DUI Court Process

1. DUI Arraignment

The first court hearing in the WA State DUI process is the arraignment. If you miss this hearing, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. At the arraignment hearing, the court will enter your plea (consult with an attorney before entering a plea) and set conditions for your release.

Conditions of release will be based on whether you pose a safety risk to the community and whether you pose a flight risk. To determine this risk, the judge will consider factors such as your past criminal history, your ties to the community, and your breath test result or refusal.

Conditions of release may include:
  • Bail or bond
  • Prohibiting consumption of alcohol and non prescribed mood altering drugs
  • Requiring submission to breath or blood test if requested by law enforcement
  • Requiring that vehicles only be driven with a valid license and state required insurance
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in any personal vehicle
  • Requiring that there be no new criminal violations

The types of conditions that may be imposed vary widely depending on the jurisdiction of the Washington court. For example, Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Olympia, and Lakewood, WA are jurisdictions that aggressively prosecute DUI charges. It is important to have an experienced DUI attorney present at arraignment, to avoid any surprises or unpleasant circumstances.

When will I be Arraigned?

Your arraignment date will depend on the court where your charges are filed. In Tacoma and Puyallup Municipal Court, the arraignment date is normally the next business day after the arrest. In Seattle and King County, the arraignment date is normally within 30 days of the arrest. If you are charged in Pierce County District Court, the arraignment date is typically within two weeks of the arrest date.

2. Pretrial Hearing

The pretrial hearing is the first opportunity to negotiate the individual case. If a favorable negotiation occurs, the case will be resolved at this hearing. However, more than one pretrial hearing may be necessary, in order to give the defense sufficient time for investigation or other preparation. If a favorable negotiation occurs, then the case will be resolved at this hearing. If the case does not resolve during one of the pretrial hearings, an evidentiary hearing date will be set.

3. Evidentiary/Motion Hearing

At the evidentiary or motion hearing, the judge will determine what evidence may or may not be admissible if the case were to go to trial. Often times, the police will testify at this hearing. Your DUI lawyer will have an opportunity to cross examine the police.

The court will then hear legal arguments and issue a ruling about the evidence. It is important that a lawyer argues to suppress evidence. If the hearing is successful, it can result in a favorable settlement, avoiding the risk and time of trial.

4. Trial

If a resolution in a case is not reached, then the case would be set for trial. A DUI trial can be either by jury or by judge. At trial, the defense will argue that there should not be a conviction, based on a lack of evidence in the case. The prosecutor will present evidence through the testimony of law enforcement officers, expert witnesses, and civilian witnesses. Your attorney will then cross examine the State's witnesses and may also present evidence through the testimony of expert and civilian witnesses.

At the end of the trial, the jury or judge will make a finding of either guilty or not guilty. If there is a not guilty finding, the case is dismissed. If the finding is guilty and there was an error in the law or an incorrect evidentiary ruling, then the next step in the DUI process is an appeal to a higher court.

Resolving your Case

The question of how to resolve your case depends on the facts of your case and the deal your attorney is able to negotiate. Cristine Beckwith is a DUI lawyer who can normally negotiate a better result than if the case were to go to trial. In fact, the great majority of first time DUI clients that she represents are able to avoid a DUI conviction.

However, trial experience is essential to a good defense, so it is important that a lawyer has this skill set. Cristine has been a successful trial attorney in the Pierce County, King County, and Thurston County area since 2004 and has a history of proven results.