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The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) created this dashboard in 2020 to help better inform the public, government decision makers, and criminal justice system partners about the trajectory of felony criminal justice cases in King County. The KCPAO handles the vast majority of felonies in King County and some misdemeanors. Misdemeanor crimes are low-level offenses punishable by up to 364 days in jail. Felony crimes are more serious offenses and may result in a prison sentence of more than one year. This dashboard only provides data on felony referrals and cases filed into King County Superior Court; it does not contain any data on cases in King County District Court or the various Municipal Courts. The data that populates this dashboard comes from the KCPAO and, where noted, the King County Department of Judicial Administration about cases filed or intended to be filed in King County Superior Court.

To explore the dashboard, click on the tabs below. Use the check boxes and buttons on the right-hand side of the dashboard to choose specific data points for particular dates and crimes. Hovering your cursor over the graphs or icons will cause pop-ups with additional information to appear. A glossary of terms is provided below the graphs.

We strive to provide the most accurate and complete information possible; it is being regularly reviewed and updated. You can help improve the dashboard by sending your suggestions and feedback to PAODataDashboard@kingcounty.gov. As a result, this data may be updated at any time. We look forward to adding greater functionality and new ways to look at criminal justice data in the future.


 Return to the Criminal Division page, or the the PAO home page.

Glossary of Terms and Clarifying Information

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (KCPAO) divides its workload into a variety of different units. Each unit handles a specific type or types of cases.

Units:
  • DV - Domestic Violence - Felony Domestic Violence related cases.
  • Drug Court - a treatment court specializing in offenders with substance use issues.
  • ECU - Economic Crimes Unit - ECU handles the majority of property offenses prosecuted at the downtown courthouse and the most serious and complex felony economic and property offenses and offenders prosecuted at both courthouses. In addition, ECU includes HIPRO (the High Priority Repeat Offenders group, which focuses on repeat offenders who commit burglaries, car thefts, and related crimes) and the Elder Abuse Project (which focuses on prosecuting crimes of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults).
  • FTU - Felony Trial Unit - Felony cases not handled by other units. Typically, less serious cases involving violence not resulting in injury, some property offenses and drug related offenses.
  • VUCSA - Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act - a drug related offense that typically involves possession or dealing. These cases are generally handled by FTU and VECU. They are counted separately under referrals.
  • Hate Crimes - Hate crimes, formerly referred to as Malicious Harassment.
  • HVCU - Homicide and Violent Crimes Unit - Violent felonies and traffic offenses (felony DUI, vehicular assault, and vehicular homicide).
    • CSU - Crime Strategies Unit - a subset of HVCU specializing in non-fatal shootings.
  • MDOP - Most Dangerous Offender Project - Homicide cases, not including Vehicular Homicide.
  • SAU - Special Assault Unit - Sexual assaults of adults and children, child homicides, and child physical abuse cases.
    • ICAC - A subset of SAU specializing in Internet Crimes Against Children.
    • CSAM - A subset of SAU specializing in the Commercial Sexual Abuse of Minors.
    • FTR - A subset of SAU specializing in failure to register as a sex offender cases.
  • VECU - Violent and Economic Crimes Unit - This unit operates out of the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent, which is the smaller of King County's two Superior Court courthouses (the other being in downtown Seattle). The MRJC handles most cases in the southern most portions of the County. VECU handles HVCU, FTU, and minor ECU cases at the MRJC.
    • At initial referral cases are not marked as VECU, which is why VECU is not listed under the referral tab. Instead they are listed as HVCU, FTU, VUCSA, or ECU referrals. This is done because VECU combines multiple case types.
Crime Category:

Cases can contain more than one crime and crimes from multiple categories. The KCPAO is attempting to develop a system that reports out the general crime category of cases. In this draft system cases are only counted once, under the category of the most serious offense. This system of classification is still under development and may be changed or adjusted at any time.

  • Commercial Sexual Abuse of Minors
    • Commercial Sexual Abuse of Minors and Human Trafficking.
  • Domestic Violence
    • Domestic Violence cases involve crimes between intimate partners and family members.
  • Economic Offenses
    • The most serious and complex economic and property offenses.
  • Failure to Register
    • Failure to Register as a Sex Offender.
  • Hate Crimes
    • Hate Crimes, formerly known as Malicious Harassment.
  • Internet Crimes Against Children
    • Internet Crimes Against Children.
  • Murder/Homicide
    • Cases involving murder or homicide or linked to one, including attempted murder.
  • Other Felonies
    • Cases involving less serious violence that does not result in injury, less serious economic or property offenses, burglaries, car thefts, and other offenses not otherwise categorized.
  • Repeat Economic/Property Offender
    • Cases where the offender has repeatedly committed burglaries, car thefts, and related crimes.
  • Special Assault Cases
    • Sexual assault of adults and children, child physical abuse cases.
  • Violent and Endangerment
    • Crimes involving serious violence, injury, endangerment of persons, and weapons.
  • VUCSA (Drugs)
    • Drug related offenses that typically involve possession or dealing; VUCSA stands for Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The KCPAO counts a case as open in King County Superior Court if it has one or more counts (criminal charges) that are unresolved (not disposed by way of verdict, plea, or dismissal) and there is no bench warrant from the Court ordering that the defendant be arrested for failing to appear for a required court hearing and brought before the Court. Persons charged with crimes (called defendants) have a right to be present at all critical stages and are required to appear for arraignment, critical hearings, trial, and sentencing.

Due to the public health restrictions created by COVID-19, the Washington Supreme Court placed limits on when a bench warrant can be issued for a defendant failing to appear for Court. Those cases do not go away. They must be constantly monitored by the KCPAO to see if the defendant is booked into the King County Jail. Eventually, new court hearings will need to be set for these defendants and/or bench warrants issued to bring them before the Court and continue the case.

The King County Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) also provides data on open criminal cases; those numbers will likely be slightly different from what the KCPAO provides. This difference occurs because DJA and KCPAO use slightly different criteria to define open cases. So, although DJA and KCPAO data on open cases is very similar, it is unlikely that the data will ever be the same.

A case is referred when law enforcement formally submits a case to the King County Prosecuting Attorneys Office (KCPAO) for review. The KCPAO is not an investigative agency; it only reviews investigations done by law enforcement (typically police) to determine if there is sufficient legally admissible evidence to support the charges and whether the case meets the KCPAO's filing and disposition standards. Law enforcement typically submits a case to the KCPAO for review when (1) they believe charges should be filed, (2) they would like legal review of an investigation, or (3) when they are required to submit the case by law even though they do not believe charges should be filed (see Statutory Referral under Declines). The KCPAO independently reviews those investigations and determines the appropriate course of action.

An arrest is not the same thing as a referral to the KCPAO. Many arrests do not result in a referral to the KCPAO and, as a result, do not appear in the KCPAO data.

Cases take time for the KCPAO to review and determine the appropriate course. The amount of time it takes varies depending on the complexity of case, the amount of evidence, whether follow up investigation is required, and other factors. As a result, a case may not be declined or filed in the same month that it is referred.

A case is declined when the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (KCPAO) determines that it will not file charges. Cases are declined when there is insufficient admissible evidence to prove a felony crime beyond a reasonable doubt, or when the case does not meet the KCPAO's filing and disposition standards. The KCPAO sends out notice of the decline and an explanation to the investigating agency. Our filing and disposition standards are publicly available. Our analysis of the law applies to the law at the time the crime occurred. Some of the common types of declines are:

  • Referred to Municipal/District Court - The KCPAO has declined to file charges but specifically referred to another court for potential filing of misdemeanor charges.
  • Statutory Referral - Law enforcement is required by statute to submit their investigation of certain crimes to the KCPAO for review regardless of whether law enforcement believes charges should be filed. These include certain crimes involving sexual assault and child abuse.
  • VUCSA Decline <1g - Cases declined because they involve less than one gram of illegal drugs and no other criminal activity.
  • VUCSA per Blake - In early 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision declared our state’s drug possession law was unconstitutional. This is what created the spike in case declines seen in March 2021.
    • A background on simple drug possession cases: In 2008, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg made the decision to charge simple drug possession cases as misdemeanors instead of felony crimes. In 2018, Dan made the decision to not charge simple possession cases (meaning no indicia of dealing) involving less than one gram (which is about what a packet of Splenda weighs). These cases are separate from cases where there’s evidence of drug dealing.

Cases take time for the KCPAO to review and determine the appropriate course. The amount of time it takes varies depending on the complexity of case, the amount of evidence, whether follow up investigation is required, and other factors. As a result, a case may not be declined or filed in the same month that it is referred.

A case is filed when the King County Prosecuting Attorneys Office (KCPAO) formally files paperwork with the Court alleging that one or more persons (typically referred to as the defendant or defendants) committed a crime or crimes and a Judge finds that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed. Law enforcement conducts all investigations and can make initial arrest decisions; however, no charge/case can be filed without prosecutor review and approval. The KCPAO independently reviews those investigations and determines the appropriate course of action. The standards governing the KCPAO's review of law enforcement investigations are called Filing and Disposition Standards and are publicly available.

There is a common misconception that victim’s “press charges.” This is not the case. The KCPAO determines whether charges will be filed pursuant to our Filing and Disposition Standards, not the victim.

Cases take time for the KCPAO to review and determine the appropriate course. The amount of time it takes varies depending on the complexity of case, the amount of evidence, whether follow up investigation is required, and other factors. As a result, a case may not be declined or filed in the same month that it is referred.

The public health restrictions put in place to address COVID-19, along with its other impacts on the criminal justice system, have limited the rate at which new cases can be filed and generally slowed the standard process. The Court ordered slow-downs have occurred nationwide and are not specific to King County.

**The KCPAO data on filings may show slight differences to data reported by the King County department of Judicial Administration (DJA) about King County Superior Court cases. DJA and the PAO use different crime categorization rules, which may result in the difference in the DJA and PAO reports.

A disposition is the final result in a case. A case is only counted as being disposed once, and is categorized by the most consequential or impactful disposition in the case. For example, if a defendant is charged with two different crimes in one case and pleads guilty to one crime and has the other dismissed, the case would count as one plea. The case would not be counted as a dismissal. The results listed below are in the order used to determine how a case disposition is counted:

  • Jury Trial - The standard type of trial where a jury of 12 persons from the community decides whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crimes charged. A jury decides on each crime charged individually. So, if a defendant is charged with multiple crimes the jury could find the defendant guilty of some crimes and not guilty of others. A jury's decision must be unanimous; if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on one or more crimes, the case is not disposed and will need to be resolved in another way (an additional trial, plea, or dismissal).
  • Bench Trial - A type of trial where the Judge acts as both Judge and Jury. A bench trial can only occur if the defendant requests one and specifically waives their constitutional right to a jury trial.
  • Plea - A plea is where the defendant pleads guilty to one or more crimes. It is typically referred to as a plea agreement because the defendant and prosecutor usually come to an agreement on the details of the plea. This can involve a plea agreement to a less serious crime than the defendant was originally charged with or having some crimes dismissed. Plea agreements can also involve the defendant pleading guilty to the crime they were originally charged with; a plea is not necessarily to a reduced charge. A plea cannot be entered unless a Judge finds the defendant has made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary decision to do so.
  • Dismissal - A case may be dismissed upon a motion by the prosecutor, defense, or court. The dismissal of a case or crimes means that the defendant is no longer charged with the crime; in other words, the legal case is ended. It is important to note that some cases are dismissed in order to be referred to, or upon completion of, an alternative program such as Mental Health Court, Drug Court, or Veteran's Court – but that does not mean the case goes away. In those circumstances, the case is then handled in the alternative court. If an individual does not complete the requirements of the alternative court, the Superior Court case can be resumed. Sometimes, there are other nuances with dismissed cases. For example:
    • It is not uncommon for defendants have multiple criminal cases going on at the same time. A defendant may be able to resolve such a situation by pleading guilty to some of the cases in exchange for others being dismissed. So, if a defendant plead guilty to two cases in exchange for the dismissal of a third, those cases would each be counted separately, two as pleas and the third as a dismissal.
    • Cases are dismissed when the Court finds that an individual is incompetent to stand trial after an evaluation by the Department of Social and Health Services. Those dismissals can come with an order to Western State Hospital for civil commitment (mandatory treatment). If competency is restored, the criminal case may be refiled by the KCPAO.
    • The KCPAO may dismiss a case if, after additional investigation, new information comes to light that causes the KCPAO to conclude that the defendant did not commit the charged offense, that the case can no longer be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the ends of justice no longer warrant prosecution.
    • In early 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision declared our state’s drug possession law was unconstitutional. This is what created the spike in case dismissals seen in March 2021.
      • A background on simple drug possession cases: In 2008, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg made the decision to charge simple drug possession cases as misdemeanors instead of felony crimes. In 2018, Dan made the decision to not charge simple possession cases (meaning no indicia of dealing) involving less than one gram (which is about what a packet of Splenda weighs). These cases are separate from cases where there’s evidence of drug dealing.
The KCPAO does not track the outcomes of trials; so, a case that is resolved by a trial is counted as a trial regardless of whether the verdict was guilty, not guilty, or a mix. This is done because the KCPAO does not want to unduly incentivize convictions or prison sentences. Prosecutors are directed and encouraged to pursue the just result in an ethical manner rather than to merely seek a conviction.

This data summarizes cases filed into King County Superior Court from 2009 through to the present. It was provided by the King County Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) (https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/clerk/access-records/reports.aspx). The crime categories are those used by the courts and clerks across the state. The data in all of the other tabs is from the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

The data reported by DJA about King County Superior Court cases may show slight differences when compared to data reported by the KCPAO. DJA and the KCPAO use different crime categorization rules, which may result in the difference in the DJA and KCPAO reports.

The crime reporting categories in the historical data have been standardized statewide (the KCPAO and DJA were not involved in setting them) and have been used for many years. However, they fail to capture important nuances. For example, there is no category for Domestic Violence related offenses.

  • Homicide - Cases where the primary charge involves murder, manslaughter, excusable homicide, or justifiable homicide.
  • Sex Crimes - Cases where the primary charge involves sexual exploitation of a minor, incest, rape, statutory rape, or indecent liberties.
  • Robbery - Cases where the primary charge involves theft of property by the use of force, violence, or fear of injury to a person or his or her property.
  • Assault - Cases where the primary charge involves assault or intent to cause another person physical harm, including malicious harassment and coercion.
  • Theft/Burglary - Cases where the primary charge involves theft of property (other than a motor vehicle), possession of stolen property, extortion, burglary, or criminal trespass.
  • Motor Vehicle Theft - Cases where the primary charge involves taking a motor vehicle without permission of the owner.
  • VUCSA - (drug related offenses) Cases where the primary charge involves Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (VUCSA) or violation of regulations regarding prescription drugs.
  • Other Felony - Cases where the primary charge involves a felony which is not specifically defined above.
  • Misdemeanors - Cases where the primary charge involves a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor based on the Revised Code of Washington.

For the race/ethnicity and gender of defendants the KCPAO must rely entirely on what law enforcement reports. The KCPAO's ethical and legal responsibilities prohibit us from speaking directly with defendants in criminal cases. Over 30 separate law enforcement agencies submit cases to the KCPAO; each of those agencies has separate policies and systems for collecting demographic data, which can result in varying levels of reporting.

Law enforcement currently reports seven categories of race/ethnicity: White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, Unknown, Other, and no value at all. These categories create data quality problems by only allowing a single selection, being generally outdated, and grouping race and ethnicity together. These data problems are compounded by inconsistent reporting and collection of this data. Unfortunately, this results in the PAO having very unreliable and inaccurate race and ethnicity data.

Collecting accurate race, ethnicity, and gender data is critical to achieving equity and fairness in the criminal justice system. The best data on race and ethnicity is self-reported; meaning that the person contacted by law enforcement decided how they would be identified.

Criminal justice data on age and gender is far better than the race and ethnicity data but still suffers from some significant limitations. Gender data is often limited to female, male, left blank, or listed as unknown. Generally, the data on defendants is much better than the data on victims. For information on the issues related to data on victims, click on the "Victim Data" button in the top right corner of the screen. Victim data is of an even poorer quality than data on defendants. This occurs because, in addition to the issues with data on defendants, detailed victim demographic data is only collected and reported sporadically.

The KCPAO has partnered with Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) (https://www.uihi.org/) to improve how race and ethnicity data is collected and analyzed. UIHI's expertise in data management systems and equity-driven approaches has been critical to advancing this project. Their recommendations on best practices for American Indian and Alaska Native data collection, analysis, and tribal consultation have informed how we transform our data systems to be more responsive to the communities that we serve (https://www.uihi.org/resources/best-practices-for-american-indian-and-alaska-native-data-collection/).

This ongoing partnership was launched in part by UIHI’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) initiative, which documents how inadequate data collection systems obscure the magnitude of violence against Indigenous women and girls (https://www.uihi.org/projects/our-bodies-our-stories/). They have undertaken efforts to standardize data collection and analysis procedures in law enforcement agencies across the country to improve the accuracy of data on violence against Indigenous women and girls. Their work in modernizing data systems to reflect present-day racial diversity is coupled with training and education on how to appropriately collect and analyze racial data. We hope our partnership with UIHI will serve as a model for other agencies to make changes to improve the quality of race and ethnicity data on defendants and victims in the criminal justice system.

  • Typical highs and lows – the typical high and low lines show the points that 95% of the values are less than or more than. This range of typical values is needed to better understand the data. Criminal Justice data has regular, sometimes substantial, variation from month to month and year to year. Comparing one month to the prior month, or July of this year to July of last year can lead to confusing and potentially misleading results. A much more accurate understanding is obtained by examining the typical range of past values.
  • Averages – the averages displayed in the visuals are automatically calculated based on the time period displayed in the visual (excluding COVID-19 impacted months where noted). If you change the date range of the data displayed, the average will be changed accordingly.

This data dashboard presents aggregate data for the purpose of transparency in trends. There are important legal and ethical considerations that limit the release of individual-level criminal justice data. If you have questions, please email PAODataDashboard@kingcounty.gov.

The KCPAO plans to regularly make additions to this dashboard. Currently, we are working on:

  • Law Enforcement Agency specific data.
  • Analysis of specific types of crimes.
  • Details on diversion and other alternative programs (such as Drug Court).
  • District Court data on misdemeanors handled by the KCPAO.
  • Juvenile Court data.
If you have other requests or suggestions, please email PAODataDashboard@kingcounty.gov.
King County Prosecutor
Dan Satterberg
Read Dan's Biography

Phone:
206-477-1200
Email:
Prosecuting.Attorney@kingcounty.gov

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