Seattle Municipal Court is a “court of limited jurisdiction”. This means that only non-felony matters can be heard here (misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors). Cases such as Assault 4 DV and violations of no contact orders are the most common forms of domestic violence charges filed into this court. All non-felonies investigated by the Seattle Police Department are filed into Seattle Municipal Court.
Anyone arrested on a DV charge in Seattle will be held without bail until the first appearance. In this Seattle Municipal Court, that first appearance is usually the arraignment. At the arraignment, a plea is entered (not guilty) conditions of release are set, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled. If the charge is not filed based on an arrest, a summons will be sent to the defendant advising him or her of the arraignment date but the procedure is the same.
No Contact Orders
In virtually every domestic violence case filed into Seattle Municipal Court, a no contact order (NCO), prohibiting the defendant from having contact with the alleged victim, will be entered. That order will remain in place until either the court’s jurisdiction ends or the court lifts or modifies the order. The alleged victim has the right to be heard regarding the issuance and terms of a NCO and can ask that the matter be placed on a special calendar for the court to reconsider of modify the terms of the NCO. Such a request must be made by the alleged victim either personally, through a victim’s advocate or through private counsel. Generally speaking the court will not consider to lift the NCO solely based on the request of the defendant.
Seattle Municipal Court Domestic Violence Prosecutors
The City of Seattle Attorney’s Office has a dedicated domestic violence unit made up of prosecutors who only handle domestic violence cases. As such, all domestic violence cases in this court are set into an individual domestic violence court that is presided over by a particular judge. Cases in this court are usually pushed along at a faster pace than non-DV cases heard in the same court.
Seattle Municipal Mental Health Court
Seattle Municipal Court also houses its own dedicated mental health court. This court is a treatment court and is designed to treat the mental health conditions that may have led to an offense being committed as opposed to merely seeking punishment for having committed the offense. Often times domestic violence cases are appropriate for referral into the mental health court.