How to Handle a DUI in Washington State (First Offense)

If you get a DUI in Washington State, a first offense involving drinking and driving can carry stiff penalties. The Department of Licensing may suspend your license, and you may face criminal misdemeanor charges in court. Moreover, you may have to pay court fines, serve time in jail, or both. If you are arrested for a DUI, you might want to limit your conversations with police and call an attorney instead. They can help you make game-time decisions and prepare your case for trial. 

The Washington State DUI attorneys at Veitch Ault Defense have successfully defended over 1,000 DUI cases. We understand that mistakes and misunderstandings happen and are here to help you limit the impact of these charges on your life. A DUI can keep you from caring for your family, spending time with your children, and doing other things you like to do. Our team combines their outstanding knowledge and resources to help our clients get back to life before the arrest. 

What You Should Do if You Get a DUI in Washington State (First Offense)

If you pick up a DUI in Washington State (your first offense), there are steps you can take to help protect your rights. The first is to limit your conversations with police and to call a DUI attorney before your court date. You should also request a hearing with the Department of Licensing. You should also put your court date on your calendar. Finally, you should document what happened the night of the arrest and the days afterward. 

Consider Limiting Your Conversations with Police

When you’re arrested for a DUI, you have many rights, such as the right to remain silent and to talk to an attorney. Some folks try to explain their way out of DUIs but end up creating an uphill battle for themselves later on. Instead of trying to negotiate with police during this stressful event, it may be best to demand to talk to an attorney. Taking this approach limits the chance of problematic statements making it onto the record.  

Call a DUI Attorney Well Before Your Court Date

Another step you can take to help your case is to call a DUI attorney well before your court date comes around. Waiting until the last minute can make it harder for the lawyer to defend you in the best way possible. If you call them sooner rather than later, you give them more time to prepare a defense. For example, they can file important motions to assert your right to a speedy trial and ask to suppress evidence. 

Request a Hearing with the Department of Licensing

In most cases, the Department of Licensing may automatically suspend someone’s license if they get a DUI. The suspension might last between three months and two years, depending on the person’s prior record and other factors. Those arrested for a DUI can fight against this by filing a hearing request within seven days of the arrest. Bellevue criminal defense lawyers can help you fill out and submit the correct paperwork and represent you in the hearing. If the DOL decides in your favor, they may let you keep your license or suspend it for less time. 

Put Your First Court Date on Your Calendar

When you get arrested, the police may give you a piece of paper telling you your first court date. The court date might be the day after the arrest, or it might be weeks away. Make sure you put this date on your calendar and add reminders so you can take time off work or make arrangements to get there. If you don’t show up to court when you’re supposed to, the judge might issue a warrant for your arrest. Putting the court date on your calendar also helps you remember to get legal help before the hearing. 

Document What Happened on the Night of the Arrest

Documenting what happened before, during, and after the arrest can help you and your attorney understand what occurred and begin to build a case. For example, details you might want to make note of include the following:

  • Whether you had anything to drink before driving (and how much),
  • How fast you were going,
  • Who was in the car with you,
  • Where you were driving,
  • What the cops said to you when arresting you (e.g., did they tell you your rights?), and
  • What you said to the police during the encounter. 

Some of these may seem like minor details at the time, but they might form the basis of your defense strategy. For example, if the cops didn’t say you had the right to remain silent, you might use this to attack the state’s case against you. In short, documenting what happened helps your attorney determine if the cops followed the proper DUI arrest procedures in Washington State.

Tips for Finding the Right Attorney After a DUI Arrest

Getting the right legal help is critical after a DUI, even if it’s your first offense. You can ask your friends about attorneys in the area or look online for a respected King County DUI attorney. Read the attorney’s reviews to see what past clients thought of their services. Another important thing to look at is the attorney’s background. For example, do they have experience handling DUIs in Washington? You might also set up a consultation with an attorney to ask them questions about their approach to criminal defense. You want to ensure that whatever attorney you hire has the education and training to handle whatever the prosecution might bring up in your case. 

What Are the Penalties for Your First DUI in Washington? 

Under Washington law, a first-time DUI is usually a gross misdemeanor. These charges carry a penalty of up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or more, or both. Additionally, even first-time offenders might have their license suspended by the Department of Licensing. The suspension might last between three months to two years. If the accused has prior offenses (like an underage DUI), their first-time DUI as an adult may be upgraded to a higher crime. If this happens, they may face more time in jail, a higher court fine, and other consequences. 

What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities if You’re Arrested for a DUI?

If you get a DUI arrest, your rights and responsibilities include the following:

  • You have the right not to talk to the police; 
  • You have the right to speak to your attorney; 
  • You have the responsibility to assert your rights;
  • You must attend your court dates; and 
  • You must do whatever the judge says you need to do during the case (e.g., show up for court and pay court fees).

Likewise, you must follow whatever restrictions the Department of Licensing puts in place, even if you disagree with their decision. For example, if the DOL suspends your license for a year, you can’t drive until they give you your license back. In the meantime, you may be able to appeal the decision. But until they or the judge changes their mind on something, it’s imperative that you do what they say. If you don’t, you may set yourself up for additional penalties for breaking the rules.  

Veitch Ault Defense: Exceptional DUI Attorneys Serving Washington State

Getting arrested for a DUI is often a frustrating experience, especially for first-time offenders. If you’re in this boat, you may want to know how this may impact your employment. Or you may want to see what you can do to fight against the charges. A seasoned DUI attorney with a firm grasp of Washington law can help you accomplish this. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, we provide compassionate yet no-nonsense legal representation to those facing DUIs in Washington. Robert Ault has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in Washington State from 2016 to 2023. He is a leader in his field, having special training in blood draw analysis and DUI drug recognition investigations. Past clients describe Rob as “kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and understanding.”

If you’re facing a first-time DUI in Washington state, contact Rob today by calling 425-312-6753 to schedule an initial consultation. 


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For a free consultation to discuss your pending case or other legal matters, please call us any time at 425-452-1600 or complete our online contact form. Our attorneys will explain the entire process surrounding your charge and remove the fear and uncertainty regarding your arrest. Our team should be your first call if you need a top-rated, dedicated, and responsive DUI/DWI or criminal defense attorney. If success in your legal matters is your only option, we hope that you will place your trust in top-rated Washington State DUI attorney Robert Ault.  

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