Being charged with any crime is a nightmare. But with the growing stigma society places on drunk driving a DUI charge can be one of the worst. A DUI charge can threaten your freedom with jail time. A DUI charge can wreck your livelihood by taking away your license. A DUI charge can wreck your finances due to fines and court costs. A DUI charge can wreck you marriage and family due to the strain. The list of damage a DUI charge can do goes on and on. You’re probably wondering what to do now. No matter what kind of DUI charge you’re facing you need an experienced Tacoma/Pierce County DUI defense lawyer on your side who will fight to get you your best result possible.
You may be thinking, “What kind of DUI? A DUI is a DUI.” Actually, there are categories of DUIs. Each of them has their own hurdles. You may find yourself in one of the following scenarios.
First is the one that most people are familiar with – the blood alcohol content (BAC). In Washington law anyone that takes a breath test and has more than .08 BAC is charged with DUI. If it’s over .15 the penalties increase. This may feel hopeless. After all they have science on their side, right? Your defense attorney has options. One of the first things your defense attorney will do is investigate the investigation. Both police and even machines can make mistakes. If there is any doubt about the validity of the test results your defense attorney will seek to have that disallowed as evidence. Without any evidence, the prosecution would need to dismiss the case. Wouldn’t that be a relief? The horrible nightmare would be over.
But what if you refused the breath test? Or what if, for whatever reason, the officer didn’t have the equipment. A DUI can still be charged. This is charged as “affected by”. It means that in the judgment of the officer who stopped you your driving was negatively affected by alcohol. There are options for a defense attorney in this case as well. After all, it’s now really very subjective. Your defense attorney will check the camera if one was there to see if those images cast doubt and will also question any other witnesses. Remember that the prosecution has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your defense attorney shows that they failed to do so. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear “not guilty”? You would be able to breathe again.
However, DUI does not stop at alcohol. “Driving under the Influence” can mean drugs. One of those drugs is marijuana. You may be thinking, “Marijuana is now legal! How can a DUI be charged?” Well, alcohol is legal too but it’s illegal to drive under the influence. In fact, due to the legalization of marijuana, it now has its own “BAC” test. A person that has 5ng or more of THC in their blood is charged automatically with DUI, just like if they had a .08 BAC. Of course, if the test is refused or the equipment is unavailable the officer has the ability to charge an “affected by” charge. In both circumstances, the defense strategies that were available above to the DUI Defense attorney with alcohol are still available.
Because of its legalization, marijuana has its own special set of rules. But other drugs can get you charged with a DUI also. If the accusation involved an illegal drug, you may also be facing possession charge. The Pierce County/Tacoma DUI defense lawyers at Smith & White, PLLC can counsel and defend for both charges. But what if it was a legally prescribed drug? What if you only took the prescribed dose? If it impaired your driving you could still be charged. But, we may be able to use that in an argument to get the charge or sentence reduced.
By the way, when you refuse a breath test there is a “refusal” prong added to the charge. The DOL increases the suspension of your license from 90 days to 2 years and prosecutors tend to view refusals harshly. However, if you did refuse, all is not lost. For one thing, remember now that the prosecution has to charge as affected and it’s easier to defend against a subjective person’s judgment than a machine. If you have a prior conviction, the refusal may have been advisable – the suspension is 2 years anyway. Plus, it’s well within your rights to refuse and juries know this.
So, yes, there are all kinds of DUI charges. First offenses are classified as gross misdemeanors with a potential one year in jail and $5000 fine. Fifth offense are classified as felonies. Every prior makes any DUI’s penalties increase. As you can see, it’s serious. You know that. Your Tacoma/Pierce County DUI defense attorney will know it too. Please call Smith & White, PLLC – the first consult is free.