Seattle Municipal Court DUI Guide

Attorneys Helping those accused of Seattle DUIs

By Geoffrey Burg - 6/5/08
© 2008 Law Offices of Geoffrey Burg, LLC

This article is meant to help people who have been accused of a Seattle DUI and will be in Seattle Municipal Court.

Seattle Municipal Court is a complex court with many nuances and its own way of doing things. We are attorneys who have been helping people accused of Seattle DUIs since 1994 and are familiar with the ins and outs of Seattle DUI cases in Seattle Municipal Court.

This article is a primer of how we have found things to work in Seattle Municipal Court and hopefully gives you more information about your Seattle DUI. If you would like more information or help with your Seattle DUI, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please remember, handling a DUI case is very complicated and the information contained within this article is general and may not apply to the specifics of your case.

You will need to contact an attorney for the specifics of your Seattle DUI case.

Seattle Municipal Court DUI Procedure

First Court Appearance - In most courts, the first court appearance for a DUI is called an arraignment.

In Seattle Municipal Court the first Seattle DUI appearance is called an intake hearing. There are no substantive differences between the two, other than the name.

These Seattle Municipal Court appearances usually occur within 72 hours of the Seattle DUI arrest. Most often they are in the Seattle Justice Center, 600 Fifth Avenue, Seattle on the third floor. However, DUI first appearances are sometimes (particularly on the weekends) held at the King County Jail, 516 3rd Avenue, Seattle. There is a courtroom on the 1st floor of the jail. These two buildings are right next to one another.

At your intake hearing, you will be assigned a pretrial hearing date (next court date) about a month after the intake hearing. The court most likely will also impose DUI conditions of release.

Conditions of Release for DUI Cases - In many courts, such as King County District Court, it is uncommon for prosecutors to ask for conditions of release on a DUI other than "standard conditions" such a no driving without license and insurance, commit no criminal law violations, and not refuse a breath test.

By contrast, in Seattle Municipal Court the Seattle DUI prosecutors routinely request that as condition of release people accused of a Seattle DUI post bail, not drive without an ignition interlock on their vehicle, and in some situations have an alcohol detection device installed in their home and be on house arrest. Likewise, it is not uncommon for judges to impose some of these restrictions, even on first offense DUIs.

Because these restrictions may be requested and imposed in a Seattle DUI case in Seattle Municipal court at the intake hearing, it is particularly important to meet with an attorney ahead of time to find out what you may be facing.

It may also be important to have bail money available and a bail bondsman be at the ready (we have some that we work with and whom do a great job for our clients). The good news is that many bail bond companies are at the first appearance ready to help you if the court imposes bail - however, it is best to be prepared in advance.

DUI Pretrial Hearings - In Seattle Municipal Court a DUI pretrial hearing is usually held within a month of your first court appearance.

Typically, your Seattle DUI pretrial hearing will be held in 1 of 4 courtrooms in the Seattle Municipal Court. You will most likely be in the same courtroom throughout the entire DUI process.

At the pretrial hearing, your Seattle DUI attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor.

DUI negotiations can mean anything from a reduction in the charge, to a dismissal, to the prosecutor saying that no offer will be made. DUI reductions are typically made because of both evidential problems (i.e. the prosecutor may have a hard time proving the case) and equitable reasons (person with no criminal history and a low breath test).

It is not uncommon for there to be more than one Seattle DUI pretrial hearing. This occurs when the attorney asks for a continuance of the hearing. For a continuance to occur, you (the defendant) must waive your right to a trial within 90 days of your first court appearance.

If your case is not resolved at the pretrial, then it can be set on for a jury trial. Many times there is a motions hearing before the DUI trial.

Likewise, a readiness hearing is required in all cases that are to go to trial in Seattle Municipal Court.

Motions Hearings in Seattle Municipal Court DUI Cases - A motions hearing in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case is a hearing prior to trial in which the defendant or prosecution may bring legal motions regarding the case.

For the defense this is often a motion to suppress evidence - such as the breath test, the stop, the detention or the arrest.

In many courts a motions hearing is held prior to the day of trial. In Seattle Municipal Court this is less common.

In Seattle Municipal Court the judges commonly like to have motions the day of trial. However, if the motion may resolve your case, it may be heard before trial.

Readiness Hearings for Seattle Municipal Court DUI cases - In Seattle Municipal Court, a readiness hearing is a hearing a week or two before the Seattle DUI trial in which the prosecutor and defense attorney state whether or not they are ready for trial.

If they are ready, the case gets set on for trial. 
If they are not ready, the case may be continued.

In most courts the defendants have to be present for the readiness hearing. Fortunately in Seattle Municipal Court you do not need to be present for the hearing unless you have failed to appear at a prior court appearance. In these circumstances, the judge will likely order your appearance for the readiness hearing.

You should consult with your attorney about whether or not you should appear at the readiness hearing.

DUI Trial in Seattle - Your Seattle DUI case will be set for trial for a specific date.

You will need to show up on this date.

Unfortunately, you will probably not be the only person set for trial on that day. It is not uncommon for several cases to be set for trial all on the same day. This means that you may end up waiting hours, or potentially even a day or more for your case to actually go to trial.

Once you start your Seattle DUI trial, if there is a breath test in your case and if motions have not been heard, it is not uncommon for these trials to take 2-3 days once you begin.

If there is no breath test in your Seattle DUI and limited motions, then trial will typically take 1-2 days.

You will need to be present for the entirety of the trial.

Jury trials typically proceed in the following order:

  1. Legal motion
  2. Jury selection or "voir dire"
  3. Opening statements
  4. The prosecution's witnesses
  5. Defense witnesses (if any)
  6. Closing arguments.

Conclusion - Hopefully this article has helped to alleviate some of the fear of the unknown about Seattle Municipal Court.

If you have more questions about your Seattle Municipal Court DUI charges, please do not hesitate to contact us, we would be happy help.

Geoffrey Burg, is a Seattle Washington criminal defense attorney with an emphasis in DUI and criminal traffic law.

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