Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I am the victim and I want to drop the charge. Can I?
A. Many people incorrectly believe that a victim has the power to "press charges" against the wrongdoer, or to later "drop the charges". All crimes are offenses against the community, not just the individual victim. Criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Washington, not the people who called the police or those who were personally harmed by the defendant's conduct. ONLY the Prosecuting Attorney can issue or dismiss charges. This is important because it takes the responsibility for prosecuting the wrongdoer off the victim's shoulders and puts it on the Prosecuting Attorney's, where it legally belongs. It also means that the defendant cannot "pressure" the victim into dropping the charges.
Although the decision whether to prosecute or not prosecute is ultimately up to the Prosecuting Attorney, the victim's opinion is important and the Prosecuting Attorney will take those wishes into account when making his or her decisions regarding the case. A variety of factors are taken into account when deciding whether to honor a complainant's request not to proceed with a prosecution, including the nature and extent of the defendant's prior criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system, and future danger the defendant poses to the community (including the current victim).
Q. How does someone make a complaint or file a crime report?
A. Call your nearest law enforcement agency.
Q. How is a restraining order filed?
A. Information on how to file a restraining order is available in the County Clerk's Office.
Q. Where should people go to get legal advice on personal matters?
A. They should contact a private attorney.
Q. Where should people go to get advice on what to do about a potentially criminal situation?
A. The Prosecutor's Office cannot give advice. Citizens should contact a law enforcement agency or an attorney if they wish to file criminal charges or need advice in this area.
Q. Does the Prosecutor's Office provide copies of police reports?
A. No. Reports are obtained through the affected law enforcement agency unless a formal Public Disclosure Request is made to the Prosecutor.
Q. How can someone find out about court date times?
A. That information is available through the County Clerk's Office.
Q. How can someone find out who the defense attorney is on a particular criminal case?
A. That information is available through either the County Clerk's Office in the case of felony cases or with the District Court in the case of misdemeanors.