Delay In Criminal Charging Is Common
Most people are quite surprised to learn that a large percentage of criminal cases don’t get “off the ground” until many months after an incident occurred. This is even true with DUI cases. If you are alleged to have driven impaired, your blood draw may not be returned from the toxicology lab for more than a year. The state has two years to bring charges so this is no problem for a prosecutor.
What Should I Do In The Meantime
While the state has no concerns while they wait for evidence, you do have some potential serious consequences. First, you may miss applying for your civil hearing. Yep, in some cases, there is a civil and a criminal consequence. If you miss the window for a hearing, you will be facing the consequence without ever having any representation. This can happen quite easily when the civil side begins a year or more before your criminal case.
There is also the potential that, unbeknownst to you, a warrant for your arrest has been issued. We see this all the time. While the state waits for evidence, the accused moves on with life and may even move locations. Unfortunately, the court or DOL does not have an updated mailing address so your Summons for court never makes it to you. When your Arraignment date comes and you do not appear, the court will issue a warrant. That is a terrible way to start a criminal case. And, no, failure to receive the Summons is not a defense!
Monitoring The Situation
We began offering a low cost monitoring service for the above reasons. For anyone who wants to move on with their life or has the potential to be re-stationed in the military, you need to have someone checking on the potential criminal charge. This way, you will be notified of any upcoming criminal hearings, possible dismissal or “declined” charging by the prosecutor, as well as avoiding a warrant.
How Likely Is A Delay
This is really county and city-specific. Some jurisdictions are more backed up than others and this can change quickly with staffing shortages. For example, Kitsap recently had three prosecutors out on maternity leave. This meant that felony-level prosecutors had to drop down to district court and just cover the basics. We are fairly confident that charging is getting more backed up. When we were checking on the status of a case, our legal assistant was told they are over 300 cases behind and had not yet seen any reports for our client. Furthermore, we had one client charged 18 months post-incident due to the crime lab delay. So, delays are very possible and the risks that come with those delays are real.
If you had contact with law enforcement or were arrested and told the case was dismissed or “declined,” get in touch with a local experienced DUI or criminal defense attorney right away. You can reach our attorneys 7 days a week. (360) 792-1000