What to Expect at a DUI Trial in Washington State

The DUI trial process is a critical part of a criminal defense case. Before trial, the defense and prosecution may file motions to gather evidence and set the ground rules for what happens at trial. Additionally, they may negotiate possible terms of a plea bargain. At trial, the defense and prosecution present evidence and legal arguments to support their position. After the trial, the judge or jury reviews the evidence and law and decides whether they think the accused is guilty. 

At Veitch Ault Defense, we can appreciate the immense challenges faced by those accused of a DUI. People in this position may worry about losing their licenses, jobs, and child custody rights. Our compassionate team isn’t afraid to go to trial and rigorously fight for our client’s rights. Our Washington DUI attorney has advocated for the people for nearly two decades. 

What Happens During the DUI Trial Process?

Understanding how the trial works can help you put together a plan to prepare a solid defense. During the trial, both you and the government present evidence in court. In some cases, a panel of jurors may be in the courtroom. The jury is responsible for analyzing the evidence and deciding if they think you are guilty or not guilty. If you waive your right to a jury trial, the judge assigned to your case will take on the role of the jury.  

At the trial, the prosecution may present its case first. During this time, the state’s attorney may discuss the charges against you and why they believe you are guilty of the crime. They may call witnesses (such as the arresting police officer) to testify. Additionally, the prosecution may show the judge or jury a copy of the police report and the BAC test results

You and your attorney can cross-examine the witnesses called by the prosecution. When you cross-examine, you ask follow-up questions. For example, you might use this process to have the police officer clarify details or admit certain things. Likewise, you can call witnesses to testify on your behalf or challenge what the prosecution is saying. For example, you may have an expert go to court and explain the correct way to administer a field sobriety test. 

At the end of the trial, each side gives their closing arguments about what they think should happen. Then, the judge or jury issues a decision. 

How Long Does a DUI Trial Typically Last? 

How long it takes to complete a DUI trial depends on the situation. Sometimes, the trial may last only a few hours, but in other cases, it may span several days. Many factors can impact how long the court proceedings last. For instance, the allegations against the accused can impact how long the trial takes, as can the availability of witnesses. For example, if the prosecution brings complex charges against the accused, presenting evidence for each allegation may take longer. Likewise, if not all the witnesses are available at the same time, it can cause delays in the trial. 

What Are the Possible Outcomes of a DUI Trial?

The outcome of a DUI trial can vary from case to case. If the judge or jury makes a final decision, they may enter a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Additionally, there are a couple of ways for the judge to dismiss the charges against the accused before or at trial.  

In one situation, the judge dismisses the case with prejudice, which means the prosecution cannot refile the charges later. Another option is for the judge to dismiss the case without prejudice, which allows the prosecution to refile the charges later. 

Depending on the situation, the judge may think one option is appropriate over the other. For example, if the accused faces felony and related misdemeanor charges, the prosecution may decide to proceed only on the felony. At the end of the trial, the misdemeanor charges may merge with the felony or be dismissed without prejudice. That may mean that if the felony charge does not result in a conviction (e.g., a guilty verdict), the prosecution may reopen the misdemeanor charges. 

Finally, if you decide not to proceed with the trial, you and the prosecution can reach a plea deal. Under this arrangement, you may agree to plead guilty to some or all of the charges. In exchange, the prosecution may ask for a specific sentence. In most cases, you can’t enter a plea deal after the trial ends. That means you would have to have this conversation before the judge or jury makes a decision. 

What Are the DUI Court Procedures Before the Trial? 

Before the trial happens, many processes are set into motion. These include the initial arrest and (in some cases) the Washington State Department of Licensing suspending your license. From there, the prosecution reviews the evidence and decides whether to file formal charges. Lastly, the prosecution and the defense file necessary motions and gather evidence to prepare for trial. 

A King County DUI attorney can help you prepare for trial and navigate the many court procedures in a criminal defense case. At every stage, they are available to answer your questions and fight against any unfair practices by the prosecution. They also know what motions to file and when to serve your interests best. 

The Initial Arrest

The first step is the arrest, where the police officer pulls someone over because of an observed traffic violation. During the traffic stop, the cop may ask the person questions and have them perform a field sobriety test. If they fail this examination, the officer may arrest them or give them a ticket under Washington’s DUI law. Law enforcement may send this information to the prosecution and the Washington State Department of Licensing. 

Department of Licensing May Suspend the Accused’s License

After someone is arrested for a DUI, the Washington State Department of Licensing may automatically suspend their license. The suspension may last anywhere from a few months to a few years. If this is someone’s first DUI in Washington State, the suspension may be for less time. The accused has the right to petition to keep their license. In most cases, they need to file this petition within seven days after their arrest. 

Prosecution Reviews Evidence and Files Charges

The prosecution may review the evidence and determine if they want to proceed with pressing charges. If they decide to go this route, they may present the preliminary case in front of a grand jury. Unlike a jury at a regular trial, this panel doesn’t decide if someone’s guilty of a crime. Instead, all the grand jury says is if they think there’s enough evidence to file charges. 

If the prosecution files formal charges, the accused may have to go to court for a preliminary hearing. At this stage, the prosecution may tell the court about the charges and how they would like to proceed. In turn, the accused also has an opportunity to respond and to ask questions about the charges. The judge may talk to the accused, explain the accused’s rights, and discuss what happens next. 

Accused and Prosecution File Motions and Gather Evidence

In the next part of the DUI trial steps, the accused and prosecution may file motions and submit discovery requests. These motions might serve several purposes, such as:

  • Asking the judge to accept evidence,
  • Asking the judge to block evidence from being presented at trial, 
  • Requesting the prosecution to disclose details and information they have, and
  • Asserting the accused’s rights (such as the right to a speedy trial). 

This phase is crucial because it sets the groundwork for the rest of the case, including the trial. Additionally, the accused might negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. In this situation, the defense and prosecution discuss possible terms for the accused to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter penalty. 

How Can an Attorney Help You Prepare for the DUI Trial Process?

Because the trial is a critical part of the case, it’s essential to go into it as prepared as possible. One way to accomplish this is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can investigate your case and determine the proper course of action. For example, they can file motions to help protect your legal rights and prevent evidence from making it to trial. Likewise, they can fight to help you keep your license. 

Additionally, the lawyer can review the plea agreement and determine if signing it is in your best interest. They can also perform critical legal research to find ways to argue for a lighter sentence, to reduce the charges, or to dismiss the case. 

Veitch Ault Defense: Skilled Washington DUI Trial Attorneys

Facing DUI charges can feel overwhelming, especially as the trial approaches. You may have questions about how to request evidence and what to do with it when you get it. You have the right to represent yourself or hire a public defender, but a private attorney offers many benefits. 

Veitch Ault Defense offers immense support to those who are facing serious charges, such as driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and vehicular homicide. Robert J. Ault has received much recognition for his outstanding work in the criminal defense sector. Since 2016, he has earned a place on the selective Super Lawyers list. Past clients have expressed appreciation for his dedication and depth of knowledge. 

If you have questions about the DUI trial process in Washington State, contact us today by calling 425-970-9607 to schedule a free consultation. 


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