DUIs are taken seriously in Washington State. Deaths from car collisions are tragic and the effects are not something that easily goes away. In an ever-increasing effort to reduce the number of DUI-related collisions on the road, Kent prosecutors and judges are under pressure to seek harsh penalties for DUI convictions.
People from every walk of life are charged with DUIs every day. All it takes is one bad night, some poor judgment, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For many Kent residents, getting arrested for a DUI is their first encounter with Washington’s criminal justice system, which is why this experience can be quite disillusioning.
If you are facing DUI charges in Kent, the very first thing you should do is contact a trustworthy DUI attorney. Before speaking with insurance agencies or giving a written statement, talk with a DUI firm like The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC.
Understanding DUI Laws in Kent, Washington
Under RCW 46.61.502, there are two main ways that officers prove drivers to be guilty of driving under the influence.
- The most common way is by showing that the driver in question had a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or higher within a two-hour margin of driving a vehicle. This test is generally performed with a breathalyzer and the test is administered by an officer.
- If the driver measures below the legal limit but they have shown other signs of impairment (erratic driving, swerving, negligence, etc.) he/she may still be convicted of a DUI. the officer’s observations, as well as the results of a field sobriety test, will help the officer determine if the driver is in fact impaired.
There are rarer cases where an individual is charged with a DUI as a result of being in physical possession of a vehicle. If the court rules that you were in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated you can still face DUI penalties.
What Are the Penalties of a DUI in Kent?
The consequences and penalties of a DUI in Kent are two-pronged, with the Department of Licensing (DOL) and the criminal justice system coming after you at the same time. The DOL will initiate a driver’s license suspension, while the criminal court will be prosecuting you for a DUI.
If you hope to survive the onslaught from each of these entities, then you need to seek out the legal counsel of a reputable Kent DUI attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will help you defend against the DOL and the criminal court.
When is a DUI a Misdemeanor and When is It a Felony?
Most of the time, DUIs are processed as misdemeanors. As misdemeanors, the consequences of your DUI will be affected by your BAC count, the case’s details (for example, did you resist arrest?), and your criminal history.
Here at The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, a frequent concern that our clients share with us is the threat of “mandatory minimum penalties” in Washington State. Nonetheless, while these minimum penalties should be taken seriously, you shouldn’t see them as a reason to give up hope. An experienced law firm, like ours, is generally able to secure penalty reductions below the “mandatory minimum.”
As for the felony question, a DUI or Physical Control charge becomes a felony if you’ve received at least four DUI convictions within the last decade.
Prior convictions include DUI convictions as well as other driving convictions (like negligent or reckless driving) that began as a DUI charge but were reduced during the criminal process.
A DUI is also elevated to a felony if the defendant has ever been convicted of vehicular assault or homicide while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What will happen to my driver’s license after a DUI in Kent?
The Department of Licensing will be notified following a DUI arrest and immediately a 90 day suspension period will begin.
You may be able to contest your license suspension if you do so within the first 20 days. To ensure the best possible results, contact a knowledgable DUI attorney in Kent before contesting your suspension.
What is the DUI Court Process Like in Kent?
While different states have their own ways of approaching the DUI court process, the DUI court process in Washington State follows these steps:
- Release or jail: After your BAC tests, the officer that arrested you will decide whether to put you in jail or release you. If this is your first DUI, then you might be released to be driven home by a friend, but if this is your second or third DUI, then you will probably be booked in jail.
- Arraignment: This is your first court appearance and is where you will learn the conditions of your release (if you were booked in jail). It is here that you also enter your initial plea. Do not make your plea without speaking to a reputable criminal defense attorney first.
- Pre-trial hearings: During these meetings, your attorney will make a number of pre-trial motions in an effort to have charges reduced, exclude illegitimate evidence, and to have the charges dropped completely. If successful, your case may be resolved during the pre-trial hearings and you will be able to avoid a trial.
- Readiness hearing: This is the final pre-trial hearing and is held to see if it is possible to resolve your case outside of a full trial. If the prosecution and your attorney are unable to reach a resolution, then the judge will decide on a trial date.
- Trial: Your DUI defense attorney will review your case and present the best evidence available for your defense. The prosecution will also present their best evidence against you. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury will determine if you are guilty of a DUI.
- Sentencing: This step only occurs if you’ve been found guilty of a DUI. The judge will examine your case and determine what your penalties will be.
- Appeal: Depending on your unique situation, it may be possible for you to appeal your guilty verdict and/or subsequent sentencing. Your Kent DUI attorney will help you determine if appealing your case is the best possible choice for your situation.
What to do When Facing a DUI in Kent
A DUI charge can be a frightening thing to face, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. By partnering with a reputable DUI lawyer in Kent, you take the first step towards reclaiming your life.
If you or a loved one is being charged with a DUI in Kent, Washington, contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC to schedule a free and confidential consultation.