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How do we get a DUI charge reduced to negligent driving? Will we be able to get a court appointed attorney?

Olympia, WA |

A family member was arrested last night with a DUI in Southern WA. He failed the field sobriety tests and his BAC was .157. He has no prior driving offenses and no criminal record. Currently, he is studying to have a job in law enforcement and we are hoping this will not jeopardize his future. He does not receive aid from the state of Oregon, where he is a resident. Can we still apply for a court appointed attorney, if not, is it imperative to have representation by a private attorney. Funds are limited since he is in school. He plans to go to court tomorrow and plead not guilty in hopes that the charge will be reduced. Can you please give me an idea as to how likely this charge will be reduced and what are the likely consequences of the lesser charge?

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Attorney answers 4


It is incredibly difficult to know whether the ultimate outcome of your family member's case will be a reduction to a Negligent Driving 1st Degree charge. That depends on the facts of the case, how strong the evidence is and how willing your prosecutor is to work with him.

Your family member WILL MOST DEFINITELY want representation on his case, especially if he is needing a reduction. He should ask the court at arraignment for a public defender. He may have to fill out an application to see if he qualifies. It would ask how much income/assets he has and what his expenses are. The courts typically follow the federal poverty guidelines.

If he receives the reduction, he will most likely have to get an alcohol evaluation and comply with any recommendation, be on probation to monitor his behavior and compliance with the treatment recommendation, and pay fines and fees. Jail is not mandatory in a Neg 1 case, but the prosecutor may want a day or two in exchange for making the reduction.

If he does not get a public defender, he should definitely call and talk to some private attorneys who handle DUI charges. Consultations are usually free.


You son needs to get an attorney as soon as possible. A DUI stays on his record forever and he will be dealing with its aftermath for a long time. He needs to have experienced counsel working for him as soon as possible since the State is taking action against his ability to drive immediately. Most attorneys give free consultations and most are willing to work with people about payments. Shop around and find someone you trust and get them on the case.


It is up to the prosecutor if the charge is reduced, Prosecutors are motivated by three major factors: driving, impairment and priors. Here you have no priors, a higher than average BAC which, being over .15, is also an aggravated DUI. The driving is unknown from your post. Most major challenges to a case come from: 1) basis to stop, 2) basis to arrest, and 3) errors in administering the BAC test. However, there are countless other factors like proper Miranda and Implied Consent Warnings, witnesses for your brother, proper administration and demonstration of the field sobriety tests (FSTS), the list goes on and on. That's why you need a DUI attorney. So, its virtually impossible to tell you how likely it is that the charge will be reduced. Let me clarify, it will almost certainly be reduced but the question is whether the reduction is great enough to benefit your brother's career. The Court will have a screening process to determine whether your brother qualifies for the public defender. You should hire and attorney anyway. Public Defenders have too many cases. Your brother's career may be riding on this one.
At your service,


Your son has several problems.

First, the State of Washington will seek to suspend his driving privilege. Regardless of whether he has a Washington or an Oregon driver's license, he needs to request a hearing within 20 days of his arrest or the suspension will be automatic. He can request a hearing on the form that was provided to him by the arresting officer or by going to the website,

Even if he has an Oregon license ( or no license at all) it will be very important for him to request this hearing and hire an attorney to defend him. If Washington suspends his driving privilege, they will inform his home state and the homes state can then suspend his license. A public defender will not generally provide representation in this area because this is a civil administrative hearing.

Next he has the criminal case. He may apply for a public defendant and the court should inform him of how to do that. It does not matter that he is form a foreign state. If a Washington court case if filed against him and he qualifies financially he should receive appointment to a public defense attorney. He should contact that attorney right away and inform them that he is pursuing a career in law enforcement.

He has an additional problem because Washington imposes a more severe penalty on drivers who have a breath test of 0.15 or above. He will be subject to additional jail time, fines and loss of license. So it will be more difficult to obtain a reduction to a charge less than DUI. Because his alleged breath test result is relatively close to the 0.15 line, research should be done to determine if the machine that analyzed his breath has a positive bias. If so it might bring hi true reading to or even below the 0.15 standard

Finally, your son's future career choice can be affected by any criminal conviction or even by a suspension of driving privilege. He should be extraordinarily careful to try to avoid any suspension or criminal conviction.

Answers given on this website are for general informational purposes only. They do not substitute for obtaining a legal opinion from an attorney who has met with the individual involved. The answer given here Does Not Create an Attorney- Client Relationship. I can only give advice to an individual who I have met or spoken with. In order to provide that advice I will need to ask a number of questions and get answers to those questions. Anyone seeking representation in the State of Washington may contact my office at 425 643 9424 and set an appointment to speak with me. Unless I have met with an individual and given them advice directly, the answer given here should be considered general information to be discussed with an attorney when one is directly consulted or hired.