The Legal Process For DUI

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Map Of The Generally Unknown Path For Dui And Other Criminal Traffic Charges In Court


a. The initial court appearance will be for an arraignment. You will receive formal notice by mail to appear in court on a specific date and time. Don’t ignore the importance of providing the law enforcement officer with a current address. Be sure and check your mail daily. This notice will usually arrive within 6 weeks of your arrest or traffic stop.

b. During arraignment, you will be formally charged with the crime of DUI (or such crimes as negligent driving in the first degree, reckless driving, hit-and-run or reckless endangerment).

c. After confirming your correct name and date of birth to the court, you will be given a copy of the criminal complaint (the written notice of your charge or charges). Usually your attorney will waive a formal reading of the complaint, acknowledge receiving it, stipulate to probable causes for purposes of the arraignment only, and ask the court to enter a plea of “not guilty.” Accordingly, all your legal rights are preserved for defense purposes.

d. After entry of the plea, the court will set forth conditions for your continued release from custody. The conditions may include: no criminal law violations; no driving without a valid license and insurance; no driving with a BAC level of 0.08 or higher or a THC level of 5 or higher within 2 hours of driving; and no refusals of a lawfully requested breath test. Yet, if you have prior DUI convictions, the court can impose additional conditions. You may be required to post bail, install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car, be fitted for a scram bracelet (reports any consumption of alcohol), or another condition which the court deems necessary to protect the community. The judge may take you into custody while your case is pending if any conditions are violated.

e. At arraignment, you will also be given the date of out next court hearing – the pre-trial hearing. This is approximately 30 days after arraignment but may be longer and could allow you to choose from a number of available dates and times.

f. The arraignment date will also trigger the clock ticking on your right to a speedy trial. In Washington, you are entitled to have your case brought to trial within 60 days of your arraignment if you are being held in custody, or 90 days if you are not being held in custody. However, recent changes to the law and the courts’ interpretation of those laws have largely diluted this “right.” Whenever you request a continuance, you will be required to “waive” this right to a speedy trial for an additional period of time with a new commencement date that is imposed.

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2. Pretrial Hearing

a. A preliminary hearing, the pretrial is used to inform the court of where the case is going: trial, motion argument, a plea to DUI, a plea to a reduced charge or entry of a deferred prosecution.

b. Cases usually do not resolve themselves at the first pretrial hearing. So, it is typical practice to ask the court to continue the matter to another pretrial hearing for further negotiations and case investigation.

c. If continued, the next pretrial hearing will be set out approximately 30 – 60 days.

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3. Motions Hearing

a. This represents an opportunity for the judge to rule on legal issues (motions) brought by your attorney. Typically, motions may challenge the lawfulness of a traffic stop, the subsequent arrest, admissibility of client statements, field sobriety tests, and breath or blood tests.

b. Before the motions hearing date, the prosecution and defense will have typically filed legal memoranda on some of the pending motions.

c. When motions are argued, the law enforcement officer will typically testify for the prosecution to establish a factual basis for the actions taken by him or her. Your attorney will then have an opportunity to cross examine the law enforcement officer on specific details of the pre-arrest, arrest and post-arrest procedures used.

d. You will have the opportunity to, but need not, testify. That is a decision you and your attorney make together based on the facts, circumstances, and the case’s strengths as well as weaknesses for both the prosecution and defense.

e. After testimony, counsel for both sides will argue why the law supports their side of the issues. Then the court will issue oral rulings on each motion brought before it.

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4. Readiness Hearing

At this hearing, both the prosecution and the defense will announce whether they are ready for trial. If both sides are ready, the court will assign your case to a specific date for trial. Otherwise, trial can be continued by motion of either side based on practical considerations entertained by the judge.

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5. Trial

a. Trial may be held before a jury of six persons before the judge only. In DUI cases, it is best to be tried by a jury of your peers. Judges tend to be more prosecutorial in their approach.

b. To be convicted, the jury must be unanimous. To be found not guilty, the jury must be unanimous. If no unanimous decision can be reached, the result is a “hung jury” and a mistrial is filed. In such a case, the prosecution has 30 days to re-file the case and start over or resolve the case with a mutually agreed on plea recommendation or dismissal.

c. DUI jury trials generally take 1 ˝ -2 days to complete.

d. If you are found guilty, the next step is sentencing.

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6. Sentencing Hearings

a. If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, the next step is for the judge to impose sentencing. This may occur immediately after you plead or after the verdict of guilty comes in.

b. In DUI convictions, the Court must impose mandatory minimum conditions of jail, fine and probation conditions. Also, you will usually be placed on either active or inactive probation to the court for five years. For reduced charges, the probation time is a maximum of two years.

c. If you violate any of the conditions imposed at sentencing, you will be summoned into court for a review hearing.

Download the complete DUI Sentencing Guide

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7. Review Hearing

a. At this hearing, if the court finds that you have violated the terms and conditions imposed, the judge may impose jail time, additional fines, work crew, community service hours, or more treatment as sanctions.

b. But, if you were sentenced following a DUI conviction and did any of the following after that date: driving without a valid license and insurance; driving within 2 hours of a BAC level of .08 or higher or a THC levels of 5 nanograms or higher: or refusing a breath test, the judge MUST impose a minimum of 30 days confinement and DOL will suspend your license for 30 days for each such violation. There is no judicial discretion; mandatory minimums are imposed by law.

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Nicholas George - Spokane Criminal Attorney & DUI Attorney

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Nicholas George - Spokane Criminal Attorney & DUI Attorney

1312 N. Monroe, Suite 263, Spokane, WA 99201
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