What Happens After You Are Arrested for DUI?
If you have been charged with DUI (whether for alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medication), you will face not one, but two separate actions:
- An administrative action by the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), and;
- A criminal action by the county or city in which the DUI occurred. Our firm has the knowledge and experience to represent you in both of these actions, and assist you in obtaining the most favorable possible outcome for your case.
The Administrative Action by the DOL
The DOL action will determine whether your license should be suspended, revoked, or retained by you but subject to restrictions. Be aware that the decision by the DOL does not depend on your being found guilty in the criminal action. Therefore, even if the DUI charge is later dismissed, or a jury finds you not guilty, the DOL still has the authority to suspend, revoke, or restrict your driving privileges. The administrative hearings are less formal than the criminal proceeding, but you will nevertheless need an attorney to help you maximize the probability of a favorable outcome.
You have twenty (20) days from receipt of the notification of the pending DOL action to file a request for hearing. The notification will either be provided to you by the arresting officer at the time of arrest, or will be mailed to you by the DOL if the DUI charge was the result of a positive test obtained from a blood sample. The fee for the hearing request is $375.00 and is non-refundable. Because of the short amount of time between receipt of the notice and the deadline for filing the request for hearing, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after you receive the notice.
The Criminal Action by the County or City
The following is a summary of the typical steps in a DUI case. Throughout the process summarized below, remember that it is your attorney's job to provide you with legal advice that includes a strategy for your case, a description of the foreseeable outcomes, and the likelihood of each outcome. Only you have the right to decide whether you will plead guilty or not guilty, accept a plea deal, or proceed to trial.
After your arrest, you will receive a notice with the date of the arraignment, the court appearance at which you will enter your plea (typically "not guilty"). At the arraignment, the court may set the terms of your release, treatment requirements, driving restrictions, etc. Finally, the date of the pre-trial hearing will be set.
The pre-trial hearing is where the majority of cases are resolved. Prior to the pre-trial hearing, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your case, then meet with you to discuss the merits of your case as well as any potential problems. At this meeting your attorney will also provide you with advice and recommendations for the best possible method of resolving the charges against you.
After consulting with you, and based on your instructions, your attorney may attempt to negotiate a favorable plea to the original DUI charge with the prosecuting attorney. For example, in some cases the prosecuting attorney may be willing to reduce a charge of DUI to reckless driving or negligent driving, reducing the impact of the criminal charge on your pocketbook and insurance premiums. This is but one possible outcome and it is important to remember that every case is different and will be influenced by, among other things, your criminal and driving history, and the evidence related to your arrest.
If your case is not resolved at the pre-trial hearing, there may be a separate motions hearing. A motions hearing may be scheduled anywhere from a few weeks prior to trial, to the morning of trial, and depends on the rules of the court in which the case is being litigated and the preference of the judge.
The motions hearing may be necessary because the prosecuting attorney failed to turn over all of the evidence related to your case, or there is a dispute between the attorneys regarding which evidence may be used if the case goes to trial. Prior to the motions hearing your attorney will discuss the strategic and legal issues to be addressed at the hearing, how these issues hurt or help your case, and provide you with an estimate of the likelihood of success for each issue.
Based on the outcome of the motions hearing, the prosecuting attorney may be willing to further reduce the charges against you, or may completely dismiss the case. Your attorney will discuss with you the outcome of the motions hearing, the impact the court's rulings are likely to have on your case, and the attorney's advice on how to proceed.
A readiness hearing is just what it sounds like — a hearing in front of the judge to determine if the prosecution and defense are ready to proceed to trial. In some cases, the prosecution or the defense (or both) may need to have the date of the trial pushed back. In other cases, the prosecutor and the defendant may have agreed to a plea deal, and will advise the court of their agreement at the readiness hearing. Again, there are a number of issues that can be addressed at the readiness hearing that will determine when and if your case will proceed to trial.
Most people have seen episodes of Law and Order, or one of the many TV shows that dramatize trials, and are familiar with how a trial works. A trial consists of the jury selection, opening statements by the attorneys for each side, presentation of the evidence by each side (including documents, testimony, and possibly expert witnesses), closing statements by each side, and the court's instructions to the jurors on the law and its application to the evidence. The majority of DUI trials last only a couple days, but may be longer depending on the type of evidence that is presented at trial, the number of witnesses that testify, etc. As a general rule, the more the complex the case the longer the trial will last.
After both sides have presented all of the evidence, the jury will "retire" to a private room to discuss the evidence and reach a verdict. The amount of time the jury needs to make a decision varies, and can be anywhere from an hour or two, to a couple of days. The jury then presents its verdict to the judge who confirms the decision with the members of the jury. Finally, the verdict is read to the defendant.