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A Washington City’s Adoption of a DUI Law Doesn’t Affect District Court Jurisdiction

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2018 | DUI

Criminal defendants are commonly prosecuted in the court that has jurisdiction over the area where the crime allegedly occurred. If the state fails to identify the proper court to prosecute charges against a defendant, the defendant can move to have the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. In some cases, however, it may not be clear which court may properly exercise jurisdiction over a matter.

In Washington v. Taylor, a Washington Court of Appeals recently clarified that a city’s adoption of the DUI statute did not grant the city sole jurisdiction for prosecuting any violations of the statute. Rather, the court held the District Court for the county where the violation occurred properly had jurisdiction over the matter. If you are charged with a DUI, it is important to retain a knowledgeable Washington DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Defendant’s DUI Trial

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped for suspicion of DUI in Spokane. He failed field sobriety tests and was charged with a DUI. The defendant was tried before a jury in Spokane County District Court and was subsequently found guilty. He appealed, arguing the Spokane County District Court lacked jurisdiction over his case. Specifically, he noted that when Spokane enacted its Municipal Code it adopted several state statutes, including the DUI statute. The defendant alleged the adoption of the DUI statute granted the Spokane Municipal Court with sole jurisdiction of all DUIs that occurred within the confines of the city. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, after which he sought discretionary review.

Jurisdiction Over DUI Charges

The court noted the Washington legislature granted district courts and superior courts concurrent jurisdiction over all misdemeanors and violations of city ordinances committed in their particular counties. If a city has a municipal court, however, violations of city ordinances are required to be prosecuted in that court. Here, the court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction over his case based on Spokane’s adoption of the DUI statute. Rather, the court found that the DUI statute was not a city ordinance and it did not become one when it was adopted by Spokane. As such, the court ruled that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction over the matter and affirmed the prior ruling.

Consult an Experienced Washington DUI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a DUI, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible to help you retain your rights. The knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith and White can help you formulate a defense to the charges you face. Contact our offices at 253-363-8662 or via the online form to schedule a consultation.