Many people come into our office having heard about a Washington State deferred prosecution and have questions. Designed as an alternative to incarceration for repeat DUI offenders, it is not a good option for most people. But for some, the Washington State deferred prosecution program provides the necessary framework to stay sober and clean up their life.
Washington State Deferred Prosecution Program
A Washington State deferred prosecution program is very different than most other states. In the simplest terms, a Washington State deferred prosecution allows you to avoid all mandatory jail time for a DUI and have the case entirely dismissed if you enter treatment and avoid new law violations for 5 years. But the devil is always in the details.
You are only eligible for a Washington State deferred prosecution if you have not previously been granted a deferred prosecution in your lifetime and you admit that you are alcoholic, addicted to drugs, or have a mental illness such that you are likely to re-offend if you do not receive treatment. An example of the petition can be found here. If you meet those initial hurdles, then you will be ordered to:
- Attend a 2 year substance abuse or mental health treatment program.
- 3 group meetings per week for first three months, 1 group meeting per week for the next eight months and 1 group meeting per month for the remainder of the two years.
- Attend 2 self-help (AA, NA, etc.) meetings per week for at least 2 years, possibly longer.
- Have a Washington ignition interlock device installed on your car for a minimum of 1 year.
You have to pay for this treatment out of your pocket (usually around $5500) as well as court and probation costs that can add up to an additional $2500.
The court will continue the case for an additional three years following the successful completion of the two year program. If, after this five year period, you have complied with all of the court’s conditions (which include no consumption of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs) the court will dismiss both the criminal case and the DOL administrative action (unless it involves a refusal to take a breath test).
Risks of Washington State Deferred Prosecution
The downside of a Washington State deferred prosecution is that you give up your right to trial and to challenge evidence. If you are found to be in violation of any condition of the deferred prosecution at any point during the five year period, it will be revoked. In that case, the judge will enter a finding of guilt and all of the penalties of the original DUI and DOL administrative action will be imposed. In this sense, a Washington State deferred prosecution is an “all or nothing” proposition.
A deferred prosecution can be a great program for people who truly have a problem with substance abuse (or mental health issues) and are committed to successfully completing a treatment program. For those who see it as an easy way to avoid a DUI conviction, however, they couldn’t be more mistaken. Instead, it is a very difficult and time consuming program that can very easily self destruct. Whether this program is right for you requires consultation with your attorney, a discussion with your treatment provider and some serious soul searching.