DUI/DWI Defense


DUI Attorney BellinghamI got a DUI last night, now what do I do?

DUIs are stressful, complicated and expensive. When you are charged with a DUI or related offense, not only are you at risk of going to jail for up to a year with fines of up to $5,000, there are also loads of additional consequences including electronic home detention (EHD) following jail, potential loss of driving privileges, alcohol and drug treatment, SR-22 (High Risk) insurance, ignition interlock requirements and a 10 year bar on your ability to travel to Canada.

But you can avoid some or all of these penalties and restrictions with the help of a good attorney with experience defending DUIs and other criminal offenses.

DUIs in Washington

An arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI) calls for the immediate attention of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. I have been defending Washingtonians accused of DUI and other charged since 1998. At my Bellingham, Washington office, I vigorously and competently defend clients facing drunk driving charges and other moving violation. Contact me today for honest, aggressive, compassionate representation.

During my more than 20 year career I have handled hundreds of DUI & DWI cases. Every case is different and it is important to have an attorney who understands the process involved with a successful DUI defense. I will take the time to understand your situation, concerns and unique circumstances. My experience allows me to quickly assess your case, explain your options, and prepare a strategy for your defense. I believe in open, honest and regular communication. In other words, your phone calls will be returned promptly. I care about my clients and I am dedicated to pursuing the best outcome in every case.

The possible consequences of a DUI conviction include jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, increased insurance costs and a bar to be able to enter Canada for at least 5 yers. A DUI is not the end of the world. Many of these consequences can be reduced or avoided altogether with the help of a knowledgeable defense lawyer. From dismissal on pretrial motions to voluntary treatment programs to plea agreements meant to avoid time spent in jail, it is vital to have an attorney dedicated to protecting your interests.

I also appreciate and address the unique problems facing Canadian clients charged with DUI and U.S. residents who travel regularly to Canada. A conviction for DUI, or even a reduced charge such as Negligent Driving in the First Degree or Reckless Driving may prevent admission to Canada for ten years!

Administrative Suspensions and Hearings before the Department of Licensing (DOL)

One aspect of DUIs that most people don’t understand is that the Department of Licensing (DoL) can and will act independently of the Courts to suspend your privilege to drive for from 30 days to seven years. Merely getting your DUI reduced to a charge that won’t suspend your license is only a partial victory if you don’t prevail at the DOL hearing.  As of January 1, 2019 the DoL has reduced the time within which you can request a hearing from 20 days to just 7 days! This means you only have a week to file the hearing request to postpone and, hopefully, avoid a loss of your driving privilege.  And remember, the public defender cannot represent you in a DoL hearing.

Finally, unless you qualify for a fee waiver, you must pay the $375 hearing request fee. You can request a waiver by completing and submitting a fee waiver form. You automatically qualify if you are assigned a public defender. If you do submit a waiver, do not send a check until they deny your fee waiver request.

DUI / DWI Deferred Prosecutions

A lot of clients and potential clients ask me about a Deferred Prosecution as a way of resolving their DUI charge.  While a Deferred Persecution can be a great option for the right client, it is all too often misused as an “easy way out”.  It is not.  If a lawyer has suggested a Deferred Prosecution as way way to resolve a first offense DUI, than, barring some very unique circumstances, that lawyer is providing bad advice.  Since you can only get one Deferred Prosecution in your lifetime, it should be saved for the unfortunate, but very real possibility of a 2nd or 3rd offense within 7 years when the benefits will outweigh the burdens of a 2-year treatment program and a long and costly period of supervision (probation). Here are some answers to common questions about Deferred Prosecutions.

• What is a deferred prosecution ?  A deferred prosecution under RCW 10.05 is a program in the State of Washington, whereby if you are accused of certain crimes, including DUI, and the crime was caused by alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental health problems, the case can be dismissed if you receive treatment for that problem.

• Should I do a deferred prosecution?  That is a complex and difficult question to answer and will depend on the facts of your case, your goals and your  driving history.

• Will I lose my license if I do a deferred prosecution?  No, but you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in any non-work vehicle you drive.

• Will I go to jail if I do a deferred prosecution? No. There is no jail component for a deferred prosecution.

• Is a deferred prosecution the “easy way out?”  No, it is not.  It is often very difficult.  It is a huge commitment of time, money and energy. You will have to admit your problem in open court and agree to complete the prescribed two year treatment program and agree to abstain from the use of alcohol and drugs for that two year period.  You will also be subject to costs fees of  up to $4,000, sometimes more.

• How long is the treatment program for an alcoholism related deferred prosecution? Treatment plans vary, but the law requires a two-year treatment program. Three years after successful completion of the treatment program, but not less than five years after the entry of the deferred prosecution, the case will be dismissed.

• I had a deferred prosecution before, can I do another one? No. You can only do one in a lifetime. This is why I always advise clients to think long and hard before entering a deferred prosecution, particularly on first offenses or weak cases. The ‘trade off’ makes more sense when you are facing 30,45,90 or 120 days in jail plus mandatory electronic home monitoring following jail if you are convicted of a second or third offense within seven years.

• I did a deferred and am tired of treatment, can I stop going?  No. If you stop going then the deferred prosecution will be revoked.  You will be convicted of the DUI and the Court will still make you finish the treatment program.

• Can I travel to Canada during or after successfully completing a deferred prosecution?  Probably. Unfortunately, Canada does not have a clear cut policy and it’s difficult to predict exactly what the Canadian authorities will do. And while individual border agents have a lot of discretion, my experience has been that persons on a deferred prosecution or having successfully completed one have been permitted to enter.

• Other things to keep in mind:

  • Even a successfully completed deferred prosecution will count as a prior conviction if you receive another DUI within seven years. 
  • You must pay for treatment. Inability to pay is not an excuse for failing to complete your deferred prosecution.

Contact us for assistance with your DUI/DWI.

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