Preliminary Hearings

Effective March 16, 2020, our FPD operations are open and we are working, but our offices are closed to visitors. Please reach us via telephone at 206.553.1100 or 253.593.6710. We will update you when this changes. 

Within 14 days of the initial appearance if you are held in custody, and within 21 days of your initial appearance if you are released on bond, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor would present evidence to a magistrate judge and argue that a crime was probably committed and you probably committed that crime. Your attorney would represent you at that hearing. However, in the Western District of Washington, the prosecutors avoid preliminary hearings and instead present evidence to the grand jury to obtain formal charges known as indictments. The grand jury is a group of between 16 and 23 people from the community who listen to the evidence presented by the prosecutor and decide if a crime was probably committed and you probably committed that crime. Neither you nor your attorney can participate in the grand jury process. Your attorney may ask you to waive the right to a preliminary hearing to extend the time before the prosecutor has to present the case to a grand jury. Sometimes, waiving the preliminary hearing may help your attorney negotiate a better outcome for your case.