Your DUI Case
Once you are arrested for a DUI, you face two completely separate tribunals; the Department of Licensing and the Criminal Court. With few exceptions, what happens in one will not affect the other. For example: If you have your case reduced from DUI to the lesser charge of Negligent Driving in the First Degree, or even if the criminal case is completely dismissed, you will still have to defend yourself at the Department of Licensing hearing for an administrative license suspension proceeding.
In most cases the police officer should give you a DOL Hearing Request Form at the time of your arrest and release. You must request a DOL hearing within 20 days of your arrest. If you do not, in most cases, your license will be automatically suspended!
If you had a valid license when you were stopped for DUI, you will be able to continue to drive pending the outcome from your DOL hearing and the criminal court, assuming that the necessary steps are taken to defend both of these actions.
Therefore, requesting your DOL hearing needs to be at the top of your list of things to do. *Please contact our office for details regarding this important step. Strategy is everything!
DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING HEARING
The DOL hearing will usually be administered over the phone between a Department of Licensing hearing examiner and you and your attorney. Special requests need to be made and approved to obtain an in-person hearing, to subpoena officers and for interpreters or experts if applicable. Your hearing will be held within 60 days of your arrest unless the matter is continued by your attorney. Since the DOL is a creature of the civil end of the law, the burden of proof that they bear is much less than in the criminal court.
Arguments for the defense need to be very compelling to succeed. You can represent yourself, but remember that the DOL hearing examiner on the other end of the phone is usually a trained lawyer who in many cases acts as both the prosecutor and judge.
You will either be given a ruling at the time of the hearing or receive notice by mail at a later date. If your license is suspended by the DOL, do not drive. Driving on a suspended license can have extremely harsh consequences.
CRIMINAL COURT PROCESS
The criminal court process involves:
Arraignment: The arraignment hearing is mandatory in the State of Washington for DUI cases and cannot be waived. Your arraignment date will be given to you at the time of arrest on your citation or delivered later by mail in the form of a summons. The arraignment hearing is held to advise accused persons of the charge(s) against them, their rights, and to set any conditions of release pending the outcome of the proceedings. In most cases involving DUIs, it is important to retain counsel at the earliest possible opportunity. The attorney will be able to advise you prior to the arraignment about what to expect and how to avoid or reduce cumbersome conditions of release, which may include the imposition of bail. Also, the next appearance date, the pretrial conference, will be set.
Pre-trial Conference: You will then experience one or more pretrial hearings. The time before and between pretrial hearings is when your attorney will present your case to the prosecutor. This is where the negotiations happen. Your attorney will negotiate the best resolution possible for you by pointing out any flaws in the State's case and presenting likely arguments that may be raised later at motions or trial. If the parties can come to a favorable resolution, this is the time when cases are often resolved. If no resolution can be found, it is at the pretrial conference that motions will be filed and the dates will be set for litigation of the case.
Motions Hearing: If your attorney and the prosecutor cannot resolve your case at the pre-trial conference, your attorney will file motions to suppress various pieces of evidence against you and/or to dismiss the case. Success or failure in a DUI case often depends on the motions briefed and filed by defense counsel. An effective motions practice is the cornerstone to every successful DUI Defense attorney. This hearing usually takes place between 3 and 6 months from the commencement of your case.
Readiness Hearing: In some jurisdictions in the State of Washington, the readiness hearing and pretrial hearings are one-in-the-same. The readiness hearing is the point where negotiations have failed and the two parties have to answer whether or not they are ready to proceed to trial. Often, deals are struck and pleas negotiated right up to this point in the process.
Trial: You have the absolute right to a jury trial for a DUI case. However, you also have the right to "waive" your jury trial rights and have your trial conducted before a judge without a jury, unless the prosecutor has likewise filed a written request for jury trial. Both sides have the right to a jury trial in the State of Washington. A jury trial will usually last 1 to 3 days. A jury for gross misdemeanors like DUI will consist of 6 members.
Plea: If you reach an agreement with the prosecutor, you will enter a plea of guilty to whatever more favorable reduced charge that your attorney was able to negotiate.
Sentencing: If you enter into a plea of guilty or are found guilty after a trial, the judge will impose a final sentence. This sentence will vary depending upon the plea bargain, recommendations from the prosecutor, prior convictions and so on. (Please See DUI PENALTIES PAGE). The penalties can include; jail time, electronic home monitoring, ignition interlock, community service, fines and fees, restitution, treatment for substance abuse and more. Your attorney can fully explain the likelihood of any of these penalties with regard to your particular case. Please contact our office for a complimentary consultation.