If you were recently investigated or arrested for a DUI or Physical Control charge in Kitsap County, you were likely released and told to “wait for something in the mail.” We have received calls from many people wondering whether they actually need to worry about their potential criminal charge. Our answer is, unequivocally, yes!
Maybe I Just Got Lucky
We sure wish that was the case. Unfortunately, there is a very clear explanation as to why many people are in your boat — which could be taking on water if you ignore the actual gift…time. Due to a recent prosecutor vs. judges squabble, you stand to benefit with a bit of time to put yourself in a much better light before your arraignment. You will need to hire a private attorney to provide you a blueprint for the plan because, otherwise, you will not be assigned a public defender until your arraignment, which is too late to take your important proactive steps.
Why Did I Get This Extra Time?
Without going into too much detail, the latest argument arose out a Kitsap County District Court ruling from approximately eighteen months ago. There was some confusion and subsequent dispute about how the Kitsap District Court Judges were currently interpreting that decision following the Washington legislature’s “fix” to the basis of the dispute. The district court deputy prosecutor did not seek a motion for clarification but, instead, felt a recent ruling created problems with their prosecution of DUI cases and required drastic measures.
During this conflict, the prosecutor decided that all Kitsap DUIs should be filed in Superior Court. This move effectively wiped away the option for Deferred Prosecutions and all other alternative resolutions other than Drug Court. Clearly, that did not sit well with the Defense Bar. Thankfully, with the “stand off” creating many challenges and potential constitutional violations, a member of the Defense Bar filed a motion for clarification that essentially put all the toys back in the District Court sandbox. So, that is where we are today.
What If I Was Not Told To Appear In Superior Court?
During this dispute, a number of DUI defendants were arraigned in Superior Court. We do not know if the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office will dismiss the case in Superior Court and re-file the case in District Court. If the case is not suitable for a deferred prosecution or a PDA, it is possible that the prosecution will remain in Superior Court. We imagine there will be legal challenges to that but there is nothing formal at this time.
For those who were never told to appear in Superior Court for arraignment, you were likely told to “watch your mail” for a summons. We were shocked at how many people were given this instruction. It appears that the Sheriff’s Office deputies were given some specific instructions to avoid sending all new DUIs to Superior Court. Typically, the deputy will book (finger prints/photo) DUI suspects and, if they bail out or are released without bail, they are told to return to the next 1:30 arraignment calendar. And, if the person is held without bail (defendant has multiple DUIs or a warrant), the defendant will remain in jail and appear at the in-custody arraignment calendar.
So, if you are in the “watch your mail” limbo, be very careful with your time. Number one, if that summons does not get to you (you move, the address on your license is incorrect, or the officer wrote the address down incorrectly), you will miss your court date and have a warrant for your arrest. No excuses. Since there is no current case number, you cannot “change your address” with the court. You will just be hoping the document makes it to you. However, if you want to avoid the risk of a warrant, read below about the option to “monitor” the case for a low fee.
Where Will I Be Charged?
When the time comes, you are almost certainly going to be criminally charged in District Court, which is the proper jurisdiction for gross misdemeanors. If there was an injury accident involved while the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol, then it could end up in Superior Court and charged as a felony. If you are unsure, the best course of action is to hire a private DUI defense attorney so you can get a strategy. Even when cases were likely to be charged in Superior Court, we have been successful in reaching the prosecutor to discuss specific relevant facts that warrant a charge in District Court. If you call an experienced criminal defense attorney early in the investigation or immediately after arrest, there are more options that could work in your favor.
How Will I Know When I Am Supposed To Go To Court?
If you were released after the investigation, booked into jail but released and told “look for something in the mail,” or appeared for an Arraignment but told your case was “declined” and you were free to go, you REALLY need to get an experienced DUI attorney to guide you. When people ignore this “limbo” period, they tend to get warrants issued for their arrest because they missed a summons. The biggest problem is that, in these circumestances, a summons is likely to come anywhere from 6 months to 18 months post-investigation or arrest. It is no surprise that people move or are deployed and never get notice. Unfortunately, that is no excuse under the law so your warrant will still be issued.
If you prefer to avoid the risk of an arrest warrant, our firm can monitor the situation for you. We do this for a small legal fee. This way, in the event your case is never charged within the statute of limitations, you do not owe us more money. If you do end up criminally charged, you can choose to hire us for the defense of your criminal case.
Many of our clients choose the monitoring option because it takes away some of the uncertainty. Additionally, where a case could be charged as a felony (injury accident etc.), we can often discuss any mitigating factors with a deputy prosecutor before the final charging decision is made. We might also strategize with our client prior to the charging to improve the odds of a lower level charge or a better outcome for the resolution. There are never any guarantees as far as outcomes but we are always using any “downtime” prior to a charging decision to make our clients appear in the best light to a prosecutor and judge.
If you are facing a DUI or other criminal charge in Kitsap or Thurston counties or the cities in those areas, please reach out to our attorneys. We are here 7 days a week to help. 360-792-1000