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Can Charges Be Dropped at Arraignment?

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If you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, you will undergo a multi-step process from arrest to the trial and jury verdict. One of these steps is the arraignment, where the court formally informs you of your charges and takes your plea. Many events can occur at the arraignment, including negotiations for reduced charges. In addition, it may be possible for the judge to drop the charges against you completely, depending on the facts of the case.

What Is an Arraignment?

After an arrest, you will enter a series of processes within the criminal justice system that will ultimately lead to a decision in your case. The first part of the criminal justice procedure is the arraignment, which will involve a judge reading you your charges. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires the justice system to inform you of your charges, so the arraignment satisfies this requirement.

Oftentimes, the arraignment must occur within a set timeframe after your arrest. In addition, the judge will ask you to enter a plea involving your case: either guilty or not guilty. Your criminal defense lawyer will advise you which plea to enter, but you should usually enter a plea of not guilty unless advised otherwise.

Can Charges be Dropped at an Arraignment Hearing?

Typically, judges lack the authority to dismiss charges during an arraignment, and as a rule, they refrain from doing so. Nevertheless, it’s within the prosecutor’s power to dismiss charges during this phase, provided there’s a strong justification.

One such instance is if it’s discovered that you were wrongly accused of a crime. Occasionally, both the prosecutor and defense counsel may negotiate an early plea deal during the Washington state arraignment process, leading to the dismissal of one or more charges against you.

Pre-Arraignment Investigations

Before you enter into an arraignment, you should contact and discuss your case with your attorney. You and your attorney will examine all the evidence available about your case, including the arrest report, notes from the officers at the scene of the arrest, the names and contact information of all the witnesses, and any diagrams or written evidence the prosecution intends to use against you.

Depending on the evidence that you and your attorney examine prior to the arraignment, your attorney can evaluate how to proceed with your plea. If you uncover any information that could unravel the circumstances of your arrest, you could use this information to your advantage during your arraignment.

Filing a Motion to Dismiss Your Case

It is possible for the judge to dismiss your case during an arraignment if he or she sees you’re the officers and the prosecution have a shaky foundation on which to charge you. Your attorney could ask the judge to drop the charges against you by filing a motion prior to your arraignment. You can use the information you uncovered in the pre-arraignment investigation to solidify your case.

What Happens If the Judge Does Not Dismiss Your Charges?

You may not uncover any evidence in your pre-arraignment investigations that can prove that the judge has grounds to dismiss your case. Even if you do present evidence that the court should dismiss your charges, the judge may not honor that request. If the judge does not drop your charges and you have to enter into a not-guilty plea, you may have to undergo a series of hearings and trials until the judge reaches a verdict.

To navigate the criminal justice system, you need to hire a lawyer to represent your case if you have not done so already. A criminal defense attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case.

  • Your attorney will have access to investigative resources and techniques he or she can use to build a compelling defense on your behalf. He or she can interview witnesses, review evidence from the prosecution, and consult with experts to provide testimony on your behalf.
  • You may not know how you should plea or if you should take a plea deal prior to the verdict. Your attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine your best options.
  • Entering the criminal justice system alone can be intimidating. Your attorney can assist you with preparing for the different stages of the criminal justice system, from arraignment to trial.

Depending on the facts of your case, pre-arraignment negotiations may be possible and may be the best option for you. There is a chance that the court could drop the charges against you at the arraignment. However, this option may not be possible or beneficial for everyone. Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options and the possibility of reduced or dropped charges at arraignment.

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