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If you are charged with a Washington State DUI/DWI or physical control charge and diagnosed with a severe substance abuse disorder (or suffering from mental health issues) you may be eligible to petition the court for a “deferred prosecution” on your case.
While a deferred prosecution requires strict compliance with a number of conditions and five years of probation – if you successfully comply with the terms, at the end of the probation period the charge(s) against you is dismissed.
A deferred prosecution can help you avoid serving jail time, losing your license, and paying SR-22 insurance.
Entry into a deferred prosecution program can be the best option for some clients in certain circumstances. An experienced Washington DUI attorney can help you determine if a deferred prosecution is a good option for you on your case.
To be eligible for a deferred prosecution you must meet certain legal requirements. Currently, these legal requirements include:
- You cannot have ever been granted a deferred prosecution before in your life. RCW 10.05.010.
- You must be diagnosed with a severe substance abuse disorder or with mental health issues. RCW 10.05.020.
- You must enroll in the recommended drug, alcohol, or mental health treatment program and successfully comply with all treatment recommendations. RCW 10.05.020.
While there are significant benefits to a Washington deferred prosecution, it is not something to enter into without serious consideration. There are a number of factors to consider carefully and discuss with an experienced Washington DUI attorney before you make a decision to enter into a deferred prosecution. These include:
- You may only enter one deferred prosecution in a lifetime. For this reason, we often advise against entering a deferred prosecution on a first offense.
- You must give up the opportunity to fight your case and waive all your rights associated with proceeding to trial. If you are to be found out of compliance with the terms of the deferred prosecution, the judge would simply read the police reports in your case and find you guilty of the original DUI charge.
- Even if successfully completed and dismissed, a deferred prosecution will be considered a “prior offense” if you were to receive another Washington DUI.
- By entering into a deferred prosecution you make a legal record that you have a severe substance abuse disorder (alcoholic or drug addicted) or suffering from mental health problems which can have long term consequences.
- You must remain abstinent from alcohol and non-prescribed, mood altering substances during the 5 years. You would be subject to random urinalysis tests through both your treatment agency and probation to confirm your abstinence.
- The treatment program is time consuming and requires a sincere commitment to sobriety. For some people, it can be a life saver. However, without a sincere belief that you need and will benefit from the treatment program, it can be difficult to comply.
- You are responsible for the costs of treatment and probation. All or some of your treatment costs may be covered by insurance. Probation costs are typically over $1000 and we have seen them as high as $2,400. Courts will generally allow any probation costs to be paid over time with a monthly payment.
- You will be required by the Washington State Department of Licensing to only drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device for 1, 5, or 10 years. The length of time will depend upon the number of times the DOL has required you to install an IID in the past.
- Although the case is dismissed at the end of the five-year probation-period if you are in full compliance, there will always be a record of the case and some still consider it an "adverse finding."
Substance abuse disorder (alcohol or drug) based deferred prosecutions all required compliance with a two year state certified treatment plan that follows a strict protocol defined by RCW 10.05.150.
These requirements include:
- Total abstinence from alcohol and all other non-prescribed, mind-altering drugs.
- Attendance at a minimum of 2 self help recovery support group meetings per week. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most common such support group.
- Completion of a three phase treatment program.
- Phase 1: intensive outpatient treatment consisting of a minimum of seventy-two hours of treatment in a maximum of twelve weeks.
- Phase 2: not less than weekly approved outpatient counseling, group or individual, for a minimum of six months following the intensive phase of treatment.
- Phase 3: not less than monthly outpatient contact, group or individual, for the remainder of the two-year deferred prosecution period.