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Washington Court Discusses Fines in DUI Cases

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2021 | DUI

A conviction for a DUI crime may result in significant criminal and civil penalties, including fines. The courts have the discretion to decide whether to impose some fines, while others are mandatory. Generally, mandatory fines may only be suspended in limited circumstances, and if the court suspends such penalties without conducting the required analysis, they may be reinstituted, as demonstrated in a recent Washington matter in which the defendant was convicted of a DUI crime and other offenses. If you are accused of a DUI offense, it is advisable to confer with a Washington DUI defense lawyer to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with numerous crimes, including DUI. The jury convicted him of the charged offenses, and the court imposed numerous costs and discretionary legal financial obligations. Specifically, the court imposed $1,245.00 in DUI fees, fines, and assessments, and $200 for a blood alcohol content fee. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court failed to conduct an individualized analysis as to his ability to pay the fees.

Penalties in DUI Cases

On appeal, the trial court admitted that it failed to evaluate the defendant’s current and future ability to pay the costs and fees associated with his trial and conviction. The appellate court accepted the trial court’s admission and remanded the matter for the trial court to inquire into the defendant’s ability to pay.

The appellate court explained that DUI fees, fines, and assessments are discretionary legal fee obligations. Further, the court noted that RCW 46.61.5055 set forth the penalty schedule for DUI crimes and dictated that the mandatory minimum fines for DUI crimes depended on the number of prior DUI crimes the offender had been convicted of and the offender’s blood alcohol concentration at the time he or she committed the current offense.

The provisions pertaining to minimum fines state that they may not be suspended unless the court determines that the defendant is indigent.  Additionally, other statutes allowing for the imposition of DUI fines indicate that such fines may only be suspended if the offender lacks the ability to pay. Ultimately, the court found that it was appropriate for the trial court to analyze the defendant’s ability to pay and reevaluate the discretionary DUI fees. Thus, while it affirmed the defendant’s convictions, it remanded the matter to the trial court to determine whether the defendant was indigent and therefore not required to pay the DUI fees, fines, and assessments.

Meet with a Skilled Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer

DUI convictions can harm a person’s rights, reputation, and financial status. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable outcome. The skilled Washington criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White are adept at defending people charged with DUI crimes, and if you engage our services, we will work diligently to help you strive for a successful result. You can reach us via our online form or by calling 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.