Washington State DUI Process
If this is the first time you have been arrested for DUI in Washington state, you are probably concerned about what will happen next. At The Law Offices of Smith and White, PLLC, we offer a free initial consultation to explain the DUI process. With office in Tacoma, our lawyers handle DUI cases throughout western Washington state, Pierce County, King County and the Puget Sound area.
YOUR FIRST HEARINGIf this is your first DUI arrest, you probably will not have to go to jail. You will be given a breath test, booked, given paperwork and then you will likely be released until your first court appearance.
If this is your second or third offense, or your BAC is over .15, you may be booked into custody. In this case, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible, since you’ll appear before a judge within the next 48 hours. The judge will decide on conditions of your release. The judge may order you to post bond.
Within 20 days of the date of your arrest, you have a right to request a hearing before the Department of Licensing.
FILING OF DUI CHARGESAfter you are released, the police report will be forwarded to the prosecutor for your county. Depending on your county, it could be anywhere from a few days to a year before the prosecutor files DUI charges against you. When months pass between the arrest and the filing of charges, some people hope that their case has somehow “fallen through the cracks.” However, the prosecutor hasn’t forgotten about you. You should contact a lawyer right away to preserve evidence that could help your case.
Paperwork concerning your case will be sent to the address on file at the Washington Department of Licensing. When it arrives, you may only have a few days before you make your first appearance before a judge.
YOUR FIRST APPEARANCEAt your first appearance, the judge will take an initial look at allegations and determine if they are sufficient to charge you with DUI. The judge will also set conditions for your release. You should have a lawyer represent you because you could be sent to jail or forced to go under house arrest or pretrial probation. With a lawyer advising you, you will probably plead “not guilty” and be released.
PRETRIAL HEARINGSAfter your first appearance, it may seem like nothing is happening. However, your attorney will be looking at your paperwork, interviewing witnesses, investigating the tests that you took as well as the circumstances of your arrest. Your lawyer may ask for continuances, to provide more time to prepare your case.
Your attorney may have two or three pretrial conferences with the prosecutor. During the last of these, the prosecutor and your lawyer will discuss how your case will proceed: whether there will be a plea bargain or the case will move forward to motions and trial.
MOTIONS AND TRIALMotions are like mini trials before a judge. In motions, your lawyer will ask the police officer who arrested you to come in and testify as to the basis of the stop, how the field sobriety test was performed, how the arrest was made and how the breath test was performed. Motions perform two purposes for the defense. First, they give your lawyer a chance to lock the police officer into testimony and view the state’s evidence before the actual trial. Secondly, the judge may decide to suppress some evidence or dismiss the case outright if there was a bad stop or police officer misconduct.
At that point, you, your lawyer and the prosecutor will make a final assessment. Experienced counsel on both sides will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case. In the end, you will need to decide whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial. While you have a right to trial, the vast majority of DUI cases are resolved with a plea bargain.
CONTACT OUR TACOMA DUI LAW ATTORNEYSTo discuss your case with our Tacoma DUI process lawyers, call (253) 203-1645 or send us an e-mail through this website. We will arm you with the information you need to make sound decisions about your case.