I JUST got arrested for a DUI, now what?
Law Office of Shira J. Stefanik
Have a Question?
Here are some general questions and answers about what to do after you’re arrested for a DUI in Washington State.
Unless your license is suspended for another reason, your DUI arrest does not automatically mean that your driver’s license is suspended or revoked, but you do not have much time to act. If you were arrested and you provided a breath sample of .08 or higher, or if the arresting officer says that you refused to take a breath test, the officer will send your arrest report to the Department of Licensing (“DOL”). When DOL receives this report, DOL will schedule an automatic license suspension or revocation, and you must request a hearing to contest this suspension or revocation within 7 days. If you miss this deadline, you will lose your license, even if it later turns out that the officer made mistakes.
License suspension is a shorter period of time than revocation, and reinstatement requires fewer steps. The amount of time that your license is suspended or revoked depends on your driving
history and the facts of your case. A breath sample of .15 or above or a refusal means a longer license revocation.
Because of the short timeline to request a hearing, DOL will often generate a suspension notice before they process your hearing request. Once DOL receives your hearing request, the scheduled suspension is cancelled pending the outcome of your DOL hearing.
After the hearing, DOL sends written notice that your license suspension or revocation is upheld and will take effect on the date listed in the notice letter, which is usually about 2 weeks after the notice letter is mailed.
Most people qualify for a Restricted License, which allows you to drive. You will need to submit an application for the Restricted License, pay the application fee, install an Ignition Interlock Device (“IID”) on your car, and obtain high-risk insurance, known as SR-22. Once the DOL has these items, they will issue you a Restricted License and you can drive your IID car during your suspension or revocation. If you drive other people’s cars for work (for example, you drive a company car or you work as a mechanic), you can apply for an employment exception.
You are NOT convicted of the crime of DUI just because you were arrested. You will receive a notice to appear in court to address the criminal charges, but you will not be convicted unless you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial. Being charged with a criminal DUI case will not have automatic conviction consequences. Even if you miss court, you will not be automatically convicted, but the judge in that court will probably issue a warrant for your arrest to bring you to court to address your charges.
Most often, yes. The police make mistakes in these reports, but you will not have a chance to point out those mistakes unless you request a hearing. A skilled DUI lawyer knows what mistakes to look for. The DOL hearing is usually your first opportunity to see the police reports
and evidence against you, because this hearing can happen before criminal DUI charges are filed in court.
YES. The value on the breath test ticket is still something that the prosecutor needs to prove in court, along with proving that the officer’s investigation was valid. A criminal DUI case can sometimes be negotiated to a lesser crime before trial, so it is not an “all or nothing” situation.
The DOL only initiates an administrative suspension if your breath test was a .08 or higher.
Maybe. The prosecutors will charge you with DUI if you blew a .08 or higher under the “per se” prong of the statute, but the prosecutors can also charge you with a DUI by claiming you were “affected by” the alcohol you consumed. If you only blew a .06, but your driving and your demeanor indicate you were intoxicated, you may still get charged with DUI.
The prosecutors will use your appearance, your demeanor, your driving and the fact that you refused against you and you will likely be charged with DUI. A conviction for a refusal DUI carries consequences of more jail time, higher fees, and longer license revocation than breath test DUIs.
The Washington State Toxicology Lab needs to analyze your blood sample, write their report and send it to the prosecutor and the DOL. This could take several months, or even a year or more, depending on how backlogged the tox lab is. Blood results take much longer to get, whereas breath results are immediate.
It depends. Some jurisdictions file charges right away even if they do not have your blood sample yet, and some jurisdictions wait for the blood sample before they file criminal DUI charges. If you have prior DUI criminal charges, the prosecutor may decide to file new charges right away even if they do not have your blood yet. Make sure to update your address with DOL so you will receive notice when your charges are filed.
It depends on your history, your substance use, and the facts of your case. It can be helpful for your case and for your well-being to get a substance use evaluation to determine what level of treatment might benefit you sooner rather than later.
A Deferred Prosecution is a treatment-based option where petition the Court to allow you to engage in a rigorous treatment program to avoid conviction. If you are successful in your Deferred Prosecution program, your DUI charge will ultimately be dismissed. The Court will only approve your participation in a Deferred Prosecution program if you sincerely believe that you suffer from a substance use or a mental health disorder that contributed to your charge, and you file a treatment plan that you intend to follow. Some people benefit from this program, but depending on the facts and circumstances, it is not the best option for everyone. You will need to discuss your case and your circumstances in depth with your DUI lawyer to figure out if a Deferred Prosecution is the best resolution for you.