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The criminal justice process - Arraignment and charging

Learn about arraignment hearings and how criminal charges are filed in King County.

Two weeks after charges have been filed, an arraignment hearing is set. The suspect, soon to be defendant, will be told while in custody or while out of custody of the arraignment hearing date and asked to come to court.

The arraignment hearing is the first formal hearing where the defendant is told of the charges that have been filed against them. This may also be the first time the defendant has a conversation with their defense attorney.

Most defendants will offer a not guilty plea at this point. That does not mean they won’t plead guilty to this crime or a different crime later, or that they won’t be found guilty through the trial process. This gives the defendant time to meet with an attorney and prepare their defense.

At a typical arraignment hearing:

  • The prosecuting attorney provides the court with a statement of the facts that supports the charges being filed.
  • The defendant is asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to those charges.
  • After someone has entered a plea of not guilty, the court will also:
    • Set conditions pending trial, i.e., no contact with witnesses or victims, no new criminal law violations, no weapons, maybe no alcohol or drugs pending trial.
  • In some cases, bail may be addressed.
  • Court will set a return hearing date, if the defendant does not appear a warrant may be issued by the court.

What happens if the defendant’s “competency” is raised during arraignment or at any stage in the criminal process?

In short, the proceedings are paused. During the pause the court waits for forensic evaluators to determine if the defendant is “competent” (able to understand the nature of the proceedings against them AND able to support their attorney in their defense), or not competent by which the evaluator will recommend if the defendant can be restored to competency with treatment or is not restorable. This can be a very complex and confusing process, please visit our website for more information.

Watch the video: Criminal justice process: Arraignment and Charging

Crime Victims

Victims and the public have the right to attend the arraignment hearing. Victims also have the right to address release should the defendant request to address their release through bail or bond. This is a time for victims to address safety concerns. Sometimes the court may agree to release the defendant on Electric Home Monitoring (EHM) if this happens speak with your advocate to learn more.