this by their representing attorney.
  • Pretrial: these are hearings scheduled at the arraignment to monitor the progress of the case. Here, the alleged party negotiates with the prosecutor on the case. Other elements of this phase include access to evidence, witness interviews, entry of negotiations and sentencing, modification of conditions of release, and scheduling a trial date or motion hearing.
  • Motions: depending on the case, involved parties may move to file motions for several reasons. Some of them include motions to dismiss, to suppress evidence, to limit testimony, etc.
  • Readiness: it is a hearing where both counsels to the case declare that they are ready to proceed to the trial.
  • Trial: The primary trial process begins. It could be a jury or a bench trial. The difference between them is that the former hands the court decision to the jury, while the latter leaves the sole judgment to the judge. While some misdemeanors allow a bench trial option, felonies almost always use the jury trial option.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Washington?

According to Washington State Courts data, less than 5% of criminal cases get a trial. In most cases, both the defendant and the prosecutor’s legal representation reach a resolution in the pretrial process. Such resolutions may be a motion to dismiss or sentencing.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

The 6th Amendment of the US Constitution protects the individual rights of criminal defendants. Among them is the right to a:

  • Public trial- it allows for transparency of the trial process to the public among which family members, friends, the press, and neutral individuals;
  • Jury trial- the exceptions to the rule in Washington state are petty crimes that attract a 6-month jail time or less;
  • Speedy trial- the 1909 amendment to the state statutes (RRS § 2312 (re-codified as RCW 10.43.010)) imposes a timeline of 60 days from charging to have the criminal case tried. Unless the defendant requests an extension or there is good cause for it. Failure to meet the deadline may lead to the dismissal of the case.

What Are The Stages Of A Criminal Trial In Washington?

The following stages make up a criminal trial process in Washington:

  • Jury Selection
  • Opening Statements
  • Evidence
  • Jury Instructions
  • Closing Argument
  • Jury Deliberations
  • Criminal Sentencing
  • Crime Victims and Witnesses

How Long Does It Take For A Case To Go To Trial In Washington?

From the time the law charges an individual for a crime to trial, the law imposes a 60-day period. Exceptions to the rule are if the defendant’s request for extra time or there is a right course for the delay.

Can You Be Put On Trial Twice For The Same Crime In Washington?

No. The state’s judicial laws are subject to federal authority. A federal statute known as double jeopardy does not permit the legal system to try an individual twice for the same crime except on rare occasions. One such instance would be the retrial of a case if the justice process served a wrong verdict in favor of the defendant.

How Do I Look Up A Criminal Court Case In Washington?

Criminal court case information in Washington is not accessible to everyone when the case is still ongoing. The reason for this is that the right to a fair judgment for other parties involved can be jeopardized should it become public knowledge. However, the general case information such as the case ID, the case title, and the involved party is available at the court’s office having jurisdiction (Municipal Court with misdemeanors and Superior Courts for felonies). In contrast, necessary case information such as a name search is available on the Washington Courts website. The outcome of cases is available only at the local court records offices within the courthouses. Also, note that name searches on the Washington Court website redirect requesters to the official or complete court records location.

How To Access Electronic Court Records In Washington

Online access to court records in Washington is restricted to name searches and cursory case information. Courts that have public service terminals may allow public members to access electronic copies of court records in the state. Large counties like King County provide online access to adult criminal cases and other civil disputes held within the courts. While some case documents are accessible for online viewing, others may be restricted. To access restricted information requestors are often required to fill out the record request form. All case number searches will require the use of a case number, which the inquirer must have ready. Juvenile criminal case information about crime victims and every other information deemed confidential by status is not available online. Inquiring parties must direct requests for such records to the court of jurisdiction of the case, having met eligibility requirements or got a legal permit such as an executive or court order.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records In Washington?

All court records deemed public by state law are available for public access. However, court authorities can remove a record from public access following a court order or request by persons named in the record. Under the General Rules of Court #15, sealing or expunging a criminal court record is achievable if the court of jurisdiction vacates a conviction or finds that the privacy of information would outweigh the benefits of public interest.

Persons convicted of misdemeanors can apply to the courts of record for the conviction’s evacuation, having completed all terms of the sentence. Such individuals must also be free of any pending criminal charges or a domestic violence protection order or convicted of a previous restraining order within five years. This rule excludes violence, driving under the influence, pornography, sex offenses, or domestic violence.

The laws of the state also provide for the vacation of selected felony convictions. A discharged offender may file a motion to the sentencing court, provided no criminal charges are pending in any other state or federal courts. If this is true, and there was no act of violence involved, it is not a class B or C felony. A vacated conviction in Washington implies that such an individual was never a convict for that crime. However, the court file is not obliterated or destroyed. Rather, the court seals it. Persons with a deferred sentence in Washington having completed provision can file for a motion of dismissal in court. Interested parties must direct all requests to withdraw a court record from public access to the court of jurisdiction of the case. The sentencing court implements the deletion or expunction of criminal history records upon request only if they meet the following conditions:

  • The court record contains only non-conviction data.
  • It is two years since the record became known conviction based on a disposition entered in favor of the defendant.
  • The disposition was not a deferred prosecution.
  • The individual had no prior convictions regarding a felony or gross misdemeanor.
  • The involved party does not have pending charges or arrested for another crime during the intervening period.

When an individual files a petition to withdraw a record from public access, the court schedules a hearing. If the court considers the request to be viable, the judge issues an order both to the court and the criminal history record agencies across the state to have the record removed.

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