The State of Washington has some of the harshest drug laws in the country, with charges including possession, distribution, and the manufacture of controlled substances. A drug offense is considered a Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (VUCSA); which could be filed and prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a class A, B, or C felony. Several factors can impact the level and severity of the charges, including:

  • Drug type
  • Amount of drug(s)
  • Intent (personal use or for sale)
  • History of criminal activity
  • Use of a weapon
  • Whether the person was a juvenile or an adult

At Vindicate Law, our team of attorneys will work with you to fully understand all facets of your case and provide you with the most comprehensive representation you deserve. We know that being accused of a drug crime can be detrimental to your career and personal life, and we’re committed to fighting for your rights.

We understand you may have some questions about your drug case — like how long the police have to file drug charges in the State of Washington, or what the court proceedings consist of — which is precisely why we’re here. Continue reading to learn more about drug cases in Washington State.

How Long Do Police Have to File Drug Charges?

In Washington, there exists a period between your arrest and the “deadline” by which prosecutors have to charge you. This interval is known as the ‘statute of limitations’. If you’re arrested or investigated for a drug offense, you can later receive a summons to appear (unless charges were filed upon arrest), which can take place anywhere from months to years later.

So, exactly how long do police have to file drug charges against you? The truth is, it depends. For misdemeanors, the state/city has either one or two years to file against you, depending on the seriousness of the charges. For a felony drug charge, the state/city can have even more time to file charges, also based on its severity.

If you’re held in custody in Washington, the state has 72 hours to either file charges against you or release you. However, if you are released, you can still receive a summons to appear in court once the government has completed its investigation.

What Else Is Involved in the Process?

Initial Appearance(s)

Initial Appearance occurs in courts where the judge reads the official charges against the defendant, although the defendant does not enter a plea yet. The court system considers the initial appearance(s) advisory, while the arraignment is a formal notification of the charges.


Your arraignment consists of a formal reading of your charges. At this time, you can either plead guilty, not guilty or waive your arraignment. However, you cannot waive your arraignment if you’ve been charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors, including a DUI or anything DV related. In those cases, you would be required to appear.

If you’re facing felony charges, an Omnibus hearing will take place soon after the arraignment to determine the evidence, including testimony and any evidence seized at the time of the arrest.

Pretrial Hearing

This part of the process is for the court to resolve specific issues surrounding the case. Often, this is when the defense attorneys and the prosecution try to negotiate an outcome.

Motion Hearing

A wide range of motions can be used to dismiss and suppress evidence, including:

  • Unlawful detention
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Government misconduct
  • Involuntary statements

Readiness Hearing

In this proceeding, each party informs the court that they are ready to proceed with the trial as scheduled.

Jury or Bench Trial

During this time, you can have the option to try your case before either a judge or a jury. Your attorney can help you decide which is best for your particular situation.


Although both the defense and the prosecution can make sentencing recommendations, the judge has the ultimate say and will make the official sentencing decision. As a defendant, you reserve the right to have your family or friends speak on your behalf.

Drug Court

A lawyer can determine if “drug court” is the best choice, an option designed with non-violent offenders facing drug charges in mind. The goal of this court is to reduce repeat offenses by keeping offenders out of the prison system when rehabilitation and supervised treatment is a more effective solution.

Get Your Life Back Now

At Vindicate Law, we understand that being charged with a drug crime or facing VUCSA penalties can be a daunting and challenging ordeal—but our attorneys are here for you every step of the way. We’re dedicated to providing you with the trusted and competent representation you’re entitled to, so you can take the necessary steps to regain control and get your life back now.

For more information, or to speak with one of our experienced drug crime attorneys, contact us today.