The DUI Criminal Process

The process following the initial charge in a DUI has initial steps that are common in most DUI cases. The first court appearance is called the “Arraignment” and requires the attendance of the person charged whether they have an attorney or not. In some jurisdictions this is the first opportunity for a defense attorney to conduct a short review of the police report and look for any initial errors (unchecked boxes, timing issues, etc.) before the Arraignment begins.

Generally at the Arraignment the person charged or their attorney will enter a plea of “Not Guilty”. The “Not Guilty” plea will leave as many options as possible open for case resolution. After entering a plea of “Not Guilty” it is the role of the Judge to set release conditions. Often the Judge will defer to the Prosecutor Attorney as they are representing the party bringing the charge. Release conditions in Clark County are tied to three main factors (1) whether the person has ever been charged with a DUI before, (2) the breath test result, and (3) whether there was a collision involved in the charge. If there has ever been a previous DUI charge statute requires either the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in the vehicle of the person charged or the person to be placed on SCRAM monitoring which is a form of transdermal alcohol monitoring within 5 days of Arraignment. Other release conditions can included monitored Antabuse or random breath or urine tests.

Following Arraignment a person is either assigned a Pro Se Pre-Trial if they do not have an attorney or they can be scheduled directly to a Mandatory Pre-Trial if they have Counsel. The Pro Se Pre-Trial allows for a more informal meeting between the Prosecutor and the person being charged. This generally takes please 25-30 days following Arraignment and is meant to facilitate the charged party learning more about the charge and their options. Mandatory Pre-Trial takes place roughly 60 days following Arraignment and truly serves as a “fork in the road” for the case. Cases from Mandatory Pre-Trial will generally proceed in two distinct directions either towards Sentencing (fork #1) or motions and trial (fork #2).

Sentencing can either be a “place holder” while the charged party is waiting for a disposition from the Department of Licensing or can signal the resolution of the case. For a party who elects to proceed to Sentencing several factors should be considered: (1) If the disposition charge (DUI, Reckless Driving, Hit and Run (Attended) carries a license suspension the suspension will generally be entered 45 days following Sentencing. If the charge carries a jail sanction the party entering the plea should be prepared to provide the court both a date to report into custody and a time at the Sentencing hearing. Most Clark County judges will allow check-in for custody within a two week timeframe following Sentencing. Finally, financial sanctions being imposed at Sentencing (other than traffic infractions which have a 30-60 day timeframe for fine payments) are due 6 months from the date of Sentencing. Financial obligations still remaining at the 6 month mark can at that point enter a payment plan through the court.

The motion or trial option usually involves both. A “suppression motion” involves questions of law that are argued to the judge. Unlike a trial where the facts of the case are in dispute, a motion hearing generally accepts the facts as they would be presented by either the City or State. The motion hearing focuses on infirmities in process whether the initial stop of the vehicle was illegal, the removal of the driver from the vehicle was infirm, or the sobriety tests were improperly conducted. Motions can additionally extend to whether proper information was provided during the Implied Consent process and if the breathalyzer test was conducted consistent with statute and the protocols set forth by the State Toxiclogist.

A trial on a Washington DUI charge generally has three elements that the State or City needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. (1) The charged party operated or was in physical control of a vehicle, (2) vehicle operation took place within the jurisdiction of the charging authority, and (3) either the person (a) provided a breath sample of over .08 or over .15 within two hours of driving (as indicated by breath or blood), (b) was affected by alcohol at the time of driving, (3) was affected by alcohol at the time of driving and refused the to provide a breathalyzer or blood sample.

The case of the prosecuting authority on a breath test DUI generally will include the arresting officer that will detail their encounter with the charged party both before, during and after the arrest process, a breathalyzer technician that will discuss the functioning of the breath test instrument and a toxicologist that will detail the creation of the simulator solution used to calibrate the breath test instrument.

It is the role of the Defense attorney at trial to demonstrate reasonable doubt in the case of the prosecuting authority. This can take place through cross examination of above mentioned prosecution witnesses or the calling of defense witnesses that could include a defense expert, the accused driver or other witnesses that would call into question the prosecutor presentation of events.

DUI trials have a 6 person jury. The jury must be unanimous for either guilty or acquittal to take place. A jury that cannot agree is deemed to be a “hung jury” and the prosecuting authority at its discretion can re-file the case if it chooses.

Don’t let a DUI conviction ruin your career or future. Call us today at (360) 690-0064 to schedule a free DUI consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.