For first-time offenders, it’s not uncommon for the prosecution to offer a plea resolution with relative speed – typically within a couple of weeks after the arraignment hearing. During the arraignment, the prosecutor has an opportunity to review the case, check the evidence, and make a determination before the pretrial conference on whether or not to offer a negotiation or resolution. Because of this, we usually see an offer of resolution come just before that first pretrial conference.
Again, for first-time offenders, you’ll often see that prosecutors are not trying to convict everyone of a DUI. So instead, they might offer a reduction from DUI, which could have less severe consequences, lesser fines, and, potentially, no jail time.
This is not applicable in every case, however. There could be factors present in a case that make the DUI charge more severe. Such as: if an accident was caused; if there was significantly reckless driving that could have gotten someone seriously hurt; or if the BAC (or other substance) showing in the blood was extremely high.
You can see that not just any first-time DUI offense will get a plea offer, but it does happen quite a bit. There are numerous DUI arrests in Washington State each year, and the prosecutor’s office simply doesn’t have time to try every case. So, they will often work with individuals to resolve the matter with relative speed while, at the same time, ensuring that corrective measures are taken.
The prosecutor’s office will occasionally ask for specific assessments as part of a plea negotiation, such as a DUI Victim Impact Panel or an alcohol assessment. These assessments can be used to create a recommendation for follow-up actions and alternative penalties. Some common alternative penalties can include completing a substance abuse education program, attending a DUI prevention school, or participating in a treatment program.
It is imperative in my role as an attorney to pore over every bit of potential evidence that may be used against a client. Only after this crucial step can I begin a discussion about the pros and cons of certain plea deals. My ability to negotiate on behalf of my client will be determined by the evidence of their case. So it’s essential to be fully knowledgeable of the situation at hand to explain what evidence will help or hurt in the long run and walk you through you options.
Very rarely is it beneficial to make a strict advisement on which path a client should choose to take. Instead, my approach lies in taking the time to explain each option, its benefits, consequences, and risks, and provide an estimate of what those options may entail down the road. Beyond seeing the case closed as soon as possible, each client must have an opportunity to make an informed decision that aligns best with their goals for the future.
In some cases, accepting a plea deal won’t be the right move. So when making your decision about any plea deal, it’s crucial to know what can happen during trial and understand what risks are involved.
DUI trials are not unlike any other criminal trial. They can take the form of either a bench trial (where the case is tried to a judge only and there is no jury) or a jury trial (where the case is tried before a jury and the judge oversees the hearing).
It is my office’s recommendation that all matters that proceed to trial are taken before a jury.
Whether the trial is heard in a municipal court or a district court, a jury trial will proceed before a panel of six jurors. These six jurors will observe the evidence and make a verdict on whether the defendant is Guilty or Not Guilty.
It would make sense to take a case to trial when it’s clearly defendable, when the evidence is not all there or when you simply have nothing to lose. If the prosecutor is not offering any reasonable resolution to your case, we might push them to prove their claim in court with the understanding that the client has some associated risks.
Because of the risk of bringing your case in front of a jury, it’s important to make this a careful and informed decision. Of course, many things can go wrong in the courtroom, but there are also great opportunities for people with defendable cases to find an ideal outcome. In any case, it is always up to the ultimate discretion of the client in how they want to proceed.
DUI is classified as a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of up to 364 days in jail and a maximum of $5,000 in fines. Washington State also has a mandatory minimum sentence for DUI, which starts at one day in jail and escalates, depending on the defendant’s BAC at the time of arrest or whether they refused to take a breath test.
If your BAC at the time of arrest shows to be over 0.15, or you refused to take a breath test, you could face a minimum of two days in custody for a first-time conviction.
If you are convicted of a second DUI offense or more, the mandatory minimum can increase to 30-45 days in custody or higher.
So, you have to know going into trial that if you’re convicted of a DUI, there will be some period of confinement. You may be able to serve your sentence via conversion to electronic monitoring or another form of alternative confinement. Still, state sentencing minimums enforce confinement to some degree with every DUI conviction.