Felony domestic violence charges that originate in King County, Washington, are eventually filed into King County Superior Court. This includes all felony allegations that are investigated by the King County Sheriff’s Department, Washington State Patrol, Seattle Police Department or any other municipal police department located within King County.
When a person is arrested on a felony domestic violence allegation in King County, they will be held without bail until what is called a “first appearance” or “investigation” calendar. This hearing will occur within the first 24-48 hours of arrest, not counting weekends and holidays. At this initial hearing, the court determines what release conditions should be imposed while the prosecutor makes its filing decision. Standard release conditions at this preliminary stage may include bail depending on the individual’s criminal history and the nature of the allegation. In domestic violence cases, the court will almost always include a domestic violence no-contact order preventing the defendant from having contact with the alleged victim.
Whether a person is released on his recognizance, released on bail or held in custody the court will schedule a second appearance within 72 hours from the date of the arrest, again irrespective of weekends or holidays. At this hearing, the State makes a determination as to whether it will file charges at that time, declined to file charges for the purpose of investigating further or decline to file charges and send the case over to a municipal or district court for the purpose of the potential filing of lesser (non-felony) charges. If the State declines to file charges at that time, the defendant is free of all conditions previously imposed by that court, though charges could still be filed at a later date.
If or when the state does file charges an arraignment will be scheduled, in King County Superior Court, usually within about two weeks. At the arraignment, a plea to the charge will be entered and conditions that the defendant must abide by during the case will be set. Again, those could include being made to post bail, have no contact with the alleged victim as well as to refrain from leaving the state, possess no firearms, pretrial supervision and a host of others. From the arraignment, a hearing called a case scheduling hearing will be scheduled, about two weeks later.
A case scheduling hearing is essentially a status conference set while the parties are still investigating and negotiating the case. If the parties are still engaged in this process, the case setting hearing may be set over, possibly multiple times. If the parties a come to an agreed resolution during this process, a hearing to dispose of the case will be set. When the parties cannot agree on a resolution, the case will be set for trial.
DV Trials in King County Superior Court
In King County Superior Court, once a trial is set, the case is assigned a specific prosecutor, called a trial deputy. If the case is not resolved a trial would eventually be held, though in this court, due to congestion and the schedules of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike, cases may not proceed to trial quickly. Delays of weeks or even months are not uncommon.
King County Domestic Violence Unit
Of note, King County treats domestic violence felonies differently than other “mainstream” cases insofar as it has created a separate domestic violence unit to handle these types of case. And while there is no dedicated Domestic Violence Court in King County Superior Court, the DV unit prosecutors only handle domestic violence cases. They are given a special priority.