How to Handle a Felony Charge
Facing a felony charge can be the most frightening thing you will ever experience. You may feel anxious about your future, uncertain as to how to proceed, and stressed about who you should call.
A felony is any offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or one that is punishable by the death penalty. Felony cases are handled much differently than misdemeanor cases that generally carry penalties of fines and/or jail time.
The Arrest Warrant
Felony charges begin when a criminal complaint is filed, stating there are sufficient facts to support the belief that a felony offense has occurred. Once the complaint is filed, an arrest warrant is usually issued, although in certain instances you could be arrested without a warrant. Prior to the filing of the complaint, it is likely that law enforcement interviewed alleged victims of the felony offense, as well as any witnesses to the alleged offense.
Initial Court Appearance
Once you are arrested, you will make an initial appearance—usually the same day as your arrest, but not always. At this initial appearance, you will be advised of your rights, then the charges against you will be read and explained, if necessary. If you are unable to afford an attorney, you will have a public defender appointed to your case.
The next issue at hand will be bail. The judge might release you at the end of your initial appearance, either on your own recognizance or after you have posted bail. The courts will advise you to avoid any contact with the alleged victim or victims.
During your preliminary hearing, it will be determined whether there is sufficient evidence and probable cause to support your arrest. The burden is on the state to prove there is sufficient cause and evidence to proceed. While the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove you are guilty at the preliminary hearing, he or she does have to show good reason to proceed.
Alternatively, a grand jury could be convened. This grand jury will hear evidence then determine whether an indictment should be issued against the accused, and if it is, you may be arrested.
Depending on the charges against you, there may be a number of motions made on your behalf by your attorney, as well as motions made by the prosecutor. Such motions could include suppression of specific evidence, motions to compel discovery, or motions to resolve legal questions. Based on the evidence against you, your attorney may work toward negotiating a plea deal—a lesser sentence in return for your “guilty” plea. Otherwise, a trial will be scheduled.
During a felony criminal trial, witnesses will be called on both sides, as the evidence is laid out. In some trials, expert witnesses will be called. As an example, if a defendant is charged with arson, there may be expert witnesses called who are trained to recognize the signs of arson. At the end of the trial, either a jury or the judge will decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the charges.
If you are judged guilty, you will return to court for sentencing. Your attorney will argue for leniency based on things like a lack of criminal history. In addition to jail, prison, and fines, there are other consequences of a felony conviction, including:
You may find it difficult to obtain employment;
You may be denied the right to vote;
You could be denied the right to bear arms;
You could find it difficult to rent an apartment;
You might be unable to obtain a government student loan, and
If you were convicted of a sex crime, you might have to register as a sex offender, sometimes for the remainder of your life.
If you have been charged with a felony—or even think you might be charged—the best thing you can do for your future is to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Our Seattle criminal defense attorneys are here to help you after you’ve been arrested and charged with a felony offense. We know Washington state laws and we work tirelessly to protect our clients after an arrest. We will work to safeguard your future at every turn. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC, have defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kirkland, and throughout the state of Washington. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our confidential contact form. We know how to fight serious criminal weapons charges and can protect your future. Call us today!