Criminal Citations, Warrants, and Court Appearances

If you received a criminal ticket from an officer or a white Summons/Subpoena/Notice of Case Setting in the mail, you have been charged with a crime. If the officer left the court date blank, then the hearing notice will be mailed to the address on the face of the ticket. It is your responsibility to maintain a current address with the court at all times. The listed court date is a mandatory court appearance and cannot be changed. Failure to appear will result in a bench warrant for your arrest.

Court Appearance

If you arrive less than 30 minutes late to court you will be seen after those who arrived on time. If you arrive more than 30 minutes late you will not be seen and will need to reschedule.

Your appearance at each of these hearings is mandatory. Failure to appear for any of these hearings will result in a warrant for your arrest.

Steps for Legal Process:

  • Arraignment: As a person accused of any crime or traffic offense that might result in a jail sentence you have certain rights. You (the defendant) are advised of these rights at an arraignment, which is usually the first appearance in court on the citation or charge. At that time the Judge or prosecutor will inform you of the charge and maximum penalties and confirm that you understand your constitutional rights. No testimony is taken or evidence presented at arraignment (except to establish probable cause). The Public Defender will be present to assist you as standby counsel. If you are financially unable to hire a private attorney, then a public defender can be appointed to represent you by the Judge. You will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, or if you would like to speak with an attorney before entering a plea. If you plead guilty, you are admitting that you committed the offense as charged. If you plead not guilty, you are denying that you committed the offense or may have a defense to the charge.
  • Pretrial Conference: All parties must be present. Plea agreements concerning the case may be made at these hearings. If the case moves forward, the next hearing will either be a bench or jury trial.
  • Bench Trial: If you waive your right to a jury trial, the next hearing will be a bench trial where the Judge will hear testimony and decide the outcome of the case. 
  • Jury Trial: If you request a jury trial, a jury of up to six people from Pierce County determines the outcome of the case. As the defendant, you are presumed innocent and the plaintiff, either the cities of Lakewood, University Place, DuPont, or Town of Steilacoom, must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lawyer Referrals

Public Defender – Horwath Law 

Conflict Public Defender – Matt Rusnak 

Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association 


A warrant can only be issued on a criminal matter. If you have a bench warrant, call the court at 253-512-2258 to check your options. If you fail to appear at a warrant recall hearing you will not be able to reset the hearing. Contact the court for your options.


The Municipal Court utilizes a program called OCourts (Open Courts) to generate electronic court orders. The court will provide defendants a hard copy of their court orders, however, we will not provide attorney copies of court orders that can be printed at their offices. Attorneys can sign up for OCourts by submitting an email request to [email protected].