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What happens if you don't show up for court for a dui? How long would you expect to stay in jail if you got arrested?

Kirkland, WA |

It's been a few years since someone I know has gotten a dui. He didn't show up for the court hearing, and now has a warrant for his arrest. If he were to turn himself in now, or get himself arrested, how long would he stay in jail for and how much money would he likely owe?

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Attorney answers 3


A bench warrant for your arrest would likely be issued. A failure to appear
is likely to raise your bail before a judge, particularly if you have a
history of failing to appear to court.

The length of jail time ultimately served depends on your history of prior
alcohol- related driving offenses. I would advise contacting an attorney
before court who can advise you on the particular consequences in your case
based on your history. I would not advise failing to appear in court.

Good luck.

The information contained in this response does not create or constitute an
attorney-client relationship but is merely a guideline to assist the person
inquiring as to this lawyer's opinion
based on her considerable experience with these types of cases.

This information does not create an attorney-client relationship nor does it constitute advice. This attorney expects you to evaluate this information and independently decide how to proceed, including consulting another attorney who practices in the counties in questiom.


The person runs the risk of spending a considerable amount of time in jail on high bail if arrested on the warrant, because he now has a record of a failure to appear for a mandatory hearing. Judges don't like that--but if there is a good reason for the FTA, most judges are reasonable. Other factors the judge considers in determining the amount of bail include the concentration level of his breath or blood alcohol if he was tested, whether there was an accident, and whether he has any prior or pending alcohol-related matters.

There will be no money owing unless he is convicted. If convicted, the MAXIMUM penalty for a DUI in WA is 364 days in jail and over $8,000 in fines, costs and assessments. Most first time DUI offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum jail or financial obligation. Most end up costing less than $2000 in fines, costs and assessments.

However, there are other potential costs: lawyer fees unless he is indigent, chemical dependency assessment costs, treatment costs if required, the expense of an ignition interlock device for at least one year, costs of applying for a hearing to defend his license unless he is indigent, increased insurance costs, and the costs that might be associated with taking time off work to go to court or to serve a jail term.

He should get a lawyer's help in turning himself in because the lawyer will be able to determine how serious the matter is, will likely know the judge who will hear the warrant quash, will likely be able to say whether the judge will want bail posted for his release or will PR him (personal recognizance). The lawyer can accompany him to court and do the explaining to the court for him, and will be able to tell him what things he can do in advance of turning himself in that will make him look good to the judge.

If he goes to court by himself, he should at lease contact a bail bonds person to accompany him to court to post a bond so that he might be able to stay out of custody--depending on the jurisdiction where he got the DUI. Some courts will take him into custody and not release him on the bond until a certain time of day.

Procedures vary from court to court and jail to jail, this is why it is best to have him contact a DUI lawyer who knows the jurisdiction.

This answer is my personal opinion, offered for informational purposes only. It is not a legal opinion, nor is it legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with anyone reading it.


It would be a good idea to sit down with an attorney who focuses on DUI defense, so the attorney can investigate the case and give options for the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued. Some jurisdictions permit a defendant to appear and request that the warrant be quashed. That may be a little unrealistic if there has been a space of years since the warrant was issued.

As for how long he would be in custody, it would depend on a few things -- if he cannot post bail/bond, and remains in custody while the case is pending for trial, he could be there for some time. If he bails out, or if the judge agrees to quash the warrant and does not require bail, then the question regarding jail time is dependent upon how many prior offenses your friend has, the well as the ultimate outcome of the case. If the charge is reduced to a lesser offense, or perhaps dismissed, or if he enters a deferred prosecution program, it is possible to avoid jail altogether. But it's impossible to know what is realistic without knowing all the circumstances of the case.

Finally, if this is a felony DUI, the stakes are higher on just about every point I mentioned above. The bail is likely quite high, and the chance of jail is higher as well.

More information could help your friend decide what to do. Sitting down with a DUI attorney is often a free consultation - most of us are able to look up some basic information and at least give you a sense of what you're facing, even before being hired on the case.

Please note that by answering this question, I am not establishing an attorney/client relationship. It is always advisable to meet with an attorney directly to obtain advice and determine the best course of action.

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