If you are a Washington resident who has recently been charged with DUI, you are undoubtedly feeling a great deal of anxiety and stress. Learning more about the Washington State DUI process, however, can help alleviate these feelings and help prepare you for what’s in store.
Whether you realize it or not, in order for the officer to have offered you a breath or blood test, the officer had to first arrest you for DUI. So, just because you may not have been booked into jail, does not mean you were never “arrested.”
After the officer finished processing your arrest, he or she should have given you some paperwork—a DOL hearing request form and waiver form; a copy of the breath test document (if you gave a breath sample, not a blood sample) and if your car was impounded, impound paperwork.
In some jurisdictions, the officer may give you a DUI “ticket” that states you have a mandatory court appearance. If so, you must appear in court on the specified date and time or a warrant will be issued for your arrest. In other jurisdictions, you will be notified of your court date by mail.
The officer will notify DOL of your DUI arrest, and DOL will suspend or revoke your license on the 60th day following your arrest (if you gave a blood sample no action will be taken until the result is received by DOL). However, you can still drive as long as your license is not already suspended or revoked for some other reason—until the 60 days is up—unless you request a hearing to contest the suspension or revocation. If you request a hearing, the DOL cannot suspend or revoke your license for the DUI administratively unless you have had your hearing and a finding against you was made.
To ask for a DOL hearing, you can go to the DOL website and submit a request, or send the form given to you by the officer to DOL by mail. In any event, you only have 20 days to request a hearing (online or by mail). If by mail, you should make sure the envelope is postmarked no later than the 20th day following your arrest. You will get a letter from DOL notifying you of the date and time of your telephonic hearing. You have a better chance of winning your DOL hearing if you have an experienced DUI lawyer representing you.
When you go to your first court date, called an arraignment, the judge will ask you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Most people plead not guilty at their arraignment, and the judge imposes conditions upon them, such as keeping law-abiding behavior while the case is pending, and gives them a date to return to court for a pretrial hearing.
A pretrial hearing is like a status conference for your case, and a time when your DUI lawyer can raise any issues or problems he or she is having in terms of getting the prosecutor to turn over evidence to the lawyer. Sometimes a case can be resolved at the first pretrial hearing, other times the court will grant a “continuance” allowing a second, or sometimes a third, pretrial hearing in a case. This may be necessary when there are outstanding requests for evidence (called discovery), witness interviews, or extensive negotiation with the prosecution.
If there are legal issues that the judge must decide, your DUI lawyer or the prosecutor may file “motions” and usually, a special court date is reserved for the hearing of motions. Sometimes motions can be dispositive—meaning if your DUI lawyer wins, you will get your DUI dismissed.
Most DUI cases do not go to trial. However, you have a right to a trial, and the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. A DUI trial can take at least a day, but often will be two or three days long, depending on the number of witnesses. In a jury trial, 6 jurors will decide whether the prosecution has proven its case against you; in a bench trial, the judge, not a jury, decides.
Do you have questions about the DUI process that have not been answered? If so, please contact us. We are standing by to take your call.