Types of Criminal Offenses
Serious traffic offenses (DUI, reckless driving, hit and run, etc.) and violations of City of Bremerton ordinances that carry the penalty of a jail sentence are commonly referred to as criminal offenses. Individuals charged with a criminal/criminal traffic violation may or may not be booked into jail. Individuals may be issued a citation and released or receive a summons requiring their appearance in court to respond to a criminal charge.
All individuals accused of a crime or traffic offense which carries the penalty of a jail sentence have the following rights:
To have a lawyer present at all hearings
To have a lawyer appointed at public expense if the defendant cannot afford to hire a lawyer
To represent themselves without a lawyer
To a public and speedy jury trial in the City of Bremerton
To cross-examine any witness who testifies against the defendant
To call witnesses to testify on their behalf, and have the court compel their attendance
To testify or not testify
To appeal to the Superior Court if convicted after a trial
In many cases, you may want to talk with an attorney before going to court for the first time. The attorney will provide advice on the many aspects of the case including, but not necessarily limited to, what plea you should enter. An attorney from the Public Defenders Office is present at all arraignment hearings.
Arraignment, Pre-Trial Conference
Whether in jail or out, a defendant will be arraigned as part of the initial court hearing on the charge. The arraignment is normally a defendant's 1st court appearance. At the hearing, the judge informs the defendant of the charge and makes sure the defendant understands his/her Constitutional rights as explained at the beginning of the court session. The defendant is then asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the offense or if they wish to speak with an attorney (private or public defender) before entering a plea.
If you plead guilty, you are admitting that you committed the offense(s) charged. If you plead not guilty, you are denying that you committed the violation(s) or may have a defense to the charge. No Constitutional rights are waived unless expressly waived by the defendant.
Pleading Not Guilty
If a plea of not guilty is entered, the case will then be set for a pre-trial conference. At this conference all parties must be present. Plea agreements concerning the case may be made at these hearings. If the case goes forward, the next hearing will be either a bench or jury trial.
Trial by Jury
If the defendant waives his/her right to a jury trial, the next hearing will be a bench trial where the Judge will hear testimony and decide the case.
If the defendant requests a jury trial, a jury of up to 6 citizens from the community determines the case. Defendants are presumed innocent and the plaintiff, the City of Bremerton, must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Right to Appeal
You have the right to appeal a guilty finding. If you plead guilty, the right to appeal is waived.