As someone who has been charged with a federal crime in the state of Washington, it is vital that you understand the federal charge legal process. If the crime was allegedly committed in Washington, then in most cases you will be prosecuted in the appropriate federal district in the state.
Know that no matter what the federal charge is, the federal government is required to inform you within three days of the charges against you. In most cases, you will be held in custody in a federal detention center before your initial hearing, also called the preliminary hearing.
About the Preliminary Hearing
In Washington, your federal preliminary hearing will occur within three days of your arrest. Note that it is common for the defense attorney to ask for an extension from the federal judge. This allows more time to build a strong case for your defense.
At this first hearing, your lawyer will have the first opportunity to challenge evidence they have against you, but note: The burden of proof is very low at this point. Only probable cause is necessary to hold you, and the government can have witnesses testify against you. In most cases, the federal government will have sufficient evidence to hold you in custody.
Still, the preliminary hearing is good chance for your lawyer to discover the evidence against you, to obtain police and government reports, and generally probe for weaknesses in the federal case.
About the Bond Hearing
Next in the federal process in Washington is your bond hearing. At this hearing, you will ask the federal court to releases you as the outcome of the case is being decided. Whether you get bond or not depends on several factors:
Are you an illegal alien or non-citizen?
Do you have any outstanding warrants or pending criminal matters?
Do you have ties to the area?
What is your criminal history?
Are you considered dangerous?
Were there any victims of your alleged crime?
Your chance of being freed on bond is higher if your lawyer has character witnesses for you. They should be able to speak of your good character, and they should be able to confirm that you will live in a safe, crime free environment.
Remember that you should talk to your lawyer before revealing any information at the bond hearing about other pending legal matters you may have. This may affect your sentence in the federal case.
Federal Jurisdictions in Washington
There are two federal court districts in Washington state: Eastern and Western.
Sentences for Federal Crimes in Washington
Whatever your accused crime in the state, you want to have the best lawyer you can. They will have the ability to construct a good defense against federal prosecution and to challenge any suspect evidence. Also, your lawyer will ensure that the federal prosecutor is not overcharging you, which can lead to a longer sentence.
Factors that your judge in Washington will consider in sentencing include:
Do you have family?
Did you come from a poor or disadvantaged background?
Do you have a criminal history?
Do you have anyone who can testify about your good character?
Have you sought substance abuse treatment, if you have a problem?
Top Washington Crime Issues
Common federal crime issues in Washington pertain to drug trafficking, fraud, and illegal immigration.
Statute of Limitations in Washington
In Washington and all US states,there is a statute of limitations that affects potential prosecution for many crimes. This ensures that someone cannot be prosecuted years after the crime may have happened. Witnesses pass away, memories fade, and evidence disappears. Because of these facts, prosecution for some crimes can only occur within a certain time period. But note that murder has no statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations for civil and criminal violations across the US for federal crimes are:
Assault – 2 years
Contract – 10 years
False imprisonment – 2 years
Fraud – 5 years
Judgements – 20 years
Libel – 1 year
Personal injury – 2 years
Property damage – 5 years
Slander – 1 year
Wrongful death – 2 years
Arson – No limit
Assault – 3 years
Burglary – 3 years
Murder – no limit
Manslaughter – no limit
Rape – no limit or 3 years, depending on case
Kidnapping – 3 years
Robbery – 3 years