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Washington Court Discusses Deferred Prosecution of DUI Crimes

People charged with DUI offenses are often tried shortly after their arrests. In some instances, however, a person may be able to defer his or her prosecution to take part in a treatment or rehabilitation program. People who successfully complete such programs are often able to have their DUI charges dismissed, but they must comply with the conditions imposed by the law, and if they do not, their deferred prosecution may be revoked. The revocation of deferred prosecution was the topic of a recent Washington opinion. If you are accused of committing a DUI offense, it is smart to speak to a Washington criminal defense lawyer to evaluate your possible options.

The Defendant’s Charges

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with DUI and reckless driving in May 2012. He petitioned the court for deferred prosecution in October 2013. The court granted his petition and entered an order approving a two-year treatment plan and deferring the prosecution of the matter for five years. The order also dictated that the defendant had to totally abstain from the use of alcohol or illicit drugs for the duration of the deferred prosecution and abide by the law.

Allegedly, in January 2018, the State moved to revoke the defendant’s deferred prosecution on the grounds that he was charged with hit and run, reckless endangerment, and DUI. The trial court entered an order granting the petition, but the defendant appealed, and the trial court’s ruling was ultimately reversed. The State then petitioned the court of appeals for discretionary review.

Deferred Prosecution Under Washington Law

On review, the appellate court reversed the lower court ruling and affirmed the trial court ruling revoking the defendant’s deferred prosecution. The State argued that the applicable laws demonstrated that the legislature intended for district courts to have the authority to revoke deferred prosecution at any point during the five-year time prior to dismissal. The defendant argued, however, that the statute was ambiguous and, therefore, should be interpreted in his favor, concluding that the deferred prosecution could only be revoked during his two-year treatment period.

The court agreed with the State, rejecting the defendant’s reasoning. The court stated that the defendant’s interpretation of the law would lead to absurd outcomes, leaving the courts powerless to impose penalties for violations of deferred prosecution orders that happened outside of the treatment period but prior to dismissal. The court explained that the statute provided that if a petitioner is then convicted of a similar offense during the time he or she is in a deferred prosecution program, the court may remove the matter from the deferred prosecution file. Thus, the court revoked the defendant’s deferred prosecution.

Speak to a Trusted Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

People who are convicted of DUI offenses often face both criminal and civil penalties, but in some instances, they may be able to take measures to have their charges dismissed. If you are accused of a DUI crime, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted DUI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White are adept at helping people charged with crimes defend their rights, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or by calling 253-203-1645 to set up a conference.

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