Those accused of some type of criminal activity in Washington usually have only a few options. They can plead guilty to the charges against them in the hopes that the courts will be lenient, which can be a gamble. They can prepare for a defense, which will mean they take their case to trial.

In some situations, those accused of violating the law in Washington State may have a third option available. Under certain circumstances, criminal defendants can pursue a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC) instead of having the courts manage their criminal trial like the average case.

What is an SOC?

A Stipulated Order of Continuance is an official court document delaying the criminal proceedings against a defendant. There are stipulations imposed, but those with an SOC can avoid a criminal conviction in some cases.

Essentially, the defendant enters into a written agreement with the prosecution. Provided that the defendant fulfills all of the obligations outlined in the SOC, the prosecutor will later dismiss the charges initially filed against the defendant. There could be numerous different requirements imposed in an SOC. Sometimes, people may need to undergo special evaluations and treatment. For example, domestic violence evaluations and treatment can be an option for those accused of domestic assault.

How does an SOC help someone?

Unlike criminal prosecution, which usually results in a permanent record, an SOC is a form of pretrial diversion. Individuals can avoid jail time and other criminal sentences. They will have no conviction on their record if they are able to fulfill the terms of the agreement that they reach with the prosecutor’s office. Additionally, they may connect with services that can help them avoid criminal issues in the future.

However, not everyone can receive an SOC. Those facing felony charges or who have already received an SOC for previous offenses will likely not qualify. Those that are able to commit to a process that can last anywhere from between six and 24 months can potentially reduce the lasting impact and arrest and criminal charges will have on their future.

Learning more about Stipulated Orders of Continuance and other forms of pretrial diversion may benefit those accused of criminal actions in Washington. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to start.