Legal Law

What to do when you have been accused of driving under the influence

You wake up and realize that the police stopped you last night. You were arrested for DUI and your license was punctured. After giving you a bunch of paperwork, they make you feel at home. Now what?

After the initial shock of being charged with a crime wears off, you will need to start making decisions about what to do. There are two distinct areas you will need to focus on: the DUI court process and the Department of Licensing.

The following steps will help you get off to a good start:

Organize your paperwork

1. Get a file folder to hold all your documents. This may seem unnecessary, but you’ll be glad you did it later.

2. Find your quote. It’s the little yellow piece of paper. This will tell you the date and time of your Settlement. Mark this date on your calendar, as you will need to be in court on that date and time. We will talk about how to prepare for your arraignment later.

3. Find the Department of Licensing hearing request form and read it.

write what happened

While everything is fresh in your mind, write down what happened. The natural human reaction is to write down only the significant events, such as how the officer treated you. However, his lawyer will want to know what he was doing before he started drinking. Start the page with “For my lawyer” and then write the answers to: Where was I? Who was with you? When did you start drinking? How much did you have to eat? How much did you have to drink? What did you drink and for how long? Do you have receipts? Can you get them? List the entire time period including before, during, and after the arrest.

DOL Hearing Request

The Department of Licensing will attempt to suspend your license once the officer sends them a Blood or Breath Test Report. The Department will automatically suspend your license 60 days after your arrest, unless you contest the suspension.

Among all the documentation that the officer gives you will be an Administrative Hearing Request. He only has 30 days to submit his application and it will cost him $200. There should also be a fee waiver form he can fill out if he can’t afford the $200.

A common strategy is to wait until the end of the 30 days before submitting your application. The idea is that since the DOL has to schedule your hearing before the 60 days are up, taking the full 30 days (or to be sure, 29 days) will make it more difficult for them to schedule a hearing on time. Be careful not to wait more than 30 days to request your hearing because the Department will deny your request if it is postmarked more than 30 days from the arrest. Another good idea is to send your application certified. That way, you’ll have proof that you mailed it in a timely manner.

go to court

Going to court can be extremely stressful. However, knowing what to expect can greatly reduce that stress level.

Your first court appearance, called an arraignment, will probably be the only time you have to face the judge alone. Whether he feels he is guilty of the crime or not, he always pleads not guilty. He does not feel that pleading not guilty, if he thinks he is, is lying to the court. What you are really saying is that you want to take the time to: First, see if the State can prove you guilty and Second, even if they can, decide what punishment is appropriate given the facts of what happened and your criminal conduct. history (or lack thereof). A judge will not punish you for taking time to decide what to do about a criminal charge.

An attorney will likely accompany you to the rest of your court dates. Although it is entirely your choice to have an attorney or not, very few people have the skill to successfully defend themselves against any criminal charge, and only one as complex as the DUI charge today.

Having a lawyer help you with your case will often mean you don’t need to talk to the judge, aside from answering questions like: Do you understand what’s going on and is it okay for you? Your attorney should be able to explain to you exactly what the issues are in your case and what will happen in court.

If you don’t understand what is happening in your case or what the issues are, talk to your lawyer. It’s their job to explain everything to you. The mark of a good attorney is one who can keep you informed throughout the process and make you a part of the decision-making process.

You will likely return to court several more times during the course of your DUI case. The number of times you have to come back and what happens on those court dates is a function of the number of legal issues (defenses) in your case and how well plea negotiations are going.

The goal of any competent attorney is to provide you with options on how to resolve your case. These options range from going to a jury trial to pleading guilty to something, preferably to a reduced charge.

Whatever the options are in your case, remember that you are the one who must decide which option to take, so make sure you understand all the ramifications of each option before you decide.

DOL Hearings

The hearing you request from the Department of Licensing (DOL) is very different from the types of hearings or trials you will receive in court. Over the years, our court system has developed rules designed to ensure that everyone receives a fair hearing. The Washington State Legislature has decided that such safeguards are inconsistent with how they want the DOL to operate. As a result, the hearing examiner at a DOL hearing must:

1. Assume the veracity of the evidence of the prosecution or the department. RCW 46.61.506(4)(b). This means that if the officer writes something in your report and you testify that the officer is wrong, then the hearing examiner must believe the officer.

2. If a sworn report is filed with DOL, that report is considered “prima facie evidence” that the officer had “reasonable cause to believe that the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state under the influence of alcoholic beverages or intoxicating drugs…” RCW 46.20.308(8). You may note that the officer’s sworn report doesn’t have to actually say that he was intoxicated (or anything else), rather the law says that the hearing examiner must treat him as if he was.

There are other differences, of course, such as dispensing with the Rules of Evidence (WAC 308-103-120) and not requiring witnesses against you to be present. However, using only the two items listed above means that the only way to prevail in a DOL hearing is: 1. If the DOL cannot schedule the hearing within 60 days, or 2. The officer does not file a sworn report.

license issues

Whether you lose your license due to Department of Licensing action or because you were convicted of a crime, do not drive until the Department of Licensing reinstates you.

The amount of time you will lose your license depends on factors such as: the amount of priors, the level of alcohol in your body, and whether or not there was a breath or blood test refusal. Suspension periods are listed under DUI Penalties [http://www.cahoonlawoffice.com/duipenalties.htm]

The Department of Licensing will notify you in writing of the things needed to get your license back. Generally, this means that you must:

1. Wait for sleep time

2. Pay a fee to be reinstated

3. Show proof of SR22 insurance

4. Show proof of completing an alcohol screening

Getting caught driving before your license is reinstated can be very serious and lead to both jail time and further license suspension.

During the suspension period, you may apply for an occupational or restricted driver’s license. If approved, this temporary license will allow you to drive to and from work. However, it will not replace a normal license, since it authorizes driving only for private purposes.

Hiring an attorney

The most important attribute of a lawyer is the ability to communicate clearly. If you can’t understand what your lawyer is saying, chances are no one else can. Choose someone who knows the law, who can explain it to you in a way you understand, and who is able to balance the ability to negotiate with the ability to aggressively fight for you.

Copyright (c) 2007 Cahoon Law Office – All rights reserved.

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