When facing a DUI charge or any other misdemeanor charge, defendants are usually worried about how quickly their lives will turn upside down. How soon will they lose their license? Will it impact a professional license? Will there be jail time?
Waiting to find out the consequences of a DUI arrest can be very stressful. It is important in Thurston County DUI cases to hire a very experienced DUI or criminal defense attorney as soon as you are arrested. This should help move the case along more quickly than the normal snails pace Thurston is known for. Don’t add stress by waiting to find out whether your case can be dismissed or criminal charge reduced.
Thurston DUI cases take a long time
While all courts and prosecutor’s offices around the state are different in terms of local rules, Thurston takes it to a new level. They seem to have mastered the art of avoiding the statute of limitations running on your criminal case while also avoiding the required Speedy Trial Rules.
Normally, the Speedy Trial Rule requires the prosecutor to bring an out of custody defendant’s case to trial within 90 days unless the defendant waives speedy trial and asks for a continuance.
For many reasons, defendants and their defense attorneys do waive speedy trial because they want more time to negotiate the criminal case and avoid trial. Typically, trials are not advantageous to the defendant so it’s better to try to negotiate some alternative resolution where the case might be dismissed or reduced at a later date—usually after a period of crime-free behavior.
Pandemic crazy rules
During covid, the cases were so backlogged and people were not allowed in the courthouse (including jurors) so the Speedy Trial Rule could not be followed. In the Emergency Orders, the Washington Supreme Court allowed a “pause” on the Speedy Trial Rule. So, cases just simply continued indefinitely even when the defendant might want to go to trial.
The Speedy Trial Rule Applies Again…or does it?
Once the Emergency Orders changed and Speed Trial was back at play, Thurston County seemed to find a work around. The prosecutor charged the DUI or other criminal case so that the statute of limitations would not run but then delayed bringing the case before the court or jury.
How Is This Possible?
While we are not in agreement, the justification is that if the case was charged during the speedy trial rule “pause” period, Thurston has an extended pause period until the next hearing after the Emergency Orders ended on October 31, 2022.
DUI Statute of Limitations
For example, if you were charged with DUI in July of 2020 and you were never given a follow up court date (pre-trial hearing), that is okay because the statute of limitations only requires that you be charged within 2 years after your arrest for DUI.
If you were arrested on July 1, 2020 and had your Arraignment several days later, that state has met its burden. Basically, the state had two years from July 1, 2020 (your arrest) to decide if it wanted to charge and prosecute you for DUI and it completed the initial phase (charging) prior to July 1, 2022.
In normal times, the state would then have 90 days to bring you to trial if you did not waive this right. However, since we were living in “Emergency Orders” time period until October 31, 2022, the rule did not apply.
Now, the rule is technically in force again but there is a “gray area” for those who were charged prior to October 31, 2022 but have not had another hearing post-October 31, 2022. In those cases, the court can extend your next hearing date to avoid the Speedy Trial Rule from “re-engaging” on your case.
For example, we have a client who was charged with DUI in spring 2022. He was Arraigned and then never given a date for his next hearing. We finally received a Summons for February 2023, which would obviously be after October 31, 2022 so the 90 day Speedy Trial Rule would apply. However, we received notice that the February date has been moved to April 2023. So, we continue to be in Speed Trial limbo. We have no idea how many times the random continuances can continue.
The Court Is Extending The Hearing Dates
It is an interesting conundrum because it is the prosecutor’s duty to bring cases in a timely fashion but it seems to be the court (clerks) extending the hearing dates. For the time being, just be aware that cases charged years ago are still “active” as far as the prosecutor is concerned. Do not just leave the state or ignore your legal responsibilities simply because you haven’t received any notices for a year or more.
Finally, do not forget to update your address with the court and DOL to make sure your Summons is mailed to the correct address. If you do not receive your Summons and miss your court date, a warrant for your arrest can be issued.
If you are facing a DUI or other criminal charge in Thurston County District Court, please contact one of our attorneys for a consultation. You need experience to get the best advice. We are available 7 days a week.