Question and Answer time – DUI Style

Any criminal defense attorney worth his/ her salt will tell you that a DUI arrest in Washington State can potentially result in very harsh and undesirable consequences. With that said, below following are just a few DUI related questions we commonly hear at SQ Attorneys:

Police - Drunk Driver GuiltyQuestion: The police arrested me for DUI but didn’t book me into jail or even give me a court date, did I get lucky or am I going to be charged for driving under the influence in Washington State?

Answer: Unfortunately you can (and probably will be) charged for DUI. Police agencies in Washington State file incident reports with the applicable prosecuting attorney’s office in the given jurisdiction. Once the report is received, a deputy from the prosecuting attorney’s office reviews the report, along with any relevant evidence, and determines if he/ she has sufficient evidence to file criminal charges; DUI’s in Washington State are generally defined as gross misdemeanors and thus the prosecuting attorney amazingly has up to two years to determine if he/she wants to file charges against a person for allegedly driving under the influence. If criminal charges are filed, it is done by way of a “complaint”.  How fast a complaint is filed depends on the jurisdiction in which the DUI allegedly took place. For example, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office generally files criminal complaints immediately and the accused typically appears in court within forty-eight hours of the incident. Conversely, the King County Prosecutor’s Office typically takes one to three months to file a criminal complaint in its Washington State DUI cases.

Question: The Officer punched a hole in my driver’s license; does that mean I can’t drive anymore?

Answer: You can still drive if there is nothing else causing your driver’s license to be in a suspended/ revoked status. In fact, your driver’s license is valid for at least sixty days following the date of your arrest and is actually entitled a “valid temporary license”. Usually if you have been cited for DUI in Washington State an officer will give you at least two pieces of paper before sending you on your way – (1) A Washington State Department of Licensing hearing request form (a “Hearing Request Form”) and (2) a waiver of fee form. On the bottom of the Hearing Request Form there is a box with the arrest date written in it. Just above that box there is a line that runs the length of the paper. A person who receives this paper is supposed to cut the bottom portion of the paper off and keep the bottom strip of paper with his/her driver’s license. The bottom strip of paper along with the punched license makes up the driver’s “valid temporary license”. If the person fails to request a hearing to contest his/her license suspension (as outlined on the Hearing Request Form) he/she will lose his/her Washington State driving privilege for a period of time that can range anywhere from ninety days to two years depending on the circumstances; Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”) holders may suffer even greater consequences. It is always advisable to request a hearing to contest the suspension/ revocation of one’s driver’s license.

Field Sobriety TestQuestion: Is it still considered driving under the influence in Washington State if my breath test results were below the legal limit of .08?

Answer: Possibly. In Washington State there are actually two ways a person can commit the crime of DUI – (1) driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater, or (2) driving while being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. So even if a person’s breath test results are below the legal limit of .08, or even if there are no test results at all, a prosecuting attorney can still charge a person for DUI in Washington State. A prosecuting attorney will typically file a DUI charge if he/she believes there is sufficient evidence to show that the accused’s ability to drive was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs to any appreciable degree.

Question: I didn’t take the breath test when it was offered to me by the police, does that affect my case in any way?

Answer: Generally, yes. When a person “refuses” to take a breath or blood test after being arrested for DUI in Washington State, the potential penalties increase dramatically. Not only is jail time mandatorily increased (if convicted), but the amount of monetary fines and the length of possible driver’s license revocation is also increased (if convicted). Moreover, there is the possibility that if an accused fails to request a Washington Department of Licensing administrative hearing, or the person requests the hearing but losses it, that the “administrative” (civil) loss of license is increased from ninety days to one year, and possibly even two depending on the circumstances of the given case.

Question: If I enter into a Deferred Prosecution program will I stay out of jail and be able to keep my Washington State driving privilege?

Answer: Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”; with every benefit there may be a detriment. A Washington State deferred prosecution program is a wonderful program that allows people the opportunity to stay out of jail, not pay a fine, under certain circumstances not lose his/ her Washington State driving privilege, and after five years have passed from entry of the program, to have the case dismissed if he/ she is in full compliance with the terms and conditions set by the court. In order to gain these benefits, however, the accused must give up a slew of constitutional rights, enter and complete a two year intensive alcohol/ drug treatment program, do two AA meetings per week for at least two years, maintain an ignition interlock device on his/her vehicle, obtain SR22 high risk insurance and be on “active” probation with the court for at least the duration of the alcohol/ drug treatment program. Moreover, a deferred prosecution is granted only once in a person’s lifetime, “you use it, you lose it”. So, a person who enters a deferred prosecution better be prepared to live a life of sobriety for the duration of his/ her life.

clientsQuestion: If I retain a Washington State criminal attorney, does that mean my case is going to trial?

Answer: Not necessarily. In fact most cases don’t actually go to trial; a competent and qualified Washington State criminal defense lawyer may actually lower the chances of a person’s case going to trial. Competent Washington State criminal attorneys generally represent their clients by pointing out evidentiary problems; these problems often lead to an acceptable plea bargain and settlement of the case. Whether or not a person’s case is actually “tried” before a jury really depends on numerous things. Washington State DUI cases usually involve significant negotiations and generally take anywhere from three to eight months to resolve, sometimes longer and sometimes shorter depending on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Whether a Washington State DUI case goes to trial is ultimately up to the person who is charged. The best thing a person can do when facing a DUI allegation is to retain competent counsel as soon as possible; a seasoned Washington State criminal defense attorney can greatly help a person accused of DUI in Washington State.

Because of the significant consequences one faces when arrested for DUI in Washington State, it is imperative that he/she retain a qualified Washington State DUI attorney so as to not only best minimize the myriad of legal consequences he/she faces, but also to protect his/her rights and liberty interests. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle DUI lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with DUI in Western Washington. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the DUI allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

If you or a loved one is cited for or charged with DUI in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Thurston County or one of the following cities or towns: Algona, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Burien, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, fife, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, Marysville, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, New Castle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Sea Tac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Sumner, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, and/or Woodinville, or any other city or town in Western Washington, call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900 for an initial free consultation.

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