No one wants a DUI on their record. The offense carries a great deal of negative connotation with it for the defendant.
A DUI charge can result in significantly higher insurance premiums and can hurt the driver’s chances of getting a job at a later date once the offense is on the driver’s official record.
It is for these reasons that many drivers hope to get their offense reduced to lesser charge, but is that always possible?
A reckless driving conviction is a lesser charge than a standard DUI and is considered a reduction.
Many drivers prefer a reckless driving conviction because it does not come with required jail time or fines on a first offense in seven years.
Of course, the judge always has the discretion to impose jail time depending on the circumstances, but it is not statutorily required.
If the driver does plead down to a reckless charge, however, and later receives another DUI or related charge, the reckless driving can count against him or her as a “prior” DUI, which will be used to enhance the mandatory minimum penalties on the later conviction.
A reckless driving conviction comes with a mandatory license suspension for a period of 30-days.
If the driver previously lost his or her driver’s license due to the DUI charge, he or she will not receive any additional suspension time on top of what was already “served.”
However, if the driver did not lose his or her license up until that point, the mandatory 30-day suspension period will kick in.
In some circumstances, a driver can drive during this 30-day period but only with an occupational restricted license.
First-Degree Negligent Driving
Another option available to defendants facing a DUI in Washington is a “negligent driving in the first degree.”
What this offense entails is the individual was operating a vehicle in a way that is considered negligent, meaning he or she breached the standard of care that the law believes all drivers should follow when behind the wheel, and because of his or her negligence, the driver endangered either another person or property.
In addition to this negligent behavior, the driver must have exhibited the side effects of having consumed drugs or alcohol.
Under Washington law, a first-degree negligent driving charge is a misdemeanor. The penalties include up to 90 days in jail along with a maximum fine of $1,000.
As is the case in any criminal legal matter, a judge can modify and add to this sentence depending on the circumstances of the case.
Second DUI Offenses
Matters can become much more complicated if the defendant is facing a second DUI offense or later offense.
Many states punish repeat DUI offenders more severely than first-time offenders, and Washington State is no different.
When a judge is looking at sentencing, prior convictions for DUI offenses will stay on someone’s record for seven years.
DUI offenses are not the only convictions that will be used as “priors” when coming up with later punishments.
In fact, if a driver was originally charged with a DUI but pleaded to a lesser offense, such as a “wet reckless” or first-degree negligent driving charge, that conviction will also be counted as a “prior” offense when determining the second or later offense’s punishment.
It is important that defendants discuss this possibility with their attorneys prior to agreeing to any plea bargain.
Is it possible that the defendant can agree to another alternative in lieu of the State prosecuting a DUI charge?
Yes, this possibility does exist in the form of a deferred prosecution.
A deferred prosecution is an agreement by the State to not prosecute a DUI in exchange for a defendant’s agreement to enter into and finish a two-year intensive outpatient alcohol, drug or mental health treatment program.
A treatment program can be pricey and generally runs between $2,000 to $5,000. Health insurance may cover the cost of a program, but not all do.
Once the defendant enters into the agreement, he or she agrees that if the program is not completed or he or she commits a violation of the conditions given by the court, the court will then review the police report to determine guilt or innocence.
This review normally results in a DUI conviction. A defendant only gets one deferred prosecution opportunity in a lifetime.
Therefore, it is extremely important that this option is considered seriously and completed fully.