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The Washington State DUI Process

About DUI Procedure in Washington State

Fundamentally, receiving DUI charges means the state is accusing you of operating a vehicle while impaired by either alcohol or drugs, or both at the same time. In certain circumstances, this can include prescription medication and even over-the-counter drugs too.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious charge and carries with it the threat of multiple penalties, including having your driver’s license suspended, being heavily fined, and having restrictions placed on where you can go if you’re granted permission to drive while under suspension.

If you have been charged with a DUI, it is helpful to understand the procedure that you will have to subsequently navigate. There are two sides to most DUI cases. The first is the administrative side (your DOL Hearing) and the second is the criminal side.

Administrative Process Following a DUI Arrest

The administrative side of a DUI arrest is entirely about your privilege to drive. If you are arrested for a DUI, your driver’s license may be suspended by the Department of Licensing for 90 days or more (years if you have prior offenses).

You only have one week from the date of your arrest to request a hearing to contest this suspension. During the hearing, an examiner will determine if you were arrested lawfully, if the officer had reasonable grounds to pull you over for investigation of an alcohol or drug influence, and if you were properly informed of your implied consent warnings. The officer will also look at whether or not you agreed to take a breath (or blood) test, if the test results were .08% or above, and if the field sobriety test was carried out correctly.

If you contest the suspension and keep your driver’s license, you still may have it revoked as a consequence of a DUI conviction.

Criminal Process Following a DUI Arrest

Washington State will charge you with DUI when a law enforcement officer observes you driving erratically or in a way that causes the officer to suspect you’re impaired. Typically the officer is required to administer a field sobriety test or portable breath test, followed by a mandatory breath or blood test at the station.

Under Washington DUI procedure, there’s a key difference between field tests and the station test: field sobriety tests are voluntary and only exist to provide an officer with cause to arrest you for DUI. You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or a portable breath test (PBT), after which two things will happen: the officer will let you go due to lack of evidence, or they’ll arrest you anyway thinking they have enough to go on.

It’s important to note that refusing to take roadside sobriety tests can only help you; the officer isn’t administering these tests out of curiosity, they’re looking for a reason to arrest you. The results of the PBT aren’t even admissible in court except as evidence that your arrest had lawful cause.

If arrested, you’ll be subjected to a mandatory blood, urine, or breath test at the station. If your blood alcohol level is above .08 as an adult or above .02% as a minor, you’ll be charged with DUI. If you refuse to take the breath or blood test, your driver’s license will automatically be revoked per Washington’s “Implied Consent Law,” which states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle in the state has automatically consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs if a law enforcement officer suspects them of driving under the influence.

Your first court appearance is the arraignment. This mandatory appearance is where you enter a guilty or not guilty plea. Your case will be set for pretrial hearing, where it may be negotiated. If not, your case can be set for motions and trial. Motions can include motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss, motions to suppress the breath test, and more.

DUI Trial Process in Washington State

A DUI trial proceeds like other criminal trials. You can have either a jury trial or a “bench trial.” A bench trial has no jurors; the judge is the sole decider of your verdict and sentence. A jury trial begins with both sides selecting a panel of six jurors in a process called "voir dire.” In a DUI trial, the jury must reach a unanimous decision to either acquit or convict or it becomes a "hung jury,” so jury selection is a key part of your defense strategy.

In both types of trials, both the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to present their evidence and testimony. The prosecution must clearly prove that the accused is guilty of the DUI charge. If they cannot provide sufficient testimony and evidence to support the charges, the judge must dismiss the charges. If the state’s case doesn’t unanimously convince the jury, they must hand down a “not guilty” verdict.

Challenging the Prosecution in a Washington DUI Trial

As a team of experienced and skilled DUI lawyers, we are very familiar with the many ways the prosecution’s case and evidence can be challenged and argued against both outside and inside the courtroom. For instance, we can argue your arrest was unlawful or the breath test was not conducted properly. If the officer did not do their job properly, evidence can be thrown out before trial even begins.

The prosecution will present its case by calling witnesses, including the arresting officer, other witnesses at the scene, and any experts involved in testing the BAC of the defendant. The defense can then cross-examine these witnesses and, if necessary, call its own witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. An aggressive and well-prepared cross-examination of the witnesses by a competent defense attorney could result in the prosecution’s case falling apart.

When to Contact a Washington DUI Defense Lawyer

The penalties for a DUI charge are severe, following offenders for the rest of their lives. The more DUI charges in your history, the more serious this charge will become. It is important to fight this from the beginning to either have the charges dismissed or reduced if possible. In other words, you should reach out to a Snohomish County DUI lawyer as soon as possible in the DUI process. It might even be wise to request a lawyer when an officer pulls you over.

This procedure can be both intimidating and frightening if you’re not familiar with it. The best chance to fight your charges is to work with a legal professional who is familiar with the procedure. With DUIHeroes as your defenders, we can and will guide you through the process from your initial free consultation through every court date. We will be there with you every step of the way. Our Washington DUI attorneys are dedicated to providing our clients with bulletproof legal defense from serious charges. That’s why we average a 90% success rate getting DUI charges reduced or dismissed.

Contact DUIHeroes Today

Our DUI defense team has been solely dedicated to fighting drunk driving-related allegations since our founding. In addition to the quality of legal service that the firm offers, our DUI attorneys in Snohomish County have received extensive training in DUI law. Our insights on DUI defense has been sought out by attorneys nationwide, giving us a platform to help defendants fight these charges across the country.

Our team has beaten serious DUI charges in courts all over Washington, including:

Founding Attorney Jonathan Dichter is a respected authority in the field, a Faculty Member and State Delegate for the National College for DUI Defense, has completed Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) education developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and received the same DUI training given to police officers. Jonathan is trained in marijuana DUIs and always strives to stay up to date with current DUI defense developments and technology. This level of commitment and training allows our firm to provide each of our clients with the top-notch DUI defense that they need and deserve.

In short, we’re the firm you want in your corner.

Given most DUI arrests occur at night, we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are unable to reach the firm immediately, we’ll return your call the same day—within minutes, if possible.

Contact a DUI defense attorney today at 1 (800) DUI-HERO for a free consultation on your case.


"The vision of DUIHeroes is to change the way the public views individuals charged with a criminal offense. And, to change the way they view the criminal defense attorneys who ethically and professionally stand up for and defend the rights of those individuals every day, because those rights are guaranteed to every single one of us. No matter what."

- Founding Attorney, Jonathan Dichter

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