The Washington DUI Process
Snohomish County DUI Lawyer Answers Your Questions
- What is the timeline for a DUI case?
- Will I only have to appear in criminal court for my case?
- Will I have to go to trial for my DUI?
- Should I take a plea bargain or take my case to trial?
- How do I clean up the effects of my DUI?
1. What is the timeline for a DUI case?
Most people who have been arrested for a DUI want to know how long it will take to fight the case. The process can take anywhere from one to four months, with some cases taking as long as nine months.
Below is a general timeline of the DUI process in many states:
- Arrest for DUI - One of the first things you should do is ask to speak with a lawyer. Law enforcement officers might have an on-call attorney available or you might need to find your own representation.
- Immediately following the arrest - An arraignment is generally scheduled for the next business day following your arrest. The timing on this can vary by state and court scheduling, but for the most part it will be your first appearance in court. Your presence is required in court and this is where you enter a plea and are advised of your rights.
- As soon as possible - Enroll in a treatment program. Treatment or classes don't take long and will probably be required anyway, so the sooner you get started the better. Early treatment may even speed up the process.
- Within 20 days - Contact the licensing agency or department for your state. You must generally request a hearing regarding the status of your driver's license. You may receive a letter from your state informing you of the deadline for this submission and it must be completed within that timeframe. A hearing is usually scheduled within 60 days of your arrest date.
- 6 weeks - This is generally about the time that your legal counsel will schedule a pre-trial conference with the prosecuting attorney to negotiate a plea bargain for you. Most times, the court will set this date in coordination with your attorney.
- 6 weeks to 3 months - Additional hearings may be scheduled regarding the suppression of evidence if your attorney has filed any motions on your behalf. Your lawyer may file these motions if they believe that your constitutional rights were violated.
- Within 3 months - If your case proceeds to trial, then a trial usually occurs within 3 months after your arraignment or initial plea if no plea bargain has been reached.
- After the trial or plea bargain - Sentencing will be imposed soon after a plea bargain is accepted or the conclusion of the trial. DUI penalties can include jail time, home detention, fines, community service, or alcohol classes.
2. Will I only have to appear in criminal court for my case?
Generally, once you have a DUI case, you will need to complete a series of steps within the court system as well as with the Department of Licensing (DOL). You may be required to take counseling and alcohol education courses as a condition of regaining or retaining your driver's license.
In addition to a court appearance, there are a few other likely outcomes that should be expected from a DUI. After your hearing, a judge will likely request that you attend ADIS, or alcohol and drug information school, as well as a victim impact panel. During these types of courses and programs, you will be educated on the effects of alcohol and the impacts that the decision to drive while under the influence can have on others. You may also be required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) classes as well as perform a certain number of hours of community service. While these requirements may enable you to avoid a jail sentence depending on the details of your case, they are typically in addition to the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges.
For the most part, the events after a charge may include a series of court dates, including an arraignment where you will enter a plea. When you have a DUI case, all appearances in court are mandatory and it's not a good idea to miss them. You will also want to make sure you are complying with all requirements set by the state in regard to keeping your driver's license, which may mean attending classes or further hearings.
3. Will I have to go to trial for my DUI?
After an arrest for a DUI, it's natural to have concerns about the trial process. Few people have previous experience upon which to fall back. Fortunately, at the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC, our Snohomish County DUI lawyers help provide information about the process following your arrest and answers your questions.
There may be a large number of DUI arrests that will not result in a trial. Long before the court date, we will review your case to see whether the prosecutor's case is especially strong or weak. We then act as your advocate by challenging the case – this process is called pretrial litigation.
During pretrial litigation, the charge is scrutinized and our legal team raises challenges against the evidence, and the procedures that were used to gather the evidence. We will examine a variety of issues, such as the legality of the traffic stop, whether there was probable cause for your arrest, whether you were advised of your rights, and whether breath or blood tests were administered properly.
The reason pretrial motions are so critical following a DUI is that the motions may limit or exclude evidence that could be very damaging or may have been improperly obtained. Our Lynnwood DUI lawyer explains that a common result of the pretrial motions is plea bargaining. During a plea bargain, our DUI attorneys will work with the prosecutor to come to an agreement that allows you to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to go to trial for your DUI arrest rests with you. We will make recommendations and use our skill to help you receive a favorable outcome in pretrial motions. But you make the decision whether to accept a plea bargain or proceed to court.
4. Should I take a plea bargain or take my case to trial?
When arrested for a DUI, you may settle on a plea bargain during the pre-trial conference, at which time your attorney will discuss your case with the prosecutor. If you choose not to accept the plea bargain, your case will go to trial.
In order to determine whether or not you should accept the plea bargain or if you should go to trial, it is important to have an open and honest discussion with your legal counsel in order to weigh the risks and benefits associated with going to trial. It is important to note that only you can make the decision whether or not you want to take your case to trial, as your attorney is only meant to provide you with advice and guidance.
When making the decision, there are several things you should take into consideration, these include:
- Will the financial cost of going to trial outweigh the costs of the plea bargain?
- Based on the evidence against you, how good are your chances of winning if you go to trial?
- What are the possible long-term effects on your life if you lose the trial versus taking the plea agreement?
Obviously, you want to be able to walk away from your DUI charge without a conviction. At the same time, you don't want to take unnecessary risks if the odds are stacked against winning a trial. With the help of our legal team at the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC, you will be able to make the best decision possible for your case.
5. How do I clean up the effects of my DUI?
A DUI is extremely messy, and your arrest can leave a lot of trouble in its wake. Having a legal professional on your side can help you clean it up, allowing you to look better before you go to court and possibly helping you increase your chances of keeping your driver's license and your reputation intact.
In cleaning up after a DUI, it can help to think of your DUI attorney as an expensive janitor. He or she will work hard to find available defense strategies, but will also be proactive. This means helping you sign up for drug or alcohol awareness classes, as well as classes that help you understand the impact of DUI on others. Essentially, your lawyer will be tasked with making sure that you look like a fine, upstanding citizen who made an innocent mistake and just wants a second chance before you even step foot in the courtroom.
The last thing you want after an arrest is to have the courts look at you as just another irresponsible driver of whom to make an example. Taking serious steps to improve your appearance before the courts is important.