The Special Assault Unit (SAU) of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reviews all cases referred by law enforcement for the consideration of charges. The prosecutors and victim advocates of the SAU coordinate with partner agencies during all phases of prosecution in order to increase the likelihood of being able to hold an offender accountable while minimizing trauma to the victim and family members.
Victim/Witness Advocates, employed by the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office, are also located at Dawson Place. They provide advocacy to those victims and their families whose cases are referred for prosecution. In addition to those victim/witness advocates located at Dawson Place, other prosecution based advocates are available to work with victims and their families under different circumstances. For example, Snohomish County also employs a victim/witness advocate located at the Juvenile Court. This advocate works with children and families victimized by juvenile offenders.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Official Website
Victims can keep in contact with the Department of Corrections in several ways that will be explained by the Advocate.
Convicted offenders generally are sentenced to standard range or qualify for a SSOSA. Both will be explained to the victim early in the process. Victims can write a letter to the Judge before the sentencing hearing and speak to the Judge during the hearing.
If a trial is necessary, the Advocate will take the victim and family through court school to help them prepare. Court school will help a victim become acquainted with a court room including where people sit during the trial. Possible results of a trial are guilty and not guilty verdicts, hung jury or other mistrial and dismissal of charges.
Most defendants who are charged plead guilty. The advantages to victims are that they don’t have to testify, do get it over faster, and there are no appeals. The advantages to defendants are that they may have a chance to get into a treatment program and they may have to serve less time in jail or prison.
Defense interviews can be held at prosecutor’s office, with Advocate and DPA present if victim so chooses. If defense attorney or a representative contacts the victim directly, the victim can just have the attorney call the prosecutor’s office for an appointment.
Plea negotiations go on pretty much throughout the process and follow office guidelines. Victims have a right to know what actual offers are being made by the DPA, before they are formally made to the defendant.
Victims have legal rights to know about and state their feelings about conditions of release, any bail review hearings, trial continuances and sentences, and to attend all hearings.
Arraignments usually happen about two weeks after charging. Almost all defendants plead not guilty at arraignment; trial dates are set, bail arrangements are made and conditions of release are written out. DPA or Advocate will explain these to victims.
The Charging Decision is most important decision made in the office, and is made with thoughts and ideas of victim in mind. But, victims do not “press charges”; it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to make the charging decision; everybody involved in the case is informed of the charging decision and the reasons for it.
- About half of the defendants are charged with a felony
- Once charged about 85% are found guilty.
- Of those found guilty, about 85% plead guilty rather than going to trial.
This Interview is important in making the charging decision. The DPA, and Advocate will describe prosecution process in detail and answer questions, describe crime victim compensation and make referrals for other services.
Each case in the Special Assault Unit is assigned a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney (DPA) and an Advocate.
- DPA’s evaluate cases legally, make charging decisions, prepare cases for trial all in an effort to hold guilty parties accountable
- Advocates give victims a contact person in the office; provide current information; prepare children for interviews and trials, and accompany them; contact therapists and caseworkers as necessary; work for the victim’s best interest in the process.