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DUI FAQs: Seattle-Everett-Bellevue-Tacoma Washington

Will my license be suspended immediately following my arrest for DUI?
No, you have 20 days from date of arrest to apply for an administrative hearing. If you do not do so, your license will be suspended automatically but not until 60 days after the arrest.

I was arrested for DUI a month ago and have not been charged.  Does that mean I won't get charged?
No. There may be several reasons why your case hasn't been filed for a month, or even several months. One reason is that several prosecutor's offices have huge case backlogs and are often months behind in their filing. Another might be that law enforcement is still in the process of investigating – for example, they may be waiting for results of a blood test from the crime lab. Keep in mind that filing delays have no impact whatsoever on your Department of Licensing administrative action.

Can I still drive with the hole punched in my license?
Yes, your license is good for 60 days following arrest. If you apply for an administrative hearing, then your suspension is stayed pending the outcome of that hearing which may exceed 60 days.

My first court appearance is coming up. What can I expect to happen at this hearing?
At your first court appearance, known as the “arraignment,” you will receive a complaint charging you with the specific crime. The prosecutor will ask the court to set conditions of release, which will depend on several factors including the alleged facts of your case, your prior criminal history, community ties, and prior failure to appear history. These conditions may include bail, electronic home monitoring (EHM), or alcohol monitoring devices such as SCRAM or an ignition interlock device. Your arraignment may be your only opportunity to challenge the prosecutor's basis for requesting release conditions, or to make decisions regarding judges that may potentially handle your case. A DUI defense attorney familiar with the customs and practices of that particular court and its prosecutors is your best defense at this critical time.

What is EHM?
Electronic home monitoring, or EHM, is a monitoring system designed to monitor your whereabouts. It is generally considered an alternative to custody for sentencing purposes though it is sometimes imposed as a condition of release. For DUI offenses, EHM may be required by statute; for example, the mandatory minimum sentence for a second DUI offense within 7 years includes 60 to 90 days of EHM. Click here (link to DUI Penalties) to see a comprehensive list of DUI sentencing terms.

What is an alcohol/drug evaluation?
At sentencing for a DUI-related offense, nearly every court requires that the person sentenced complete an alcohol/drug evaluation with a state certified agency. An evaluation normally consists of a face-to-face interview with a counselor, review of the police report and relevant criminal history (if any), and urinalysis test. DUI defense attorney Coleen St. Clair believes that, in nearly every case, it makes sense to complete the assessment voluntarily, prior to resolution of the case. Not only does it reflect well on the person in the eyes of the court, it also aids greatly in negotiating a favorable plea settlement. Coleen works closely with a select group of state certified agencies she has come to know as fair and places his confidence in their assessments.

What is SR-22 insurance and will I have to get it?
SR-22 or “high risk” insurance is required by law under various circumstances, including DOL suspension, or conviction for DUI/Physical Control or Reckless Driving, to show proof of financial responsibility. In the event of a relevant suspension for any period of time,  SR-22 insurance is required for 3 years.

I was arrested for DUI but I don't think I'm guilty; shouldn't I just defend myself?
There is an old saying – “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” What is true for someone who is licensed to practice law must also be true for someone who is not. While you may have the “right” to represent yourself when charged with a criminal matter, the legal pitfalls and potential consequences of conviction make it very ill-advised to do so. This is particularly true with DUI charges, which have potentially serious and long lasting effects including mandatory jail time, license suspension, and possible loss of job. If you are charged with DUI or a related offense you not only need an attorney – you need one experienced in DUI law, and preferably one who is familiar with the customs and practices of the court and jurisdiction where your case is being handled.

I am charged with Physical Control of a Vehicle.  What does that mean?
Physical Control (PC) means that you were allegedly in physical control of a vehicle within two hours of your blood alcohol being at or over .08, or when your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. PC is very similar to DUI, and a person charged with PC faces all the same potential consequences of license suspension and sentencing upon conviction. There are certain important distinctions, however. Unlike DUI, with PC it is not necessary to prove that you drove a vehicle. Also, there may be circumstances with PC where it can be shown that, at the time you were in physical control, the vehicle was “safely off the roadway.”

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St. Clair Defense

You must be confident in the experience and ability of your attorney. Effective representation requires trust, confidence, communication and a shared goal. Your future depends on it. If you have been charged with DUI or a criminal offense in King County, Snohomish County or Pierce County, we can help. Call Seattle criminal defense firm St. Clair Law Offices today to discuss your case. 206-578-2200. Your initial consultation is free.