After being charged with a Tacoma DUI, there are a few decisions that need to be made. The first is whether to hire an attorney or go pro se (represent yourself). Having legal representation is always wise. If you can’t afford to hire private counsel, you can be screened to determine if you are eligible for a public defender. An attorney will be able to spot any potential issues in your case, negotiate with the prosecutor for an amended charge, any argue motions on your behalf, and represent you at trial.
There is both a civil aspect and a criminal aspect to a Tacoma DUI, or Seattle DWI. The civil aspect deals with Department of Licensing (DOL) and a license suspension. The DOL only gives you 20 days to decide on whether to request a hearing. The paper work should have been given to you by the arresting officer or can be found online. The hearing cost is $375 and once paid, is nonrefundable. If you chose not to request a hearing, or the hearing examiner rules against you in your drunk driving DOL hearing, your license will be suspended for 90 days if you gave a breath sample (below .15) and 1 year if you refused BAC testing, or had a BAC over .15. This suspension will begin 60 days after the incident day (the day you were stopped for DUI).
You can choose to not drive during the suspension or apply for an Ignition Interlock License which will allow you to drive during the suspension. If you chose to drive, the ignition interlock device must be installed in your car. You will also need to get SR 22 insurance, and apply to the DOL for the ignition interlock license. This final step can take up to 2 weeks, so plan well ahead of your suspension date.
The standard of proof in a civil hearing is a preponderance of evidence which means that it is more likely than not that you were driving while affected by intoxicants which results in a BAC of .08 or higher for alcohol and a blood level of 5 ng/ml or higher for marijuana. This very low burden allows for the DOL to win most of these hearings. Unfortunately, a hearing must be requested well in advance of obtaining the police report (the evidence relied on for the hearing). For this reason, it is difficult to determine the strength of a case before having to schedule and pay for the hearing.
The criminal side of a Tacoma DUI involves multiple court appearances. This first court appearance is the arraignment. At this hearing, a plea of not guilty will be entered and conditions of release imposed. Standard conditions of release include no consumption of alcohol, no driving without valid license and insurance, no mood altering drugs not prescribed by a physician, and do not refuse a breath of blood test if asked by law enforcement.
The court will impose bail if there is a concern as to whether a defendant will return for future court appearances. In addition to bail, conditions can consist of pretrial probation monitoring, ignition interlock device, and electronic home monitoring (EHM). The conditions imposed directly correlate to the facts of each case. The court will impose harsher conditions of release if there is a history of prior DUI’s, a high BAC, or an accident. These conditions will remain in effect until the case resolves or a motion is brought to address them. Similarly, more restrictive conditions can be put in place in the future if there is noncompliance with these conditions. A courtroom will be assigned for the next hearing which is a pretrial conference; all future court appearances will take place in that courtroom.