Today I went to my first court appearance after receiving my first DUI last Friday and called a DUI attorney who I met with and he went to court with me to plead not guilty and do a deferred prosecution and have court in a month. To hire the attorney it would be $3,000 total, including $1500 down. Is this the normal cost? Should I find a different-more affordable lawyer if there is one? Can I get a public defender?

Michael’s answer: First Offense DUI.  That fee does not seem out of line, but if you qualify for a public defender they can handle a deferred prosecution. That said, you should think long and hard before doing a deferred on a 1st offense where you are typically facing only 1 or 2 days in jail and the ability to drive throughout a license suspension with an ignition interlock device. I almost NEVER recommend a Deferred Prosecution on a 1st offense. Here’s more info:

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, in my opinion, 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.

Even a successfully completed deferred prosecution will count as a prior convict and if you receive another DUI within 7 years will count as a prior conviction.

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