A deferred DUI prosecution in Washington State is an attractive option for defendants wishing to avoid many of the damaging consequences of a DUI conviction. In addition, it can be a life-changing decision for those who suffer from substance abuse problems and mental health conditions.
What Is A Deferred Sentence In Washington State?
A deferred sentence in Washington State is a complex but effective strategy a King County DUI attorney may employ to protect their client’s best interests. In short, a deferred sentence is a type of plea bargain that allows a conviction of a lesser charge so that the criminal record is eligible for expungement.
Under Washington State DUI laws, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. While many criminal convictions are eligible to be vacated or expunged, DUI convictions are excluded. A felony or misdemeanor DUI will remain on your record for life.
However, a deferred sentence is a plea bargain that entails:
- Pleading guilty to the charges before the court
- A detailed treatment plan with rigorous conditions set by the judge
If the defendant fully complies with all the conditions set by the court, their guilty plea may be withdrawn, and the charges dismissed. In some cases, a deferred DUI prosecution can be made after a court has entered a finding of guilt. Under those circumstances, the guilty verdict may be vacated with the dismissal of charges.
It is important to know that a deferred DUI sentence is only allowed once in a lifetime. Also, there are significant pros and cons to consider before entering into the plea bargain.
Can You Get a DUI Deferred in Washington State?
Obtaining a DUI deferred in Washington State involves meeting several legal requirements, including:
- This is your first deferred DUI prosecution in Washington
- You must have an official diagnosis of alcohol dependency, drug addiction, or mental condition
- During the course of the deferred sentence, you must attend the court’s recommended alcohol, drug, or mental health treatment plan
- You must comply with all treatment recommendations set by the court
After successfully fulfilling the agreed court-ordered conditions, your DUI charges can be dismissed.
How Do You Get A DUI Dismissed In Washington State?
DUI charges are rarely dismissed by the court in Washington State. However, a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to negotiate or fight on your behalf. Some of the available avenues for dismissing DUI charges include:
- Negotiating with the prosecutor to dismiss charges for lack of evidence or civil rights violations during the arrest
- An acquittal of DUI charges by a jury or a non-jury trial
- Entering into a deferred sentence
If the DUI charges against you seem unlikely to be dismissed, your attorney will try to mitigate the damaging consequences of a conviction. Negotiating a deferred sentence with the prosecutor or judge may be in your best interests.
A Washington State deferred DUI prosecution will allow you to avoid mandatory time in prison and a permanent criminal record.
What You Should Consider Before Entering into a Deferred DUI Prosecution in Washington State
There are several factors to consider before entering into a deferred DUI in Washington State, including:
- A deferred sentence is still considered a DUI offense. Even after your charges are dismissed, the deferred DUI prosecution can be used as a prior offense should you ever be charged with driving under the influence in the future.
- You are only eligible for a deferred sentence one time. Depending on your particular circumstances, your DUI lawyer may advise a different strategy.
- A deferred DUI is a plea bargain. As such, you waive all rights to fight the charge during trial. If you fail to comply with all the conditions of the deferred sentence, you will automatically be found guilty of the original charges.
- A deferred sentence involves a detailed and extensive treatment plan. All the costs associated with the terms of the deferred sentencing fall to the defendant. If you cannot afford to stay in compliance, this option may not best.
- The extensive plan set forth by the court will be time-consuming and costly. It also requires a sincere commitment to mental health and sobriety. Without a genuine commitment, defendants can easily fall out of compliance.
- A deferred DUI prosecution is a legal declaration that you are either suffering from a mental health condition, are an alcoholic, or suffering from drug addiction. A legal and public record of a chemical dependence or mental illness can have long-term consequences on your career, reputation, and personal life.
- During the course of the treatment plan, you are prohibited from drinking alcohol or taking non-prescription drugs. Random drug and alcohol screenings will be a significant part of the court-ordered treatment plan.
- While a DUI conviction involves suspending your license, a deferred sentence allows you to keep your license with some provisions. You can only drive a motor vehicle that is equipped with an ignition interlock device for a set period of time.
There are considerable benefits to obtaining a deferred sentence in Washington State. Discuss your options openly and honestly with representation before entering into the agreement.
How Long is the Deferred Prosecution Treatment Program?
The deferred prosecution treatment program will last for five years. During this time, you must fully comply will all terms and conditions set forth and agreed to by the court. Failure to comply with any of the terms will result in an automatic finding of guilt.
You will be subject to all penalties and consequences associated with a DUI conviction, including mandatory minimum sentencing, fines, and license suspension.
What Are the Requirements for the State Certified Treatment Plan Under a Deferred DUI?
The certified treatment plan for a deferred DUI prosecution involves a list of requirements and three different phases, as detailed below:
- During all 5 years, you must remain abstinent from alcohol and all non-prescription medications and illegal substances.
- Participation in 2 self-help recovery support group meetings per week (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous)
- During Phase 1, you must submit to an intensive outpatient treatment program that totals at least 72 hours. These hours must be completed in 12 weeks or less.
- Phase 2 lasts 6 months and consists of weekly approved outpatient group or individual counseling.
- Phase 3 allows you to reduce your outpatient treatment to monthly counseling in a group or individually. Phase 3 lasts the rest of the deferred prosecution period.
Deferred DUI prosecution is an intensive treatment option for those suffering from alcohol and substance dependence. For many, it can be a life-saving option.
What Happens if I Violate the Terms of the Deferred Prosecution?
A deferred DUI prosecution is a plea bargain. By entering into a plea bargain, you effectively give up the right to plead not guilty and fight the charges brought against you. If you fail to comply with any of the agreed-upon terms and conditions, you will automatically be found guilty of the original DUI charges and sentenced accordingly.
While some courts and judges have a zero-tolerance policy, some courts may show understanding towards a genuine mistake. If you missed one meeting or committed a singular, minor offense, the court may give you a second chance.
If you have entered into a deferred sentence and have committed a violation, it is crucial to speak to your DUI attorney as soon as possible.