What to Expect When Arrested for DUI In Washington State
Your Department of Licensing (DOL) Administrative HearingIf you received a document entitled "Drivers Hearing Request" when you were arrested, you must request a hearing with the DOL within 20 days of your arrest. You must also submit $200 with your request. If you fail to timely/properly request a hearing, the DOL will automatically suspend your license for 90 days if your BAC is .08 or greater, for one year if you refused to take a breath or blood test, or for two years if this is your second or subsequent DUI or refusal. There are other deadlines involved that your DUI attorney will be very cognizant of, and it is in your best interest to hire that attorney prior to filing your hearing request.
Your ArraignmentThis is your first appearance in court for your criminal charge of DUI. At arraignment, you will be advised of your rights, you will enter your formal plea of "not guilty" and you will request to be tried by a jury.
This is also an opportunity to enter an objection to a particular judge sitting on your case. You likely will not know whether this is appropriate. A skilled DUI attorney familiar with the local judges will know and will be able to file the proper affidavit of prejudice if appropriate.
Your right to a speedy trial begins running as of this date. If your case does go to trial, your trial must be held within three months of the arraignment (if you are not in jail) unless you waive your right to a speedy trial or a judge finds good cause for extending this time limit.
The court will also give you a new court date to come back (for your second appearance). Depending on the court, it may be 30 - 60 days from your Arraignment.
DiscoveryAt the Arraignment, your attorney will typically file a Notice of Appearance as your attorney with the Court along with a Demand for Discovery for the prosecutor. This sets in motion the discovery process under which the attorney receives the police reports and any evidence the prosecutor will use against you.
Upon receipt and review of these documents and evidence, your attorney will then decide what motions to bring. These may include motions to suppress evidence (e.g., breath test results, field sobriety tests) and statements you made, as well as motions to challenge the validity of the stop or the reasons for the arrest. If the prosecutor has not provided everything your attorney asked for in the Demand for Discovery, he/she may ask the judge to order the prosecutor to provide it or risk having it suppressed at trial.
Pre-Trial HearingThis is typically a court appearance at which we set yet another court date. At this hearing, your attorney can give the Court and prosecutor notice as to what motions you wish to bring, and then the Court will set a date to hear motions and arguments.
In preparation for a Motions Hearing, your attorney will continue to research the issues, write the necessary legal arguments (briefs) and file them with the Court and prosecutor. Once the prosecutor receives this, the two attorneys will typically talk about your case and discuss a possible nontrial resolution (a plea bargain) if appropriate. If a reasonable offer is not forthcoming, you proceed to the next step.
Motions HearingThis is a formal hearing, also called a Suppression Hearing, and is like a mini trial where your attorney may cross-examine the officer(s) and gather crucial information about your case. As a result of your motion(s), the Court may suppress some or all of the evidence against you if your constitutional or statutory rights have been violated. The suppression hearing is yet another opportunity for your attorney to weaken the prosecutor's case against you and negotiate a reduction in the charge against you.
TrialIf the prosecutor has not made you a reasonable offer to dismiss or reduce a charge, a competent DUI Attorney will defend you before a jury of your peers. This is where many attorneys who have not conducted many DUI trials will flinch and encourage their clients to change their plea to guilty because they believe the prosecutor has a strong case.
When you interview attorneys, ask them how many jury trials they personally conducted last year. Ask whether that attorney will in fact represent you in trial as well as at the suppression hearing, or will it be one of his or her "associates" that handles your hearings and/or trial.
Sentencing After Trial OR After a Plea Bargain is EnteredThe Court imposes a sentence after a conviction at trial or after any kind of guilty plea. A sentence may include jail time, electronic home detention, public service, alcohol classes and fines. Sentences are based on your history, the BAC information or your refusal to take a breath test. A DUI conviction carries mandatory minimum jail time that is dependant upon how many prior DUIs you have had in the past 7 years.