If you or a loved one was charged with DUI in Washington, you are probably wondering what comes next. Everyone charged with DUI in Washington must go through a legal process to determine if they are guilty or innocent, and what penalties will be imposed upon them if they are convicted.
This process involves many important hearings and court dates, and typically proceeds as follows:
The first step in the Washington DUI process is the arraignment. An arraignment is the court date where your criminal defense lawyer will get a copy of the police report and your criminal history, also referred to as the “discovery.”
The date of your arraignment will depend on the jurisdiction where the charges were filed. Typically, however, you will be arraigned within two weeks of the date of your arrest, though the prosecutor can take as long as two years to file charges against you.
At the arraignment, your lawyer will become the attorney of record, and a plea will be entered on your behalf. That plea can be either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. But, in almost every case, you will be advised to plead not guilty.
During your arraignment, the judge will also set the conditions for your release. Like the actual date of your arraignment, the conditions for your release will be based on, among other things, whether you pose a safety or flight risk, your criminal history, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the time of the arrest, and whether you refused to submit to a breathalyzer.
The various conditions for your release will also vary, depending on the particular jurisdiction in which the charges were filed, but can include:
- Posting bail
- Obeying the law
- No alcohol or drugs
- An ignition interlock device in your vehicle
DUI charges are prosecuted aggressively in the state of Washington. It is, therefore, in your best interest to be represented by a skilled Washington DUI attorney who can mitigate the consequences of your arrest and the various conditions of your release.
After the arraignment, your case will typically proceed to a pre-trial hearing phase. A pre-trial conference is a status conference, during which the prosecutor and your criminal defense lawyer have an opportunity to discuss the facts of the case and proposed resolution if one is available.
A series of these conferences may be required to investigate all the facts and negotiate the best possible outcome for your case. This, along with any scheduling conflicts and issues regarding the availability of witnesses, can delay the date of your trial. Nevertheless, if your DUI case does not resolve at this point, it will proceed to the evidentiary/motion hearing phase.
At the evidentiary/motion hearing, your lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, including the police officers or detectives testifying against you. The evidentiary/motion hearing is also a great opportunity for your attorney to get the case dismissed, either by filing motions that challenge key evidence against you, precluding the state from doing certain things at trial, excluding certain pieces of evidence from being presented at trial, or by filing what is called a motion to dismiss.
Your readiness conference will take place on a date either a few days or a few weeks before your trial. The purpose of a readiness conference is essentially to give the prosecution and defense another chance to resolve the case prior to trial, or to declare their readiness for trial. If no resolution is reached at the readiness conference, the judge will declare the case set for trial.
You can choose for your case to be decided by a jury of six persons or by the judge only (a bench trial). An experienced Washington DUI lawyer will be able to advise you on which option is best for you with regard to the facts and evidence involved in your specific case.
Either way, the prosecutor has to prove every element of your DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor is unsuccessful, the judge or jury will come back with a not guilty verdict, and the case will be dismissed. If the prosecutor is successful, and the judge or jury comes back with a verdict of guilty on any charge, you will have been convicted, and the judge will pronounce a sentence based on the law.
Finally, if you believe that you were wrongfully convicted, you will have the right to appeal the conviction to a higher court. But, you and your attorney will first need to weigh the pros and cons of an appeal to determine if it makes sense in your case.
The DUI process can be lengthy and requires your patience. Some cases are handled quickly and efficiently. While others may drag on for months. Nevertheless, it is important to give your lawyer the time and space to do their job and get you the best possible outcome
How an Experienced Washington DUI Attorney Can Help
A DUI conviction is quite serious and can carry with it a criminal record, stiff penalties, and long-lasting consequences, including incarceration. A knowledgeable and experienced DUI lawyer can help you by using every tool at their disposal to resolve your case with the best possible result, whether that be by obtaining a total dismissal of your DUI case, bargaining for a reduced sentence, or pleading guilty to a lesser charge with less severe consequences.
If you are facing DUI charges in Spokane, Washington, or the surrounding area, give Bugbee Law Offices, P.S. a call at (509) 337-5082 and let us evaluate your case. Alternatively, visit our contact page to schedule a fast, free consultation with a skilled Washington DUI attorney. We can help.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
© 2016 Bugbee Law Offices, P.S.