Happenings in Court

In case you’re a first time visitor this category of post is where I write about interesting things that happen in court. Usually it is things or people I observe and today is no different. The other day I was in King County District Court for an arraignment.

If you’re not familiar with that after you’re arrested for a DUI in King County the first appearance you have to make in Court is called an arraignment. This is a pretty informal hearing. Basically the Prosecutor will read the charge out loud against the defendant, and ask them to enter a plea. The defendant enters a plea of not guilty and then the Judge sets any conditions that need to be followed while the case is going on.

Now one of the procedural matters a defense attorney needs to do when appearing at an arraignment in King County or most courts for that matter is have their client sign an advisement of rights form. This form is a one page document where at the top you write the case number, the clients name, the date of the violation, and the type of crime charged. Then the middle of the document is several paragraphs that explain the constitutional rights that an individual has now that the are charged with a crime. At the end of the document the defendant signs their name, and includes their address, and phone number.

So what happened you ask? Well there was this young defense attorney there. I have never seen her before. I don’t think she was a public defender because her case was called before mine, and typically Judge’s call the private attorneys first since we expedite the matter since we know what we are doing, plus we typically have to go to other courts. So sometimes the Judges understand that and try to get us out of their court.

Now out in the hall I overheard this defense attorney talking with her client. She was telling him to sign the advise of rights form. She phrased it like, “I need you to sign this.” The defendant then said I’m not signing anything. That is all heard since I was walking into the Court and I only stopped to speak with my client briefly.

King County District Court arraignments are kind of like a cattle call. Meaning the courtroom is entirely fool. There are more attorneys there than I care to associate with. And each is called one by one. If it is an extremely busy calendar then it can be quite boring waiting for your case to be called.

So I was sitting down with my client waiting for our case to be called. When I saw this young defense attorney with her client. The Judge asked if the client had signed the advisement of rights form, and the defense attorney said no. The Judge then asked why not, and the defendant said because I’m not signing anything. The Judge asked the defense attorney if she explained what it was to her client, and she said she tried to but the client didn’t want to sign anything. The Judge was very cool about this and said well why don’t you step aside and read the document or explain it to your client and then the Judge went onto the next case.

It ended up not being a big deal. But I thought to myself. Why wouldn’t this guy sign it. It just explains all the rights you have as a defendant in a criminal case. Things like the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to be presumed innocent, the right to a jury trial. Etc. Nothing serious. Oh well it offered some amusement on a boring arraignment calendar in King County.