More and more people are receiving a Summons to Appear on criminal cases and it’s causing some confusion. Why is the Prosecutor waiting so long to decide whether I broke the law?
Why The Change?
The landscape of criminal law has changed somewhat. Part of the change is the way in which law enforcement responds to alleged crimes. Lower priority crimes where there isn’t an imminent public safety concern, such as property crimes or trespassing, the officer might investigate the crime days or weeks later. In those cases, the person or people who are believed to have committed a crime will receive a Summons to Appear on the criminal charge weeks or months later. Where law enforcement deems there could be a threat to public safety or courts generally want to set some kind of conditions on behavior of an accused, law enforcement will arrest the person so these conditions can be set immediately. This happens more often in cases of Assault or DUI.
But I Received a Summons for a DUI
While it is true that most DUI charges originate by way of arrest, booking, and appearing for Arraignment within a few days, that seems to be changing. Where the person alleged to have driven impaired is accused of using marijuana, the officer will draw blood for a THC reading and other substances. Those blood samples are sent to the state toxicology lab and the result is returned to the arresting agency. Currently, the results are returned almost a year after the arrest. This delay is the longest we’ve ever seen it.
For marijuana arrests (and other substances), the person accused of driving impaired might be arrested and released or no arrest may occur at the scene. The person might reasonably believe he or she has not committed a crime and follow up is unnecessary. This would be a bad assumption! If you or someone you know has been arrested for a crime or been in contact with law enforcement as a suspect, they MUST keep their address up to date with DOL. Realize that doesn’t mean the Summons will definitely reach you. It is still possible that a Warrant will be issued for your arrest.
I Gave DOL My Current Address But I Never Received The Summons
This scenario is becoming a more common occurrence. The person who was arrested and released moves away (not yet formally charged with DUI) and is careful to update DOL with their new mailing address yet ends up with a warrant. Unfortunately, if the officer wrote down the address from your license, this might trump any DOL updates. To be honest, we aren’t certain about the many ways the address issue is arising. We have had clients call DOL 3 to 4 times a year to make sure their mailing address is accurate and the Summons will still be mailed to an old address.
Avoid The Warrant!
One way to avoid getting a Warrant in the process of being charged through a Summons is to hire an attorney to monitor your case. At Witt Law Group, we contact the Prosecutor’s office weekly to check on our clients’ status. If they have been charged, we notify the client and file our Notice of Appearance on the case. A Notice of Appearance can’t be filed before the case is charged because there won’t be a case number. Once we have the case number, we can request discovery from the Prosecutor (all the evidence that the state is using to prosecute you) and begin working on your defenses. When our Notice is filed, we will also be notified of your upcoming court dates and immediately contact you so that you do not miss a date. When a person misses their initial court appearance, it is very bad for the case and a Warrant for your arrest will be issued.
Summons For Crimes In Kitap County
Finally, Kitsap County has been using Summons more frequently due in part to the increase of marijuana DUIs. However, it should be noted that we are seeing an overall increase on charging through Summons in all neighboring municipalities. Bremerton and Poulsbo are increasing this practice so be aware that, if you have had contact with law enforcement in these cities and were not arrested, you should seek a consultation regarding your risk for a future criminal charging through a Summons.