Criminal Justice Process

Will charges be filed?

  • When you make an initial police report, there is no guarantee that charges will be filed.
  • If a detective is assigned to your incident, an investigation of the incident can be completed.
  • Once the investigation is completed, the case would be reviewed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. They would make the decision about whether charges should be filed.

What happens after charges are filed?

  1. After charges are filed, an arraignment date is set to inform defendant of charges, set bail and issue a protection order.
  2. After the arraignment, the case is in a negotiation phase. In this phase the defendant can decide whether to do a plea agreement or set the case for a trial. There are usually many of these hearings.
  3. If there is a plea agreement, the defendant pleads guilty and no trial is held. A sentencing judge determines the final consequences for the defendant.
  4. If the case is set for trial, the case awaits an assignment to a courtroom and a judge. Further negotiation may still take place. A final interview of the victim is usually needed.
  5. At trial, the defendant will be found either guilty or not guilty. In rare instances, the jury cannot come to a decision.
  6. If found guilty at trial, then a sentencing judge determines the final consequences for the defendant.

Will there be a trial?

  • There is no guarantee that a trial will be necessary, even if charges are filed on your case.  The defendant and his lawyer can attempt to negotiate the case with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office and a trial may not be necessary.
  • A Victim and/or victim’s family will be informed and consulted regarding any plea negotiations.

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

  • A sentencing hearing date is set for the sentencing judge to determine the final consequences for the defendant.  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.
  • Sometimes there is an AGREED recommendation for the judge to consider.   
  • In other cases, the lawyers present their request about what the consequences should be and then the judge makes the final decision.


Sue Rahr, Interim Chief of Police
Address: 610 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104-1900
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 625-5011
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The Seattle Police Department (SPD) prevents crime, enforces laws, and supports quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services. SPD operates within a framework that divides the city into five geographical areas called "precincts".