While our firm often represents people who have been arrested for DUI more than once in their lives, the majority of our clients are looking at a first criminal charge. Thus, some of the initial questions potential clients regularly ask is, "how long will this process last" & "what is going to happen when?" In my opinion, the first thing one should do after being arrested for DUI is contact a top-notch DUI defense attorney. I tell everyone they should want to hit the ground running and put themselves in the best position to fight what is sure to be a difficult charge. Upon speaking or meeting with a lawyer, the driver will likely be advised of their need to request a Department of Licensing hearing within 20-days from their arrest. However, on the criminal side, the first step is an Arraignment hearing. Depending on the jurisdiction for which the arrest occurred, what type of evidence was obtained, etc..., one can expect to have an initial court date scheduled anywhere from a few days to a few months from the date of arrest. I recommend that you retain an attorney prior to the Arraignment date, but this isn't mandatory. At the Arraignment hearing, your attorney will enter a plea of Not Guilty, and the judge will impose "Pre-Trial Conditions," which are terms for which the court orders a defendant to abide by until such are either amended (by the court) or the case is resolved. These conditions routinely include: Don't commit any further criminal law violations, Don't Drive Without a Valid License/ Insurance, No Refusals of a Reasonable Request for a Breath/Blood Test by a law enforcement officer, Don't drive after consuming alcohol or using non-prescribed medications, etc... In most cases, the court will then issue a Pre-Trial hearing date roughly 30-40 days in the future. From the Arraignment date until the first Pre-Trial hearing, your attorney should be investigating the case, providing the defendant with minor tasks to make a swift, favorable resolution possible. In some cases, the defendant's attorney will be able to reach a great resolution with the prosecutor to be entered at the first Pre-Trial hearing. However, such is NOT a common occurrence, as prosecutors lack any yearning to resolve DUI charges in a favorable manner (for the defendant) in a short amount of time. More likely, the case will be continued by defense counsel for a second Pre-Trial hearing. If a favorable disposition isn't negotiated by the defendant's second Pre-Trial hearing, the DUI defense attorney will usually set the matter for a Motions hearing and Jury Trial. A Motions hearing usually includes testimony provided by a law enforcement officer before a judge decides what evidence (if any) should or should not be heard later on at trial. Almost unanimously, I feel better about my cases after Motions have been argued. This is because a Motions hearing tells the defense attorney how the officer will present themselves at trial, and more importantly, what will be testified to. Further, a Motions hearing allows an attorney to go on a "fishing expedition" for holes in the prosecutor and law enforcement officer's case. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to be willing to negotiate cases after Motions have been argued, as they are now aware that the defendant is most likely willing to fight the charge to the end (i.e. trial) if a reasonable offer isn't put on the table. In the event that the prosecutor is still not budging, the case usually proceeds to a Readiness hearing, where both sides either confirm the case for trial or continue the matter if additional investigation or coordination of witnesses needs to occur. I tell my clients that I have no yearning to continue a case unnecessarily, as I don't want my clients to have to miss additional work; further, I would rather spend time in my office working on cases instead of waiting in court just to ask a judge to continue a case. That being said, what is most important to me is resolving clients' cases in the most favorable manner possible. It's great if this can be accomplished in 2-3 hearings. However, I will encourage my clients to fight a charge for as long as necessary until the prosecutor agrees to resolve our case in an extremely favorable manner. While the large majority of my cases resolve with an outstanding resolution by a third or fourth hearing, I have cases that take significantly longer. In later October, 2014, I resolved a case where my client had been arrested in November, 2011. My client had a criminal history & the facts of their case were not favorable. Thus, for close to three years, we litigated the case & eventually confirmed the matter for trial. On the late-afternoon of the Friday prior to the scheduled Monday Jury Trial, the prosecutor offered to amend the charge out of DUI with no jail, no license suspension, etc…. Though it took close to three years to get there, we finally received the offer we had been looking for. It is EXTREMELY unusual for a case to last anywhere close to three years, but such was necessary to get the resolution that we wanted in this particular case. Our client needed to avoid a DUI conviction & was willing to fight until the end.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a Washington State DUI, contact Veitch Ault & Associates immediately (425-452-1600).