Boise, ID asked in Criminal Law, Civil Litigation, Domestic Violence and Municipal Law for Washington

Q: Can I legally be required to attend an arraignment for a crime I am accused of but haven’t been arrested/subpoened for ?

Since leaving my county of residence over a month ago and traveling several hundreds of miles for a family emergency to a county in a different state the local LEA has filed charges with the court of limited jurisdiction alleging I violated animal control statutes and committed acts of harassment against a party that had been harassing me before I left. I had no pending court matters when I left the area and the officer that wrote the citation was aware that I had left the area. I was not contacted by the officer, the prosecutor’s office he filed the charges with, or the court of limited jurisdiction. I contacted the court clerk and the prosecutor's office after hearing about these charges through word of mouth, then searching the scheduled court hearings database maintained by my state of residence and discovering I had scheduled hearings on upcoming dockets. I asked the prosecutor if I may appear by phone. They say I must sign & return an AAR to attend by phone, if not I’ll get a FTA

1 Lawyer Answer
Liza Burke
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Bellevue, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: The prosecutor can file charges without notice to the accused person and then you have to participate in all aspects of the court process (namely, hearings). Even when someone is arrested and let go or they go to jail for a night and no charges are filed, they might be unpleasantly surprised down the line when a charge and summons comes in the mail. Whenever charges are filed, you have to respond to the court process and attending hearings. But, depending on what the charge is and the court your case is in, you might be able to have an attorney enter a plea of not guilty for you. Many courts are now letting many hearings to be handled with Zoom or WebEx. Again, it's very court and case specific on options. It's important to be very careful in determining when and how you have to show up because the judge can issue warrants for failures to appear (FTAs).

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