Criminal Charges - Frequently Asked Questions

Being accused of a criminal or serious traffic offense can be a traumatic and upsetting experience. We hope this information will be of help in guiding you through the process and take some of the mystery out of the procedures. We have tried to anticipate and answer your more frequently asked questions.

What should I wear and how should I act in court?

What is an arraignment?

What are my constitutional rights?

Should I talk to a lawyer before entering a plea?

If I am financially unable to hire a lawyer how do I qualify for a public defender?

If I plead guilty what will happen?

What happens if I plead not guilty?

What alternatives are there for serving a jail sentence?

What must I do if I can't pay my fine all at one-time?

What is a suspended sentence?

What options are available to make my payments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should I wear and how should I act in court?

Suitable attire is required. Shoes and shirts are necessary. Halter tops, tank tops, and shorts are not appropriate. Hats are to be removed upon entering the courtroom. No smoking, food or drink will be allowed. Children may be present in the courtroom; however, if they disturb the proceedings you may be requested to remove them. The Court does not provide childcare. Upon your arrival, find your name and courtroom number on one of the calendars outside each courtroom and then have a seat in that courtroom. You do not need to check with the District Court office unless your name is NOT on the list. When your name is called, you should come forward and sit at one of the counsel tables.

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What is an arraignment?

The arraignment is generally your first appearance in court on the citation or charge. The Judge will inform you of the charge and explain it. Next it will be confirmed that you understand your constitutional rights as explained at the beginning of the court session, and finally the maximum punishment and mandatory minimum punishment, if any, will be stated. No testimony is taken or evidence presented at the arraignment, unless you plead guilty.

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What are my constitutional rights?

All persons accused of any crime or traffic offense that might result in a jail sentence have the following rights:

  1. To have a lawyer present with you at all hearings;

  2. To have a lawyer appointed at public expense if you cannot afford to hire one to represent you;

  3. To represent yourself without a lawyer;

  4. To a public and speedy trial;

  5. To cross-examine any witness who testifies against you;

  6. To call witnesses to testify on your behalf, and have the Court compel their attendance;

  7. To testify or not testify yourself; if you choose not to, no one can make you testify;

  8. To appeal to Superior Court if you are convicted after a not guilty plea.

After informing you of all these matters you will be asked by the Judge to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.

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Should I talk to a lawyer before entering a plea?

In many cases this is a good idea. The Judge, at your request, will continue the arraignment. If you wish to plead not guilty at this stage, the Judge will request that you have your lawyer put in a "Notice of Appearance" within seven (7) days. If you fail to appear at any hearing, your bond or bail will be forfeited and the Judge will issue a bench warrant.

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If I am financially unable to hire a lawyer how do I qualify for a public defender?

At the arraignment, indicate to the Judge that you are unable financially to hire a lawyer. The Judge will question you briefly to determine, according to appropriate income guidelines, your eligibility for public defender. If you qualify, the court clerk will provide an order for you which states the name, address and telephone number of the public defender administrator's office. If there is a question regarding your qualifications, you will need to complete appropriate documents for the court to review; this paperwork will be provided by the public defender office. You must contact the public defender immediately for an appointment and be available for all meetings as requested by the lawyer.

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If I plead guilty what will happen?

If you plead guilty it means you admit the charge and the elements to prove the charge. By pleading guilty you waive your constitutional rights and in most cases you will be sentenced right then. However, you may speak on your behalf at sentencing. The Judge will then usually review the police report, if available, and sentence you. In some cases the Judge will refer your case to the prosecutor's office for review and a sentencing recommendation. In such a case the sentencing will be continued until the prosecutor recommendation is ready.

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What happens if I plead not guilty?

A not guilty plea denies the charge and none of your constitutional rights are waived unless you expressly wish to do so. You are presumed innocent and the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a subsequent trial. The next hearing will be a status conference where the prosecutor will be present. You and your lawyer, if you have one, are required to be present. At this conference all motions are heard and a jury trial date is set. Information about all the evidence in the case and witness names are exchanged. If at any stage you have waived your rights to a jury trial, you will receive a notice of your NON-JURY TRIAL date.

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What alternatives are there for serving a jail sentence?

If you are sent to jail directly from court or receive a report date for turning yourself into jail, you will owe a booking fee but there is no daily jail fee. In many cases you will be permitted to do your sentence on weekends. If you serve a sentence in multiple time blocks for your convenience, there will be a jail booking fee payable upon checking into the facility. Most sentences will be served in the Okanogan County jail. You may request that the Judge consider allowing you to serve a sentence in another jail facility; however, most other facilities will impose a cost which will be your responsibility.

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What must I do if I can't pay my fine all at one time?

If you can't pay your fine in full at sentencing the Judge or clerk will complete a time payment agreement. This is a contract with the court for installment payments and must be strictly adhered to. Read the contract carefully, as failure to follow the contract can result in late fees, suspension of your driver’s license, a bench warrant or assignment to a collection agency.

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What is a suspended sentence?

Often the Judge will suspend imposition of a portion, or all, of a jail sentence on the condition of complying with various conditions within a time limit. If the conditions are satisfied the jail sentence is never served. If the conditions are violated then you will be required to return to the Court for a hearing and possible serving of the jail sentence.

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What options are available to make my payments?

You can pay online at Modern Payments, call the court (509) 422-7170 to pay with a credit card, mail your payment, or make your payment in person.

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