Criminal Hearings & Descriptions
There are many types of hearings scheduled in Municipal Court. The following descriptions contain the hearing title and definitions. Depending on the type of violation, a person may appear for one or several of these hearing types during the life of a case.
Arraignment (Criminal Proceeding)
This is the first appearance in Court on a criminal charge where a defendant is advised of the nature of the charges, their constitutional rights, and enters a plea. The plea determines how the case will move forward.
At arraignment, unless the defendant appears with a lawyer, the court advises the defendant on the record of the right to trial by jury, if applicable, and of the right to be represented by a lawyer and to have an appointed lawyer if the defendant cannot afford one. CrRLJ 4.1(a)(2).
All persons charged with a crime have a right to a jury trial. In Municipal Court, a jury is made up of six persons. In some cases a defendant may choose to waive his or her right to a jury and request a trial before the judge only. A trial before the judge is commonly referred to as a bench trial.
Pre Trial Hearing and Readiness Hearings
At a pretrial hearing, the parties advise the court of how they wish the case to proceed. If there is a plea bargain, it will be presented to the judge at that time. If the case is proceeding to jury trial, a readiness hearing and trial date will be determined. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to set a motion hearing prior to the trial date.
Sentencing and Review Hearings
If a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal charge it is sometimes set over for a final imposition of any fines, jail or probation supervision. This hearing is called a sentencing proceeding.
Review hearings are usually set in order to track progress on various conditions of a sentence and to ensure compliance.