Curious about the process? Here are answers.

  • What is a misdemeanor?

    Generally, misdemeanors in Washington are comparably minor crimes and are less serious than a felony. However, misdemeanors have significant direct and indirect consequences. The maximum penalty for a “gross” misdemeanor is 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. The maximum penalty for a “simple” misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A guilty to plea to either can tarnish your record, causing employment and housing issues.

  • What kind of crimes are misdemeanors?

    Misdemeanors range in variety from serious driving and traffic offenses, to lesser assault and theft. Misdemeanors include third degree theft, fourth degree assault, driving under the influence, third degree malicious mischief, etc.

  • What should a person charged with a misdemeanor expect?

    The first court appearance a person accused of a crime can generally expect is an arraignment. At arraignment the court will advise the accused of the rights the he or she has at trial and the nature of the charge(s) have been filed against him or her. The person will then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty (almost always not guilty at this hearing), and then the court will establish conditions of release, like bail.

  • What hearings are after that?

    The court will set other hearings, including a pretrial conference at arraignment. The defendant must attend any hearings set by the court. In most cases, the pretrial conference is an opportunity to confirm the attorneys have received discovery and to negotiate the prosecutor’s plea offer. If the case cannot be resolved at pretrial, the parties will set additional hearings, possibly including a motion hearing, a readiness hearing, and a trial date.

  • What if I miss my court date?

    If you fail to appear to any mandatory hearing (most hearings are mandatory), the judge will usually order a bench warrant for your arrest. To get the case back on track, you will need to set a hearing to quash the warrant. You should definitely speak to an attorney before attempting to do this on your own.