What to expect - criminal defendants and the justice process - King County, Washington (2024)

The criminaljustice process is unique to each individual case. There is a general processthat occurs, and specific terms that are used, as your case moves through thecourt system.

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The criminal justiceprocess begins once a crime has been committed and reported.This page provides information about the criminal process for individuals who have been arrested.

The person who is arrested may be let go with no charges after the first hearing. Or, they may have to remain in custody until a trial takes place. The process is different for each individual case.

Once a person is in custody, this is the general process:

  1. First appearance hearing
  2. Second appearance hearing
  3. Arraignment hearing
  4. Omnibus hearings
  5. Trial or plea

Where are hearings held

All hearings are held in the courtroom at the jail in Kent, or at the jail in Seattle.

Directions to Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent

Directions to King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) in Seattle


If you have been issued a subpoena, your process will be different. Learn more about subpoenas.

Glossary of terms

Specific terms are often used in this process that are not commonly used outside of the criminal justice system. If you encounter a term you do not understand, review the glossary of terms.

First appearance

First appearance is the first hearing to occur after an incident is reported, and an individual is arrested and booked into custody. The first appearance generally occurs within 24-48 hours of arrest. At the hearing, the judge will determine if probable cause is present.

  • If the judge rules there is probable cause, conditions of release will be addressed, and a Second appearance hearing date will be set.
  • If the judge rules there is not probable cause, the arrested person will be released.

The first appearance is a preliminary hearing. The arrested person is never charged. However, depending on the crime type, a no-contact order may be set.

First appearance hearings are open to the public. Victims can attend.

Conditions of release

The condition of release may mean that the person must remain in custody. It can also mean the person will have the option to be released from custody. Usually, a release from custody has conditions that must be met, like paying bail.

Second appearance

Second appearance is an administrative hearing. It occurs if the judge finds probable cause during the First appearance hearing.

During the Second appearance, the prosecutor notifies the court whether charges are being filed against the arrested individual.

  • If charges are filed, the arrested person (whether in custody or out of custody) will be notified of the date of the next hearing (arraignment).
  • If charges are not filed, the arrested individual will be unconditionally released. This means any no-contact order or set bail is removed.

Note: Charges may still be filed any time until the statute of limitations expires, which is several years from the incident date.


Arraignment is the third hearing. This is the hearing where the defendant is formally notified of the charges filed against them.

At the arraignment, the court may address bail. The court has the option to keep the bail amount the same, reduce the bail amount, or to release the defendant on various other conditions. A victim of a case has the right to be present any time bail is addressed.


Omnibus is an administrative, pretrial hearing that is scheduled after arraignment.

The court schedules a series of omnibus hearings to track the case. In these hearings, the judge checks-in with the attorneys about their readiness to go to trial or resolve the case by a plea. It is common for multiple omnibus hearings to occur. This stage of the criminal process can last between weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the case.

Victims and omnibus hearings

There is no need for victims or witnesses to attend omnibus hearings.

If the case is set for trial or for a plea, victims will be notified by a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), by a paralegal, or an advocate.

Call the Victim Assistance Unit at the Kent jail, the Seattle jail, or the Juvenile detention center to check the status of a case.

  • Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent: 206-477-3757
  • King County Corrections Facility (KCCF) in Seattle: 206-477-3743
  • Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center: 206-477-3035

Trial or plea

Include information about trial or plea, none on current FAQ

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What to expect - criminal defendants and the justice process - King County, Washington (2024)


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