DUI Process in Spokane, WA

Getting charged with a DUI in Spokane, WA can be overwhelming. Just being arrested and booked can be an extremely humiliating and humbling experience.

So, what should you do if you have been accused of driving under the influence?

This information should give you some answers and insights into the DUI process so that you understand your rights, what to expect in court, and why you need an experienced Spokane DUI lawyer to help you through the process.

The Initial DUI Arrest

Typically, a DUI arrest begins with a routine traffic stop. It is lawful for law enforcement to stop you on suspicion of drunk driving if your driving was erratic or seemed unsafe, for example, if you are seen weaving in an out your lane. Most DUI arrests, however, result from less serious violations like:

  • Speeding;
  • Failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or red light; or
  • Failing to use your turn signals

After you have been stopped and the officer develops a reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence, based on objective symptoms, such as slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or simply the things you say in response to the officer’s questions, then he or she will ask you to exit the car and perform some field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety tests are physical tests that you will be asked to perform so that the officer can evaluate your coordination, reaction time, and balance. While there are many different kinds of field sobriety tests, the most infamous are:

  • Walk and turn;
  • One-leg stand; and
  • Finger-to-nose

If you agree to perform any of these tests, the results will likely be used against you, even if you think you passed them.

After you have completed the field sobriety tests, you may also be asked to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. This is a breath test that will be administered to you with a small handheld device. These devices are prone to error and many factors can result in an inaccurate result.

After the field sobriety tests and the PAS test are completed, the officer will decide if he or she has sufficient evidence to arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence.

If you are taken into custody, you will be asked to consent to chemical testing of your blood alcohol concentration. If you refuse to consent to the chemical test, you will face an additional criminal charge for refusing and even more serious consequences.

The Summons to Appear

After, being taken into police custody, tested, and cited for a DUI, you may have to spend a few more hours to a few days in police custody before you are released on your own recognizance or you post bail. But before you leave, your regular driver’s license will be taken from you and you will be given a temporary license.

You will also be given a summons which contains the date, time, and location to appear in court. This appearance is called an arraignment and is the first time that you will need to go to court for your DUI charge.

If you have enlisted the help of an attorney, he or she may be able to appear in court on your behalf. But, if you choose not to hire a DUI attorney or can’t afford to hire one, make sure that you show up for your arraignment in person.

Judges do not like it when people fail to take their obligation to show up in court seriously. If you don’t appear in court on your scheduled court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will probably be charged with failing to appear, yet another serious offense that carries severe consequences.

Spokane, WA DUI Trial Process

When you are called before the judge at your arraignment, he or she will expect you to either:

  1. Request a public defender;
  2. Continue the arraignment, if you need additional time to hire a private attorney or to investigate your options;
  3. Plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest to the charges that have been filed against you

The plea you enter during your arraignment will dictate what will happen next. If you plead guilty or no contest, then your DUI case will come to a conclusion and you will be sentenced to whatever penalties the judge feels are appropriate for your particular case.

If you plead not guilty, then the judge will give you a date to return for trial. The majority of DUI cases are resolved outside of court, through pretrial plea agreements negotiated by a defense lawyer. This typically involves pleading guilty or accepting a lesser charge in exchange for less severe consequences.

If a plea agreement cannot be reached between you and the prosecutor by the scheduled court date, your case will move to court, where it will be tried before a judge or jury who will determine your guilt or innocence.

During a trial for a first-time DUI, you will usually be facing two charges:

  1. Driving under the influence; and
  2. Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher

To find you guilty of driving under the influence, the prosecutor must prove that you drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol and will rely largely on the testimony of the arresting officer and witnesses.

To find you guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or higher, the prosecutor will be relying on the results of the chemical test. So, you should try to estimate your blood alcohol level at the time you were tested to determine if the results of the test were accurate.

According to the DMV, it should take 2 – 3 drinks to reach the BAC threshold of .08%, depending on the potency and size of the drinks, your body size, and a variety of other factors.

WA State DUI Fines and Sentences

After all of the evidence has been presented in your DUI case, the judge or jury will find you either guilty or not guilty of the charges against you. If you are found not guilty, you will be declared innocent of the charges.

But, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence, you will be sentenced to a range of DUI penalties, the severity of which will depend on the nature of the offense and your prior criminal record.

In addition, to a huge increase in your insurance premiums and thousands of dollars in court fines and legal fees, a first-time DUI conviction can affect your driving record for 10 years. A DUI conviction can also result in incarceration in county jail, community service, a suspended driver’s license, months of DUI classes, and years of criminal probation.

As part of your sentence, you may also be required to have an ignition interlock device placed in your vehicle for a defined period of time. In addition, you may be required to obtain SR-22 insurance coverage.

The good news, however, is that most people who are convicted of a first-time DUI, don’t receive any jail time, but are instead placed on probation for a term of 5 years or less. What’s more, any time you spent in jail after being arrested will count as time already served.

Ultimately, the sentence you receive will depend on the quality of the counsel you retain. You can either choose to represent yourself, go with a public defender, or elect to retain the counsel of an experienced DUI attorney. But only a qualified and experienced attorney who specializes in defending people charged with a DUI will have the legal and technical expertise to achieve the best outcome for your case.

Contact Bugbee Law Office, P.S. Immediately To Retain a Spokane DUI Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in Spokane, or anywhere else in the state of Washington, contact Bugbee Law Office at (509) 337-5082, or visit our contact page to arrange a free consultation with an experienced Spokane DUI attorney.

We will work aggressively to arrange the best plea agreements for your situation or to litigate your case in order to get the charges reduced or dismissed, thereby minimizing or eliminating the consequences you will face if you are convicted. Call us Today!

Bugbee Law Office, P.S.  (509) 337-5082

1312 N Monroe St, Ste 147

Spokane, WA 99201 |  View Map

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