Changes to the Deferred Prosecution Law

Posted on March 16, 2010   |   by Lundin Law PLLC

For some people, it makes sense to enter into a deferred prosecution after getting charged with a DUI in Washington. To qualify for a deferred prosecution, chemical addiction or alcoholism must play a significant part in why you broke the law. After acknowledging this, you must commit to a significant program of chemical dependency treatment. This program, and the court supervision that goes along with it, generally lasts for five years. If you complete your deferred prosecution, the court will dismiss the original DUI charge.

Of course, not everyone completes his or her deferred prosecution. One of the conditions of a deferred prosecution is that you not break the law again during the five-year supervision period. If you do, the court can revoke the deferred prosecution and sentence you on the original DUI charge.

In the past, people who violated their deferred prosecutions by getting another DUI were receiving unfairly severe consequences. This is because courts were treating subsequent DUIs as “prior offenses” during sentencing. It did not matter that the later DUIs happened after the earlier DUI; courts were still treating them as “prior offenses.” Under this theory, courts were imposing longer jail sentences as well as lengthier driver’s license suspension.

Thankfully, the Washington legislature has now changed the law to clarify that if a deferred prosecution is revoked based on a conviction for a new DUI, the second DUI will not be counted as a “prior offense” during sentencing on the original charge. This is a welcome change and should go a long way toward helping defendants get back on the right path.