King County, Washington Felony Criminal Process

Posted over 6 years ago. Applies to Washington, 7 helpful votes



Preliminary Appearance for Determination of Probable Cause

The sole legal purpose of the first appearance or preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed a crime. If the defendant is being held for investigation and has not been formally charged, the first appearance before a judge must occur within 48 hours of arrest, including weekends and holidays. This appearance will normally be on the District Court Preliminary Appearance Calendar. In King County this calendar begins each weekday at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in the King County Jail.


Determination of Filing

If the defendant is held in custody or subjected to conditions of release, the court must set a time for a "second appearance" in District Court within the original 72-hour period. If no formal charges have been filed at that time, the defendant must be unconditionally released. If charges have been filed at the time of the second appearance, the defendant will receive notice of the next court appearance. If charges have been filed before the second appearance, the client will be stricken from the second appearance calendar and an Arraignment date will be set.



An arraignment generally refers to the first step in the criminal legal process wherein an accused is called to court, his/her identity is established, he/she is informed of the charge/s against him/her, and he/she is called upon to plead to that charge. Counsel is required at this stage. A defendant, who is in custody, or subject to conditions of release, following his preliminary appearance pursuant to CrR 3.2B, must be arraigned in superior court within 14 days of the time that the indictment or information is filed. Right to a Speedy Trial - If defendant remains in custody after arraignment, he must be brought to trial within 60 days of the arraignment. If he is released from jail, he must be brought to trial within 90 days of the arraignment.


Case Scheduling Hearing

In King County, the case scheduling hearing date is set at arraignment. The case scheduling hearing is set to determine the status of a case: (a) If negotiations have been successful a plea may be entered and a sentencing date will be scheduled; (b) If more time is needed for investigation or negotiations the case scheduling hearing may be continued; (c) If negotiations are unsuccessful an omnibus hearing and trial can be set at the case scheduling hearing. In King County, a case scheduling hearing is set at arraignment and normally occurs 14 days after arraignment.


Omnibus Hearing

The purpose of the omnibus hearing is to review compliance with pre-trial discovery, to determine the existence of any pre-trial motions and either rule on them or schedule them for pre-trial hearings, and to resolve as many other pre-trial matters as possible, thereby enabling more efficient use of the court time at trial.



* Jury Selection (Voir Dire) * Opening Statements * Examination of Witnesses * Jury Instructions * Closing Arguments * Verdict


Sentencing Hearing

Felony sentencing is governed by the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines

Additional Resources

Seattle Criminal Defense

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Related Topics

Criminal defense

Criminal law establishes the classifications of crimes, how guilt or innocence is determined, and the types of punishment or rehabilitation that may be imposed.

Felony crime

A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison. Certain especially severe felonies may be punishable by the death sentence.

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