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Probable Cause and Fiction 101: The Silverado Gunfight
By Mike Jordan
The first thing most criminal defense lawyers do in the state of
Washington when they review a new case — if they have not spoken to the
client — is to read the charging document and the probable cause (“PC”)
declaration filed by the prosecutor. The charging document speaks for
itself and tells the number and seriousness of the charges. The PC
statement gives you an overview of the facts that, supposedly, justify
In the state of Washington, the PC statement is generally required at
the arraignment though probable cause can be established by other
methods. Hence, defense counsel usually gives the PC statement some
merit, accepting it as basically true if not accurate. Obviously, from
the defense attorney’s perspective, eyeing the PC statement and the
supporting reports with at least a little skepticism is helpful and
often necessary. But it is now a rule in my office, due to an officer
involved shooting case, that PC statements are to be thrown
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