Washington DUI Court Process

Court Tips:

  • Be present for all court dates.
  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Dress is at least “business casual”.
  • We will always be with you in court.

Everyone charged with a Washington state DUI / DWI, must go through a legal process in court and with the Department of Licensing. 

At the beginning, all people accused of a DUI have a right to be notified of the charges they are facing.

The legal process may end with a trial to determine guilt or innocence. However, there are many important steps between these two events.

Burg/Fulton: Trusted, Experienced, Ready to Help!
Burg/Fulton: Trusted, Experienced, Ready to Help!

Below is the general process that most courts use. While some courts give different names to similar hearings – these are the typical court appearances that will occur in a criminal case.

It is very important to be present for all hearings unless your lawyer specifically tells you otherwise.

Glblaw court process diagram

Arraignment (Intake):

At arraignment, the judge will impose conditions that you must abide by while the case is pending to avoid being taken into custody. The judge may also require that you post bail/bond to remain out of jail while the case is pending.

Courts vary widely for the conditions that they impose at arraignment for Washington state DUIs.  Some courts, such as Seattle Municipal Court, routinely impose the ignition interlock device at the arraignment for high breath tests, refusals, and prior offenses.  Other courts take a more lenient approach.  Some courts, such as those in Kittitas county, will impose a provision to meet with a probation officer.  Most courts have prosecutors present for DUI arraignments, while others do not.  Because courts vary widely, we believe it is important to meet with an attorney prior to your arraignment to try and determine what is likely to happen.

You and your attorney will have an opportunity to object to conditions of release and bail/bond. An experienced attorney can advise you on the expected conditions of release and the likelihood of a court setting bail in your case and help you prepare to post it quickly so that you can avoid spending any time in jail. You will receive notice of future court hearings at your arraignment. Generally, the next hearing scheduled will be a pre-trial hearing, but in some courts you may also be given notice of additional dates such as a date for trial.

Pre-Trial Hearings (Case Settings, Case Scheduling):

At arraignment, a pre-trial hearing will be scheduled to allow the court to monitor the progress and resolve issues that might arise while your case is pending.

It is very common to ask that a case be “continued” at a pre-trial hearing to give the parties sufficient time to fully investigate and negotiate your case. In some courts, the pre-trial hearing is the best opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor on your case.

There may be a designated negotiating prosecutor present (not in the courtroom, often in a room just outside the courtroom) who has authority to make decisions on your case and is prepared to discuss the case with your attorney.

In addition, the following things may occur at a pre-trial hearing:

  • Entry of a negotiated settlement or disposition and sentencing if appropriate.
  • Issues involving access to evidence, witness interviews, and the investigation may be settled by the judge.
  • Conditions of release may be modified and the court may revoke a release if information is presented by the prosecutor that you have violated the conditions imposed at arraignment.
  • If the case will be proceeding to trial, the court will schedule a trial date and possibly a motion hearing.

Motion Hearings:

The following are examples of some legal motions that we may bring in your Washington case:

  • Motion to dismiss for an unconstitutional delay in filing charges.
  • Motion to dismiss for failure of the government to preserve evidence.
  • Motion to dismiss for violation of your right to a speedy trial.
  • Motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence of a crime (Knapstad).
    • Motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause to stop or seize.
    • No allegation of a traffic infraction.
    • Alleged lane travel not a traffic violation (State v. Prado case).
    • Informant tip insufficient to support stop.
    • No reasonable suspicion a crime has occurred.
    • Law enforcement officer did not have authority to perform stop.
  • Motion to dismiss for unlawful detention.
  • Motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause to arrest.
    • Motion to dismiss for governmental misconduct.
    • Motion to suppress evidence for violation of the 4th amendment (invalid search).
    • Improper entry into home/property by law enforcement.
    • Improper search of vehicle.
    • No authority to request identification.
  • Motion to suppress evidence for violation of access to counsel.
    • Failure to advise of right to counsel in language easily understood (State v. Prok).
    • Failure to provide privacy.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of invocation of right to attorney.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of invocation of right to remain silent.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of Corpus Delicti.
  • Motion to suppress involuntary statements.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of field sobriety tests.
    • Not performed voluntarily.
    • Not administered properly.
    • More prejudicial than probative.
  • Motion to limit testimony regarding field sobriety tests.
    • Not administered properly.
    • Failure to establish expertise.
    • More prejudicial than probative.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of refusal to perform field sobriety tests.
    • Driver requested attorney first.
    • More prejudicial than probative.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of portable breath test.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of a refusal to perform a breath/blood test.
    • Ernest attempt.
    • Not relevant.
    • More prejudicial than probative.
    • Inaccurate/misleading implied consent warnings.
    • Failure to clarify implied consent warnings.
  • Motion to suppress a breath test.
    • Inaccurate/misleading implied consent warnings.
    • Failure to clarify implied consent warnings.
    • Improper coercion.
    • Interference with right to independent tests.
    • Failure to comply with foundational requirements of breath test:
      • Operator not properly certified.
      • Breath test not administered on an approved device.
      • Failure to perform mouth check.
      • Failure to comply with 15 minute observation period.
      • Failure to remove mouth jewelry.
      • Improper temperature of simulator solution.
      • No verified internal standard.
      • Breath samples do not agree to within +/- 10% of mean.
      • Simulator external standard outside of .072 - .088.
      • Failure to establish required blank tests of .000.
      • Failure to follow required procedures after invalid sample.
  • Motion to suppress evidence of blood test.
    • Blood test evidence obtained in unlawful search.
    • No lawful authority to request blood test.
    • Failure to follow policies/protocols in taking, storing, analyzing blood evidence.

Readiness Hearings (Omnibus, Jury Call):

A readiness hearing is generally scheduled anywhere from several days to several weeks prior to trial.  At this hearing both parties inform the court of their “readiness” for trial.  Your case may be continued at this hearing if for some reason the case is not ready to proceed to trial as scheduled (witnesses unavailable, additional evidence discovered, lack of courtroom availability, etc.).  Additionally, your case could be resolved at this hearing with a negotiated disposition and sentencing if appropriate.

Trial:

While most cases are resolved prior to a trial, some cases proceed to a full trial. If it is appropriate for your case to proceed to a trial, you may have the option of choosing between a jury trial and a bench trial. A jury trial consists of six (misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor) or twelve (felony) randomly selected people from the community sitting as the “fact finder” who will decide if you are guilty or not guilty of the crime(s) charged. A bench trial allows the judge to be the sole “fact finder” in your case. In general, we recommend a jury trial for most criminal cases. This is a decision you can make after weighing the pros and cons with your lawyer.

In a trial, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime(s) charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact finder (the judge or jury) will hear the admissible evidence and be instructed in the applicable law. The judge or jury will then make a decision determining if the government successfully proved each element beyond a reasonable doubt (guilty) or failed to (not guilty). If the jury cannot agree on this decision, a hung jury results and a mistrial is declared. A jury must make a unanimous decision for a verdict to result in a criminal case.

Sentencing:

In Washington state criminal cases, sentencing decisions are made by judges. This is true even if you are found guilty at a jury trial - the judge who oversaw the case would impose any sentence without input from the jury.

At sentencing, the prosecutor will make a recommendation to the judge. Unless there is a negotiated resolution on the case that requires an “agreed” sentence recommendation between both parties, you and your lawyer will have an opportunity to make a sentencing recommendation to the judge as well. These are just recommendations, and a judge will always have the authority to impose whatever sentence he or she believes is appropriate in your specific case.

You have a right to speak on your own behalf at sentencing – but not an obligation to. It may also be appropriate to have friends or family provide letters or appear to speak on your behalf at sentencing.

Facing a DUI Charge in Washington State?

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