What is a ’72 Hour Hold’ by Mark Nichols, County Prosecutor


A “72 hour hold” is the period, not to exceed 72 hours, during which a suspect can be held –

either in jail or released on conditions – on a Judge’s finding of probable cause but without
formal charges being filed.

When a suspect is arrested, according to law he or she must be seen in open court the next
business day. This is mandated by Washington Superior Court Rules, specifically

(f) (1) which is based on Federal and State Constitutional principles

(1) Unless an information or indictment is filed or the affected person consents in
writing or on the record in open court, an accused, shall not be detained in jail or

subjected to conditions of release for more than 72 hours after the defendant’s
detention in jail or release on conditions, whichever occurs first. Computation of the

72 hour period shall not include any part of Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

At the first appearance, the prosecutor will give evidence of probable cause to the Judge to
hold the defendant in custody or released on a promise to appear later (“Personal

Recognizance” or “P.R.”) on conditions. The Judge must find probable cause to hold

Even if the suspect is released PR, the Judge will usually impose conditions including no
contact with a victim, no use of controlled substances or alcohol, no possession of firearms,

and staying within the county or the State. The Court will then require the suspect to appear
the second business day after the first appearance. By that time, the prosecutor will have
made a decision as to what charges, if any, will

If no charge is filed within 72 hours of the arrest, the suspect will be exonerated from any condition of release, including any bail set. This does not mean that no charge can ever be filed; sometimes it will take more than 72 hours for law enforcement to build a case. Any exoneration is therefore “without prejudice” meaning that charges may be filed at any time within the Statute of Limitations. The 72 hour period does not include weekends. If a suspect is arrested over a weekend, the 72 hour period will start at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning.

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