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Washington Criminal Defense



If you have committed a crime in Washington State, are suspected of committing a crime in Washington or have been accused of committing a crime in Washington, the government may prosecute you. If found guilty, you could face punishment ranging from relatively minor (a small fine, for example) to very severe (such as prison time).

The Washington State government, as well as town and city governments, is responsible for enforcing Washington criminal law. The federal government enforces federal criminal law.

According to Wikipedia:

Criminal law involves the prosecution of wrongful acts by the state which are considered to be so serious that they are a breach of the sovereign's peace….The vast majority of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted and punished at the state level. Federal criminal law focuses on areas specifically relevant to the federal government like evading payment of federal income tax, mail theft or physical attacks on federal officials, as well as interstate crimes like drug trafficking and wire fraud.

Types of Crimes in Washington State

Crimes are generally categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. A felony is a more serious crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison. A misdemeanor is punishable by one year or less in prison, or no prison time at all.

Certain crimes may be both felonies and misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the crime and/or whether you have previously been found guilty of the same crime.

Examples of Washington felonies may include:

Examples of Washington misdemeanors may include:

If you have been charged with a crime in Washington, a Washington criminal defense attorney in your area can explain the potential consequences of the crime and help defend you in court.

The Washington State Criminal Process

The Washington criminal law process involves a number of stages. These stages may vary depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the crime. In general, the criminal justice process involves the following stages:

  • Washington State law enforcement officials or local law enforcement investigate the crime
  • A Washington judge may issue a search warrant that allows investigators to search for evidence at a specific location
  • Law enforcement officials will interrogate witnesses and potential suspects to gain more information
  • If the officers have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, they will arrest the person suspected of committing the crime
  • Law enforcement officers will decide to file criminal charges against the person suspected of committing the crime
  • The charges will be read to the person in court during an arraignment, where the person accused of the crime is asked to plead guilty or not guilty
  • The person accused of the crime (also known as the defendant) may be released from custody or may be kept in jail while awaiting trial
  • Before trial, the defendant's Washington criminal defense attorney may attempt to negotiate a plea bargain, or agreement for the defendant to plead guilty to lesser charges
  • If a plea agreement cannot be reached, the defendant's case will be resolved in a trial, where evidence is presented and either a judge or jury decides whether the defendant is guilty of the crime
  • After the judge or jury considers all of the evidence, a verdict is reached
  • If either the defendant is found guilty, he may choose to appeal the decision, and ask a higher Washington court to overturn it because of mistakes made during the criminal justice process

If you are found guilty of a crime in Washington, the punishment may vary depending on the severity of the crime, your intentions when you committed the crime and your past criminal record. A Washington criminal defense lawyer can explain the consequences to you in more detail.

Additional Washington State Criminal Law Resources

The U.S. Department of Justice's information on federal criminal law

Washington State Bar Assocation's information on criminal law

Information about the U.S. Courts

Legal Voice's information about clearing your criminal record in Washington state

Lawyers.com information about classification of crimes

LawforWA.org's criminal law information