There are so many things to worry about and consider when you are arrested for a Washington DUI. The most important thing to understand is that you will face two separate Washington DUI proceedings: 1) the Washington DOL hearing process, and 2) DUI court process.
Washington DUI Court Process
When you are arrested for a Washington DUI, sometimes the criminal process begins immediately, with a court date within a few days of the arrest. Other times, it may be many months or even a year before you will have to go to court. The prosecutor has up to two (2) years to charge you with a Washington DUI. The process starts when you receive a notice of a court date either 1) from the officer directly or 2) more commonly, in the mail from the court. You won’t get much advance notice of your first court date; by law it must be set within 14 days of it being filed in court. For a more visual presentation of the Washington DUI process, take a look at our Washington State DUI Flow Chart.
The first hearing that you will be facing in court is the arraignment. This is the hearing at which the court will enter your plea of “not guilty” and will determine whether or not any conditions of release should be imposed. Conditions of release will be imposed if the judge determines that you are a risk of flight and/or that you pose a risk to the safety of the community. In making this determination, the judge will consider your criminal history, your alleged breath alcohol level and any efforts that you have made to show the court you are not a danger to the community. Conditions of release may include: Bail, Electronic home monitoring (EHM), Restrictions on consumption of alcohol, Imposition of an ignition interlock device, Installation of a breath testing device in the home, Alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet (SCRAM). If it is a first DUI offense, there are usually no bail or EHM requirements. However, it is important to be aware of the practice of the court in which the Washington DUI is charged. For example, a DUI charged in Seattle Municipal Court will likely see more restrictive conditions of release (and a chance of bail) than a DUI prosecuted in other courts. Proper preparation is necessary to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the arraignment.
A pretrial hearing is a preliminary hearing at which the court will inquire about the status of the DUI case. If your attorney has negotiated a favorable resolution of your case, you can enter the resolution at this time. Alternatively, the DUI pretrial hearing this will be the time that your attorney will file evidentiary motions and set a date for them to be heard. In many cases, more than one pre-trial conference will occur in order to provide sufficient time for defense investigation and preparation.
At the evidentiary or motions hearing, the judge will determine what evidence may or may not be used against you if the DUI case were to proceed to trial. At the evidentiary hearing, the police officer will testify and your attorney will cross examine the officer. The court will then hear legal argument about the admissibility of evidence and issue a ruling. The evidentiary hearing is useful in preparing the DUI case for trial and in many cases this procedure leads to a beneficial settlement of the case short of trial.
If a negotiated resolution of the Washington DUI case is not reached, the next procedural step is a DUI trial. Trial is your chance to persuade a judge or a jury that you should not be convicted. A prosecutor will present evidence through witnesses that may include the arresting officer, a Washington State Patrol Breath BAC DataMaster Technician, a representative from the Washington State Toxicologist’s Office and any appropriate civilian witnesses. It has often been said that Washington DUI trials are as complex as a DNA murder trial, given the scientific nature of the evidence offered by the prosecution. Your attorney will cross examine the prosecution’s witnesses and call witnesses on your behalf. Tactical considerations in the presentation of your case will determine what evidence is presented on your behalf and how the prosecution’s evidence is to be challenged. Experience is the best teacher in making these decisions. At the conclusion of your trial, a verdict will be reached and a finding of either “guilty” or “not guilty” will be entered. The goal is, of course, the “not guilty” outcome. But sometimes when a judge or jury decides to find you “guilty,” an appeal needs to be contemplated.
In the unhappy event of a conviction, the law provides for an appeal to a higher court. The arguments and objections that your attorney made at trial and the evidentiary hearing provide the basis of an appeal of your Washington DUI case. Every case raises different factual and legal issues and an attorney with appellate experience will offer good advice regarding this option. Diana Lundin specializes in appeals and can help you through this process if the unfortunate comes to pass.