For many Federal Way residents, receiving a DUI is their first experience with Washington State’s judicial system—not an ideal way to get introduced.
Receiving a DUI can be a frightening and stressful experience, especially if you don’t understand DUI laws, their penalties, and the DUI court process in Federal Way. The unfortunate reality is that there is a high level of pressure on courts to hand out the strongest possible penalties, which means that without a robust legal defense, the punishment for your DUI will be harsh.
At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we understand how difficult the DUI process can be. We have guided many clients through Federal Way’s court system and are ready to answer your questions. By partnering with an experienced DUI attorney, you ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Understanding Federal Way DUI Laws
Federal Way DUI laws follow Washington State’s RCW 46.61.502, which covers “driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.” This statute describes two methods for proving a DUI:
- The main method of proving a DUI is by demonstrating that you had blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher within two hours of when you were caught driving. Or, if drugs were involved, by showing that you had a THC concentration of at least 5.00 nanograms. Both of these numbers are determined through chemical or breath testing.
- If your blood or breath concentration falls below the numbers above, don’t breathe easy just yet! You can still be convicted of a DUI if there is observational evidence of impairment. This is based primarily on the officer’s testimony and whether or not they believe your driving and behavior were “affected by” alcohol or drugs. This is also the way the prosecution will attempt to prove your DUI if you refused BAC testing.
Physical control cases are another form of DUI. This kind of charge is levied against intoxicated persons who are determined to be in “physical control” of a vehicle.
For example, if you leave a bar and decide to sleep-off your drinks in the car, you can still receive a DUI charge if you are sitting in the driver’s seat and the keys are in the ignition.
Federal Way’s physical control laws follow Washington State’s RCW 46.61.5054.
Federal Way DUI Penalties & Consequences
The penalties and consequences of your DUI will come at you from two directions — the criminal justice system and the Department of Licensing. The DOL operates independently of the criminal court and will seek to suspend your license. Simultaneously, the criminal justice system will be prosecuting you for a DUI.
To overcome your accusations, each of these entities requires special care. This is why it is crucial that you partner with a knowledgeable Federal Way DUI attorney who can help you take the right courses of action with the DOL and criminal court.
Criminal DUI Penalties
Usually, Washington State processes DUIs as misdemeanors, with the severity of the penalties depending on your BAC, the case’s details, and your criminal history.
A major concern for many Federal Way residents who are getting charged with a DUI is the threat of mandatory minimum penalties for DUIs. But, despite the reality of the phrase “mandatory minimum penalties,” experienced criminal defense attorneys are frequently able to secure reductions for their clients.
For example, here at The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, it is not uncommon for us to obtain charges without jail time and even complete dismissals.
When Does a DUI Become a Felony?
A DUI or Physical Control charge becomes a felony if the defendant has four or more DUI convictions within the previous ten years.
What counts as a prior conviction?
- Previous DUI convictions.
- Convictions like reckless driving or negligent driving that started out as a DUI charge but were reduced also count as priors.
Finally, a DUI is processed as a felony if the defendant has ever been convicted of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while driving intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
DUI Court Process in Federal Way
Washington State follows a generally routine process for DUI cases. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you can expect to make your way through the following steps:
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests: During your arrest, the officer will ask you to take a BAC test. This may include a breath or blood test. Refusing to take any of these tests will result in an automatic license suspension and may add additional criminal penalties to your case. You should speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to determine if you should take or refuse a BAC test.
- An independent blood test: Most drivers don’t know this, but in Washington, you have the right to take an independent blood test. This is done at your own expense. Speak with a Federal Way DUI attorney to ask if an independent blood test is the right move for your situation.
- Release or jail: Following your arrest and BAC tests, the officer will decide whether to release you or book you into jail. If this is your first DUI, then you may be released, but if this a repeat offense, then you will likely be put in jail.
- Arraignment: This is your first appearance in court and is where you will enter your initial plea. It is crucial to have a DUI attorney by your side for this event.
- Appealing the civil automatic license suspension: If you refused a BAC test or if your BAC was over the legal limit, then the DOL will automatically suspend your license. This is a civil penalty and is a separate proceeding from the criminal court. If you hope to appeal your suspension, you will need to partner with a dedicated Federal Way DUI lawyer.
- Pre-trial hearings: These are opportunities for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution. Depending on the circumstances of your case and the quality of your attorney, your case may be resolved entirely during the pre-trial hearings.
- Readiness hearing: This is the final opportunity to resolve your case outside of a trial. If your attorney and the prosecution can’t achieve a resolution, then the judge will set a trial date.
- Trial: Your attorney and the prosecution will each present evidence to the judge and jury (depending on whether or not you waived a jury trial). At the trial’s conclusion, the judge or jury will decide if you are guilty of a DUI.
- Sentencing: If you are convicted of a DUI, the next step is receiving the sentence. The judge will decide your penalties. If you partnered with a knowledgeable DUI attorney, then your case should be positioned to receive the minimum level of sentencing.
- Appeal: Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to appeal your verdict and sentencing. Your Federal Way DUI lawyer will help you determine if appealing your case is the right course of action.
Get the Defense You Deserve: Partner With a Federal Way DUI Attorney
At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we understand how frustrating the DUI criminal process can be. But we offer more than empathy. We have years of experience navigating Federal Way’s DUI court system and know how to build a powerful defense for your case.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss your Federal Way DUI charge by contacting us today.