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What Happens With a First Time DUI Charge in Washington State?

A DUI charge can have a significant impact on your life, even if it is your first offense.  If you are facing a DUI charge in Washington State, it is important to understand the possible consequences and your legal options. This guide will hopefully clarify what you can expect moving forward as well as the importance of hiring an experienced DUI attorney to represent you in your case.

What Is a DUI?

DUI is an acronym that stands for “driving under the influence” and typically refers to impaired driving resulting from alcohol or drug intoxication.  

What Is Considered a DUI In Washington State?

A person can be charged with DUI when their blood or breath produces a .08 alcohol content or higher. They can also be charged if their blood results show a THC concentration of 5ng or higher. And regardless of the breath or blood evidence, a person may still be charged with DUI – even if there is no blood or breath test evidence (i.e., because the person refused testing) or if their results were below the legal threshold – if the evidence shows that person’s driving was impaired to an appreciable degree by intoxicating drugs and/or alcohol.

What Happens During a DUI Investigation?

If your vehicle is legally stopped by law enforcement and that contact turns into a DUI investigation, the officer will likely ask you to perform field sobriety tests, which are physical tests designed to clue the officer into signs of impairment.  The tests typically consist of an eye test, known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, where they look for nystagmus in the eyes (an indicator of alcohol consumption); a walk-and-turn test which requires you to walk a line, turn and walk back; and a one-legged-stand test, which requires you to stand on one foot for 30 seconds.  The officer will also engage in limited conversation with you to determine if you have an odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and whether you will admit to consuming alcohol prior to driving.  The officer might offer you a portable breath test on the scene as well. Portable breath test results are not admissible at trial but can be used to form the basis of probable cause to arrest you. 

Then, if, in considering the totality of the circumstances, the officer believes you are probably driving under the influence, he/she will place you under arrest and take you to the station for further processing.

What Follows a DUI Arrest?

Following your arrest, you will be taken to the BAC machine for further testing, processing and booking. After booking, and depending on the circumstances, the officers may release you to a friend, a cab, give you a ride home or book you into jail.  If you are booked into jail, you will be seen by a judge the following day to discuss release/bail. The judge will either release you on your own recognizance or require you to post bail. The judge will also set conditions of release (i.e., rules to follow while the case is pending), which can include alcohol monitoring conditions such as random breath tests, ignition interlock device installation, and/or an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet. It is helpful to have an experienced attorney with you at this first appearance so that they can argue for release and make sure the court imposes the least restrictive release conditions on you while the case is pending.  

Finally, the judge will set your next hearing date, which is known as an arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be convicted and sentenced. If you plead not guilty, your case will be set out to a future review date to allow your attorney time to negotiate your case, litigate pretrial motions, and/or prepare for trial.  

An experienced attorney can make the difference between pleading guilty as charged and pleading to a reduced charge that spares you all the implications associated with a DUI. Attorneys Steve and Jacy Thayer strive to negotiate exceptional resolutions for their clients. They have resolved hundreds, if not thousands, of DUI cases to reduced charges, sparing countless clients the harsh consequences that stem from a DUI conviction.

Minimum Penalties In Clark County for a First Time DUI ConvictionDUI Legal Help Vancouver WA

Mandatory Minimal Jail time: 24-48 consecutive hours

Mandatory Minimum Fine: $940.00

Mandatory License Suspension: At least 90 days

Mandatory Ignition Interlock Requirement: At least 1 year

Probation: 5 years

How Can an Attorney Help?

DUIs and their legal implications are complicated, convoluted and overwhelming.  Not only are you faced with the criminal case and all the sentence requirements that you might be potentially looking at, but you are also looking at the administrative case against your license by the DOL. An experienced attorney can help you navigate both the criminal and administrative case; make sure you are fully informed of your options, and guide you through the process of resolving or litigating your case.

With respect to the administrative case against your license, you will need an attorney to handle the DOL hearing and argue for dismissal or the DOL’s case against your license. In the event the DOL upholds the suspension of your license, your attorney can ensure you are still able to drive legally on an alternative license while the suspension is in effect.

With regards to the criminal case, an experienced attorney can evaluate your case from a legal standpoint, identify legal issues and defense theories, then use those issues and theories to get your case dismissed, or at the very least as negotiating leverage to get your case resolved favorably. 

Call the Law Offices of Steven W. Thayer today

For over 40 years, Steven Thayer has been providing trusted legal representation to persons charged with DUI crimes in Washington. His daughter and associate, Jacy Thayer, has been almost exclusively representing persons charged with DUI for over 12 years. With their combined experience and knowledge in DUI defense, they are dedicated to helping clients navigate the complex legal process and achieving the best possible outcome for them. 

Whether you are facing DUI charges for the first time or you have prior DUI history, our team is here to offer the support, guidance and representation you need to achieve the best outcome for you and your case and to minimize the negative impact the charge could have on your life.

If you are looking for a qualified DUI attorney in Southwest Washington, contact us today to schedule a consultation with Steve or Jacy Thayer at (360) 450-0872.  

Posted on by Steven W. Thayer, PS
What Happens With a First Time DUI Charge in Washington State?

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