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Washington State DUI Process

If this is the first time you have been arrested for DUI in Washington state, you are probably concerned about what will happen next. At The Law Offices of Smith and White, PLLC, we offer a free initial consultation to explain the DUI process. With office in Tacoma, our lawyers handle DUI cases throughout western Washington state, Pierce County, King County and the Puget Sound area.

Your First Hearing

If this is your first DUI arrest, you probably will not have to go to jail. You will be given a breath test, booked, given paperwork and then you will likely be released until your first court appearance.

If this is your second or third offense, or your BAC is over .15, you may be booked into custody. In this case, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible, since you'll appear before a judge within the next 48 hours. The judge will decide on conditions of your release. The judge may order you to post bond.

Within 20 days of the date of your arrest, you have a right to request a hearing before the Department of Licensing.

Filing of DUI Charges

After you are released, the police report will be forwarded to the prosecutor for your county. Depending on your county, it could be anywhere from a few days to a year before the prosecutor files DUI charges against you. When months pass between the arrest and the filing of charges, some people hope that their case has somehow "fallen through the cracks." However, the prosecutor hasn't forgotten about you. You should contact a lawyer right away to preserve evidence that could help your case.

Paperwork concerning your case will be sent to the address on file at the Washington Department of Licensing. When it arrives, you may only have a few days before you make your first appearance before a judge.

Your First Appearance

At your first appearance, the judge will take an initial look at allegations and determine if they are sufficient to charge you with DUI. The judge will also set conditions for your release. You should have a lawyer represent you because you could be sent to jail or forced to go under house arrest or pretrial probation. With a lawyer advising you, you will probably plead "not guilty" and be released.

Pretrial Hearings

After your first appearance, it may seem like nothing is happening. However, your attorney will be looking at your paperwork, interviewing witnesses, investigating the tests that you took as well as the circumstances of your arrest. Your lawyer may ask for continuances, to provide more time to prepare your case.

Your attorney may have two or three pretrial conferences with the prosecutor. During the last of these, the prosecutor and your lawyer will discuss how your case will proceed: whether there will be a plea bargain or the case will move forward to motions and trial.

Motions and Trial

Motions are like mini trials before a judge. In motions, your lawyer will ask the police officer who arrested you to come in and testify as to the basis of the stop, how the field sobriety test was performed, how the arrest was made and how the breath test was performed. Motions perform two purposes for the defense. First, they give your lawyer a chance to lock the police officer into testimony and view the state's evidence before the actual trial. Secondly, the judge may decide to suppress some evidence or dismiss the case outright if there was a bad stop or police officer misconduct.

At that point, you, your lawyer and the prosecutor will make a final assessment. Experienced counsel on both sides will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case. In the end, you will need to decide whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial. While you have a right to trial, the vast majority of DUI cases are resolved with a plea bargain.

Contact Our Tacoma DUI Law Attorneys

To discuss your case with our Tacoma DUI process lawyers, call (253) 203-1645 or send us an e-mail through this website. We will arm you with the information you need to make sound decisions about your case.

Client Reviews
I was represented by James White and have been nothing but satisfied with the outcome. Jame is very efficient and eliminates much of the stress that the judicial system can place on an offender. I am very grateful to have such a great attorney and owe him my gratitude for helping me when times were rough. Not only is he professional, but he is also someone you can talk to on a personal level. I highly recommend James White and would undoubtedly use him again in the future. If you are in search of an attorney, do yourself a favor and have the law offices of Smith & White represent you. Mike D.
I contacted James after my charge for reckless endangerment, and right from the start he was informative and reassuring. James worked hard to get me the best possible outcome, and was always very quick to return a call or text. He was straightforward and honest with me about my case, explaining both the good and the bad in a way that was reassuring without being misleading. Overall, I highly recommend Smith and White to anyone who is looking for the most professional representation in their legal matters. Matthew B.
Attorney James White was a beacon of hope for me at a time when my options appeared limited and the likeness of a satisfactory resolution seemed close to nothing. Not only was he able to defend me in a specific sticky situation in which I hired him for, I felt as though he also went above and beyond in efforts to provide me with the best outcome possible. His calm and professional demeanor offered such a great assurance to myself and those I care about around me. I am completely grateful for his service and I most definitely recommend Mr. White. Leyasha J.
Derek Smith guided us through a troubling legal situation with absolute professionalism. This was my first experience with a trial situation and Mr. Smith was able to address all of my questions and concerns in a way that helped address some of the fear I had regarding the legal system. Mr. Smith was highly effective during the trial and the result ended up in our favor. Legal troubles are scary and it was great knowing we had a fantastic legal team on our side to help navigate the somewhat confusing situation. My wife and I emphatically recommend this law firm. Steve B.
Mr. Smith was wonderful to work with. He was professional, knowledgeable and effective!! He takes the time to listen, which is amazing and can be a hard quality to find! He is informative and straight forward, which I truly appreciate! He was quite helpful on another matter that I asked his advise on. Thank you!!! Melika