A friend was pulled over for and took a breathing test. She blew over the limit, her car was towed, and was taken to the police station where she sat around for about an hour (they did paperwork I assume). She was asked to blow again and she blew under the legal limit and was told she could go. A week later she gets a ticket for "improper lane change." Two months later she gets a summons for an arraignment for a DUI violation.
What are the best steps for her to take before the arraignment? She cannot afford an attorney. This is a first time offense for anything. Thank you.
The arraignment will be a hearing to enter a formal plea to the criminal charge. Your friend will definitely want to plead not guilty. Having an attorney isn't mandatory, but it would be highly recommended. If she cannot afford an attorney, she can apply for a public defender at arraignment. She will be assigned counsel if she qualifies. Your friend should seek private counsel. Many private attorneys will allow for payment arrangements. Good luck.
She shouldn't be shy about contacting a few private attorneys for a consultation. Many of us love what we do and don't mind talking about it for an hour or so. It is totally understandable to be nervous at an arraignment, so it does make sense to meet with an attorney and go over the court process prior to the hearing.
Best of luck,
The scenario you mention is not uncommon and he Volks the number of questions that people charged with DUI ask on a regular basis.
You can still be charged with DUI if you blow under the "legal limit." Most jurisdictions will charge anything that is close to .08 if there is any other evidence of impairment at all. This is one of the reasons that you should never take the roadside sobriety tests. They are designed to be used as evidence against you.
The difference between a DUI that is above the "legal limit," And one that is below, is that if you are above .08 you are presumed by law to be too impaired to drive. Below .08, the prosecutor has to prove it impairment.
The statute of limitations on a DUI is two years. That means that the prosecutor has up to two years from the date of the incident in order to file charges. In King County, and most jurisdictions, the police officer does not make the charging decision. Police reports are forwarded to the prosecutor for review. The prosecutor then decides if and what to charge. Two months is actually fairly fast for King County. Civil infractions, such as speeding and improper lane usage, are usually issued by the officer at the time of the incident. (She should also get an attorney to fight the ticket in this case. This is a moving violation that gets reported to insurance companies. However, if she did not request a hearing within 15 days of the incident she is no longer entitled to a contested hearing on the ticket.)
An arraignment is a fairly simple hearing. It is generally not a forum for legal or factual arguments. The court is required to make sure that you understand your constitutional rights when you're charged with a crime and the nature of what you are charged with. If the judge finds that there is probable cause to sustain the charge against you, he or she can also place conditions of release on you. These conditions can be anywhere from stay out of trouble and show up to all court dates to a no bail hold.
Most judges tend to be fairly conservative when it comes to conditions on pending DUI cases. A first time DUI with a low breath test is a lot less likely to have severe conditions imposed as opposed to multiple DUIs or high breath tests. This varies from court to court and depends on whether the judge feels that the person is a danger to the community or is unlikely to appear to court. Having an attorney represent you, and advise you, for arraignment Is probably the prudent thing to do even and your friends situation..
You say she cannot afford an attorney. I think a more important question is can she afford not to have an attorney. For many people the potential license suspension, fines and minimum jail time are not the real issue. A DUI conviction can never be removed from your record. It is very hard to get a job these days with any criminal conviction. That's only going to get worse. If the court finds that she is unable to afford an attorney, she will be appointed one. You don't get to choose who this person is and it may not be somebody who has focused their career on DUI defense. Your friend may want to consider interviewing several private attorneys so that she has an idea exactly what she should be expecting in a DUI defense attorney.
Scott W Lawrence
Law Office of Scott Lawrence, PLLC
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