Whatcom County Criminal Court hears all criminal cases in Whatcom County. Below you will find specific information about criminal cases and how they are handled in Whatcom County.
I need help for my Whatcom County criminal case
The best place to get information about your criminal case is from an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent you which will assist in your case. For general information about your case the Whatcom County court clerk is able to provide general information about your specific case (e.g. date/time hearings, mandatory appearance, what will take place and what you will be required to do). The court clerk for Whatcom County will NOT be able to provide legal advice for your case, only an attorney can provide legal advice. The court clerk can provide legal information (like the information found on this website) about your case but cannot provide advice about what you should do in your legal manner.
Whatcom County Arraignments
An arraignment is a court hearing. In Whatcom County this is the first thing that will happen in a criminal case. The defendant will be brought before a judge in Whatcom County Criminal Court and the judge will read the charges that were filed against the defendant. The judge will also read the rights the defendant has and ask the defendant if they understand both the charges filed against them and their rights as a defendant in the case. In Whatcom County a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest may be entered. In a guilty or no contest plea the sentencing of the defendant may take place at the same arraignment hearing or a later date may be scheduled for sentencing. For a not guilty plea, a date will be set for a trial.
Sentencing in Whatcom County
In Whatcom County if the defendant is found guilty (by trial or plea), the defendant will be sentenced. This sometimes occurrs immediately after being found guilty, but can also take place at a later date. In most instances, a judge will impose the sentence that is requested by the prosecution, but they also have the descretion to impose a different sentence.
Can I request a Plea Agreement?
In Whatcom County you may be able to enter into a plea agreement depending upon the severity of the charges. It is also dependant upon the prosecution willing to accept a plea agreement. You can ask your attorney to attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution to avoid having a jury trial along with the potential for a more serious sentence. Approximately 9 out of 10 criminal cases usually end in a plea agreement.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is always on the prosecution in a criminal trial. In other words, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The defense must only prove that there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant did NOT commit the crime. If the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will be instructed to find the defendant not-guilty.
Jury Deliberations in Whatcom County
In Whatcom County, jury deliberations will take place in a jury trial after the prosecution and defense have presented their cases and rested. At this point, the judge will provide a list of instructions to the jury about what they are allowed and not allowed to do and what verdict options are available for them to decide. The jury will be sent to a private room to discuss the evidence presented in the case and attempt to reach a unaminous decision. When a unaminous decision is reached, the jury will inform the judge that they have reached a verdict and will return to the courtroom for the verdict to be read allowed. In the event that the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the jury results in a deadlock and a mistrial is declared.
Required Court Appearances in Whatcom County
Any required court appearances in Whatcom County Criminal Court must be attended by the defendant. Failure to appear in court at your required date and time may result in the judge issuing an arrest warrant.
Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
If found guilty, a defendant may decide to appeal his case to an appelate court. The appellate court will not retry the case, they will examine the proceedings in the lower court to make sure they were done in a legal manner. The appellate court can either uphold the original conviction, or determine that due to errors made in the original trial, that there must be a retrial, resentencing or a complete dismissal of the charges.
Where will Whatcom County criminal case hearings take place?
Criminal cases will take place at the criminal courts of Whatcom County. See here for the location of the criminal courts in Whatcom County.
The Right to Trial by Jury
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by a jury. This is applicable for when the crime can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail OR a $500 fine, these are known as “Serious Crimes”. The defendant can also waive their right to a speedy and public trial.
Right to an attorney
The US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment ensures the right to an attorney regardless of whether or not you can afford one. In Whatcom County a public defender will be appointed by the judge if you cannot afford private representation.
Who is the prosecutor for Whatcom County?
Depending upon the case, the prosecutor for Whatcom County criminal cases will either be a representative of Whatcom County or a representative from Washington. After reviewing evidence it is the prosecutor’s decision whether to file charges or drop a case. Most prosecutors have the ability to negotiate plea bargains, and determine how the case will be prosecuted.
Whatcom County Criminal Court Locations
Whatcom County Superior Court
Address: 311 Grand Avenue, Suite 301, Bellingham WA 98225
Phone: 360-676-6777 Fax: 360-676-6693
Whatcom County Superior Court – Juvenile
Address: 311 Grand Avenue, Suite 501, Bellingham WA 98225
Phone: 360-676-6780 Fax: 360-738-2515
Whatcom County District Court
Address: 311 Grand Avenue, Suite 401, Bellingham WA 98225
Phone: 360-676-6770 Fax: 360-676-7685
Bellingham Municipal Court
Address: 2014 C Street, Bellingham WA 98225
Phone: 360-778-8150 Fax: 360-778-8151
Blaine Municipal Court
Address: 435 Martin Street, Suite 4000, Blaine WA 98230
Phone: 360-332-8310 Fax: 360-332-8330
Everson-Nooksack Municipal Court
Address: Phone: 360-966-3411, x1200 Fax: 360-966-3466
Ferndale Municipal Court
Address: 2220 Main Street, PO Box 291, Ferndale WA 98248
Phone: 360-384-2827 Fax: 360-312-0106
Lynden Municipal Court
Address: 300 4th Street, Lynden WA 98264
Phone: 360-354-4270 Fax: 360-318-0301
Sumas Municipal Court
Address: 433 Cherry Street, PO Box 9, Sumas WA 98295
Phone: 360-988-5711 Fax: 360-988-8855