Violating the DUI laws in Washington State is not particularly hard to do. The reason is that the relevant Washington statute allows for the prosecutor to convict you regardless of whether you meet the per se .08 BAC standard. And, since a DUI charge is a gross misdemeanor (it can be a felony depending on the facts), most people are concerned that they could face “up to 364 days in jail.”
While there is the potential for a long jail sentence, this is highly unusual. However, that does not mean you will avoid jail entirely. If you want to resolve your DUI charge without going to jail or returning to jail (if you were booked in and bailed out), it is critical that you seek the advice of a private DUI defense attorney where you were charged with DUI. You want to hire someone who has handled a lot of cases in the court where you are being charged.
Your Version Vs. The DUI Report
In Washington, there is also the option to establish that the driver was “affected by” alcohol or drugs. And, while you may feel you were not impaired, it is very likely that the investigating officer will write up the report as though you had signs of impairment (odor of intoxicants, bloodshot eyes, poor performance on the FST, etc.) So, it comes down to your version of events against a trusted and trained officer. Guess who tends to win?
DUI Cases Tend To Be Easy For Prosecutors
In Washington, the problem with DUI charges is that there is an unfair advantage for the state. Without the need to truly establish impairment, circumstantial evidence can be used to lead a jury to believe it is possible. Additionally, if you had ANY alcohol, juries will tend to believe that it is possible you were impaired due to the alcohol or a combination of alcohol and THC or a prescription. And, of course, why would a law enforcement officer lie about “odor of intoxicants” or other factors that will be admitted at trial? While WE know lies or exaggerations are regularly included in DUI reports, prosecutors and juries tend to blindly believe law enforcement.
What About The .08 Standard?
Well, the “standard” is really more like a suggestion. Every month, we handle numerous DUI cases that are well below the .08 BAC standard but the state has decided to pursue prosecution. From their perspective, there could be other substances that the driver ingested that are working in concert with a drink or two of alcohol that lead the driver to be impaired. Where the officer does not take blood, this is quite an assumption. However, it leaves the defendant in a bad spot to face a criminal accusation and need legal defense.
What Happens When The Jury Sees The BAC Result?
Many people accused of a DUI below the .08 standard believe the case is a “slam dunk” because the jury will never convict them. That is a bad assumption. Do not forget that the report from one or more investigating officers will be presented as evidence, too. This means the prosecutor gets to “show” you had all of the signs of impairment. Additionally, the officers will likely include reference to swerving, speeding, or other “impaired” type of driving. And, as mentioned before, juries tend to believe that multiple officer reports are pretty solid proof of the DUI allegation.
Will I Go To Jail?
Washington state has some of the toughest DUI laws and penalties in the country. As previously mentioned, it is fairly easy for a prosecutor to convict you of DUI – even when you are not at or above a .08 BAC result. The statute is written to allow the prosecutor to use other evidence to prove you were “affected by” alcohol or other substance to an appreciable degree.
That said, many cities and counties in this state have adopted therapeutic courts to manage root causes of alcohol or drug abuse. This is an attempt to look at the root cause of impaired driving and recidivism as related to DUI charges. Obviously, if you have multiple DUI charges, the state has a vested interest in having impaired drivers off the road for the safety of others. However, they also want to make sure the response to the crime is helping reach that goal.
While some counties will “hammer” someone accused of DUI, there are an equal number of counties that will look at the defendant’s circumstances. This does not mean you will escape jail entirely. If you have a previous DUI conviction (or a reduction from a DUI charge), there are mandatory minimum sentences that the court must impose. However, while the judge must impose a mandatory minimum sentence, this tends to be nowhere near the maximum potential sentence for a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, if your DUI defense attorney is able to negotiate a reduction to something other than a DUI, you may escape the “mandatory” sentences entirely.
Do Not Panic!
While jail is always possible when it comes to a DUI charge, we are very successful in resolving these charges without any jail time. In fact, more than nine out of ten of our clients never return to jail (if they were booked at the time of arrest) because we are very creative and thorough in how we approach DUI defense.
What Factors Impact Whether I Will Go To Jail?
The number one factor is whether you have prior DUI convictions (out of state are also counted). Prior convictions or reductions are treated very harshly in Washington. In fact, if you were arrested for a second or third DUI, you know that we have a “no bail hold” for those who have multiple DUIs. So, if you are arrested on Friday night, you will not be given the option to bail out until Monday.
A “refusal” to submit to the breathalyzer will also put you on the prosecutor’s radar. In fact, a refusal is a special allegation in Washington state and carries additional penalties and a longer license suspension. Many out of state drivers are confused by this because they are not required to submit to a breath test in their home state. Unfortunately, that is no defense and you are presumed to know the law in the state where you are driving. If you refused the BAC, be sure to seek the advice of a private defense attorney right away — ideally before your Arraignment.
Additionally, accidents (injury accidents and property damage accidents) at the time of the DUI arrest will definitely get the attention of the prosecutor! Be prepared for additional conditions of release at your Arraignment and they will likely request bail.
If you can hire a private DUI defense attorney prior to your Arraignment, this is ideal! Your public defender can’t really help because they won’t be assigned until your Arraignment so there won’t be an in-depth discussion of your unique circumstances. With regard to bail reductions, we have often saved our clients more money in bail than they have even paid us for legal fees. So, do not assume you cannot afford a private defense lawyer because, in many cases, you come out financially ahead by avoiding the public defender/high bail route.
While prior DUIs, accidents, and high BAC results will cause some challenges at Arraignment, do not panic. Find an experienced local DUI defense attorney in the area where you are being criminally charged. The attorney in your area will know what arguments to make for conditions of release, bail, and avoiding further jail time. Again, we are highly successful in keeping our clients out of jail.
Kitsap & Thurston Counties
If you are facing a DUI charge in Kitsap or Thurston counties or the cities near those areas, please reach out to our attorneys. We are here to help 7 days a week. (360) 792-1000 If we take your case, we will give you a plan that includes proactive steps you can take to get the best resolution of your DUI charge.
If you are being charged in an area of Washington state where we do not practice, we will do our best to give you a solid referral. With the potential consequences to employment, security clearances, custody, and so many other important factors, a DUI charge is not situation in which you should wait to seek the counsel of private defense.