Court Process

The police have been called. Now what?

If the responding police officer believes a crime was committed, the officer will give a copy of the police report to the City prosecutor for review. The prosecutor will decide whether to file criminal charges. As a victim of domestic violence, you can ask the City prosecuting attorney to file a criminal complaint (RCW 10.99.030(7)).

The state of Washington has a mandatory arrest law related to domestic violence incidents that outlines when the police must make an arrest. If arrested, the abuser is usually held without bail until the first court appearance (usually 24-48 hours). You can give input at any hearing where bail or release is being considered.

Will charges be filed?

The prosecutor may or may not file charges against the abuser. If the prosecutor does not file charges, you will be informed of this decision. While your input is important, only the prosecutor decides whether or not to file charges. If charges are not filed and you feel you need protection, you can file a petition for a Domestic Violence Protection Order if you choose (see Protection Orders).

To find out who your advocate is, call (206) 684-7757 with your case number or defendant name.

If charges are filed...

Once charged with a crime, the abuser is then called the defendant. After charges are filed, an arraignment hearing is held. The defendant is informed of the charges and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. The judge may decide to set bail (monetary amount), or allow the defendant to be released. While it is not required, you can attend the arraignment hearing to ask the judge to consider your opinion on bail. Your advocate can help you do this. If you have concerns about release, contact your advocate.

What is a No Contact Order?

If the abuser is arrested for or charged with a domestic violence-related crime, a No Contact Order may be issued to prohibit the abuser from contacting you. When issuing a No Contact Order, the judge considers the input of the prosecutor and the victim, safety issues, and the defendant's criminal history, as well as history of abuse. The judge may issue a No Contact Order whether or not you request one. Contact your advocate to discuss your wishes.

If a No Contact Order is issued, you will be sent a copy. If you are unsure whether a No Contact Order was issued, or you have not received your copy, please contact your advocate. You may also download the document from the Seattle Municipal Court portal by selecting Case Documents and entering the court case number.

A violation of the No Contact Order is a crime. It is the defendant's responsibility to abide by the No Contact Order. Even if you invite contact, the defendant could be arrested and charged with additional crimes. To report a violation, call 911 immediately.

Will there be a trial?

After charges are filed, the defense attorney and prosecutor discuss whether to take the case to trial or to agree upon another way to resolve the case. The advocate or prosecutor can keep you informed of these discussions. Many cases are resolved without a trial. If your case is set for trial, it may not occur right away. Keep in contact with your advocate and prosecutor during this time so they can update you on what may be happening.

You may receive a subpoena, which is a legal document ordering attendance in court. It lists a name and telephone number to call for more information about time and location. Failure to appear can result in legal action.

What happens if the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty?

If the Defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, the defendant will be sentenced. You have the right to be present and to be heard at the sentencing hearing. Your wishes and concerns are important to the prosecutor and the judge. Your advocate can help you with any statement you may want to make at the sentencing hearing about how the crime has impacted you and what you would like to see happen.

Some common sentencing options in domestic violence cases are: domestic violence batterer's intervention, probation, alcohol or drug counseling, restitution for medical expenses or damaged property, jail time, no possession of firearms, community service, parenting classes, fines and a No Contact Order.