Ten Tips to Avoid A Washington DUI Conviction

It is 9:00AM on a Sunday morning; you awake with a splitting headache (which was to be expected) and a DUI ticket (which was not). You try to think back on the previous night, but your mind keeps spiraling forward to all the horror stories you have heard regarding the expensive penalties and the stigma of DUI. Are you going to jail? How will you get to work? What the heck is an Arraignment? You fight the impulse to panic and resolve to do something productive. So, you go online and begin to research Washington DUI’s or DUI’s in Clark County or some combination of search terms which through the magic of the internet brought you to this article. As a practicing Washington DUI attorney and having represented over 500 clients charged with DUI over the last five years, there are some initial actions that fundamentally help in a DUI defense case. This article is meant to serve as an attorney’s “wish list” for the client’s actions following the incident and before our initial consultation. Take it as advice for the “morning after” and your first 10 steps in mounting a successful defense:

1.) Write yourself an e-mail which includes everything you can remember from your first drink until your release from custody. The e-mail portion is important as you will have a contemporaneous statement (with a date and time on it) which you and your attorney can refer back to over the days, weeks and months following the incident. The arresting officer has or will be preparing a police report which he or she can refer to over time. This report gains credibility due to the proximity of the narrative to the incident. Your e-mail will do the same thing. Include every detail which you believe would be relevant. Write the e-mail in chronological order and try to include as many details as possible. It is okay for you to not know specific terms in relation to the DUI. In fact, it actually adds to the credibility of the record if it does not appear you have done a ton of research prior to writing.

2.) Take pictures. Once you clear your head and retrieve your vehicle from impound it is important to take pictures of both the location you performed field sobriety tests and (potentially) the state of the roadway in the area you were stopped. Roadway shots are most important if the character of the roadway is changing (construction zone). If your camera has a date and time function which imprints both on the photograph itself please use this function for the documenting rationale listed above. Take more pictures than you think are necessary as your attorney will likely choose one or two which they believe best illustrates a potential defense (so give them a good variety of shots to choose from).

3.) If you had passengers in your vehicle or know the folks following your vehicle, ask them to send an e-mail (preferably as soon after the incident as possible) with their recollections and contact information regarding what they witnessed.

4.) If your driving was caused by a mechanical issue in your vehicle, take the vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible and secure a diagnosis of the issue. Have this diagnosis on the mechanic’s letterhead with the date of the assessment.

5.) If you were taking any prescription medication the day of the DUI arrest, photocopy the labels along with your recollection as to when the medication was taken, in what quantity it was taken, why it was taken, and for how long you have been taking the medication.

6.) Understand that there are two “fronts” to the DUI war. After staring at your Citation and breath test form for hours, lamenting every bad turn last night took, you will eventually notice that besides the expensive tow form, you additionally have paperwork from the Department of Licensing. Please note that the Hearing Request form needs to be mailed within 20 days of your incident date (not your Arraignment). Additionally, please note that the diamond-shaped hole in your license does not invalidate the license. It only signifies a pending administrative action.

7.) In nearly all circumstances you will be benefitted by having an attorney assist you through the DUI process. The attorney can range from a public defender to an attorney who only accepts DUI cases (in Washington an attorney cannot hold themselves out as an “expert” – though some may tell you they are). Choosing the right attorney for most people involves feedback of friends and family who have used or know of others who have benefited from the attorney’s services. Often a “gut feeling” can arise from the phone conversation with the attorney’s office and/or a sit-down consultation. I recommend that folks meet with at least two attorneys if not more to determine the right fit for them. Each attorney has a distinct style and approach to DUI cases. Most attorneys will happily answer questions regarding their experience with DUI cases (such as how often they defend DUI’s; their thoughts on your particular situation; and the potential steps you can take to benefit your case).

8.) If this is your second DUI arrest, it is important to determine exactly when your prior offense occurred. Washington calculates DUI “priors” for sentencing purposes as a previous DUI with an incident date within 7 years of your most recent incident. PLEASE NOTE: A DUI that has been amended to “Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree” or “Reckless Driving” does count as a “prior” offense for sentencing purposes on your new charge.

9.) If you had a previous attorney on your last DUI charge, contact your former attorney as soon as possible. This does not obligate you to re-hire your former attorney, however the attorney can serve as a valuable resource to the specific steps necessary to maintain a semblance of compliance with your previous case obligations.

10.) If you are on a Deferred Prosecution and you receive a new DUI, it important to refer to the terms of the Deferred Prosecution agreement you previously entered. Under the terms of most Deferred Prosecutions you are (1) required to provide a breath sample, (2) inform your probation officer, and (3) inform your treatment provider if a new offense occurs. While there are varying conditions dependent on the county your Deferred Prosecution was entered in, I have never seen a client not benefit by at least contacting their treatment provider and entering some type of relapse prevention prior to Arraignment.

Disclaimer: This information does not create an attorney/client relationship. Every Washington DUI case has specific individual facts. You should not rely on any of this information without speaking first to a qualified Washington DUI attorney. For more information visit http://www.vancouverlaw.net/dui.html.