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How Long Can You Be Held in Custody After a Washington Arrest?

Being arrested is a frightening and stressful experience. As you sit in a holding cell, countless questions may race through your mind. One of the most pressing concerns is often, “How long can I be held in custody?” The uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll be released or what will happen next can be overwhelming.

Understanding your rights and the legal process following an arrest is crucial. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants every defendant the right to a speedy trial, but what does that mean for you? In these situations, it is essential to know how long you can be held in custody after a Washington arrest, what happens if you’re detained for longer than the allowed time, and the steps that follow once criminal charges are filed.

The Sixth Amendment Grants You the Right to a Speedy Trial

The U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. This means that you must be tried for the alleged crimes within a reasonable time after being arrested:

Constitution of the United States, Sixth Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

During this time, the prosecutor will review the crime’s details and decide whether to pursue a criminal case. The case could go to trial, be dropped at a later point, or be settled outside of court.

Generally, if you are placed in custody, your speedy trial rights require the prosecutor to decide on charges within 72 hours. It is important to note that a prosecutor is not bound by their initial decision and may later change the charged crimes once more evidence is obtained.

What Happens If You Are Detained for Longer Than 72 Hours?

If the prosecutor fails to bring charges within the 72-hour time limit, the police are required to release you. If the police do not release you, they are likely violating your constitutional rights. Your attorney may petition a judge for a writ of habeas corpus if you are detained but not booked within a reasonable time.

A writ of habeas corpus is a court order instructing the police to bring you before the court so that a judge can determine whether you are being lawfully held. This legal mechanism serves as a safeguard against indefinite detention, helping protect your rights.

What Happens After Criminal Charges Are Filed?

Once criminal charges are filed, the legal process begins in earnest. While every case is different, you can generally expect the following steps to take place after the prosecution makes their decision:

  • Arraignment: The arraignment is your first appearance in court. During this hearing, the judge will formally read the charges against you. You will then be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action.
  • Pretrial Conferences and Motions: After the arraignment, your attorney will attend pretrial conferences with the prosecutor to discuss the case and explore potential resolutions. Your attorney may also file motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or request additional information from the prosecution. 
  • Plea Bargaining: In some cases, your attorney will engage in negotiations with the prosecutor. This process involves discussing the possibility of reduced charges or a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. 
  • Trial Preparation: Your attorney will work diligently to build a strong defense strategy, gather evidence, and prepare for trial. They may also hire expert witnesses or conduct additional investigations to strengthen your case. 
  • Trial: During the trial, your attorney will present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue on your behalf before a judge or jury. The prosecution will also present their case, seeking to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • Sentencing: If you are found guilty or accept a plea bargain, the court will proceed to the sentencing phase. Here, you will learn whether you will face jail time, fines, and other penalties.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Protect Your Rights

Navigating the criminal justice system can be complex and overwhelming, especially when your freedom and future are at stake. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly. 

A Washington criminal defense attorney can:

  • Provide Expert Guidance: Your lawyer will clearly explain the charges against you, the potential consequences, and your legal options. They will also guide you through every step of the complex legal process and ensure that you make informed decisions about your case. 
  • Investigate and Build a Strong Defense: Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. Using this information, they will build a compelling defense strategy tailored to your unique case. 
  • Negotiate with Prosecutors: Criminal defense attorneys are skilled negotiators who can work with prosecutors to explore plea bargains or reduced charges. Your attorney can fight to secure the best possible outcome for your case if a plea bargain is in your best interest.
  • Protect Your Constitutional Rights: Your attorney will work to ensure that your constitutional rights, such as the right to a speedy trial and the right to due process, are protected throughout the legal proceedings. 
  • Provide Emotional Support: Being arrested and facing criminal charges can be scary and emotionally draining. Your criminal defense attorney will provide the support and guidance you need during this time, allowing you to focus on your well-being and future.

If you have been arrested in Washington, do not say anything to the police or the prosecutors. Instead, ask to speak with a Tacoma criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will carefully assess your case, explain your rights, and begin working tirelessly to defend your freedom and protect your future. Schedule a free legal consultation today and learn more about your next steps.