The other day I was in Seattle Municipal Court and I had the chance to watch a couple of DUI arraignments while I was waiting for my clients case to be called. In case you don't know the arraignment is the first court hearing that someone faces after their arrest. So in Seattle Municipal Court generally the arraignment happens a few days after a DUI arrest in Seattle. Obviously this is a quick turn around. And most people that get arrested for a DUI in Seattle have never been in trouble before. So they don't know how to go about getting a DUI Attorney or at least coming to court prepared.
And that is exactly what happened on the few DUI arraignments I saw. Particularly two individuals came to court without an attorney, and they left in a worse position then when they arrived. One case this guy had an alleged BAC level of .15. He didn't have any prior criminal history. He wasn't involved in a car accident. It sounds like he was relatively cooperative with the arresting officer. The Prosecutor asked the court to impose $2500 bail and an ignition interlock device in his car while the case is going on. Long story short, there was no bail imposed, but an ignition interlock device was. The cost of an ignition interlock device is around $100 a month. So assuming the case lasts 7-10 months. That is easily could come to a $1000 fee on top of whatever other fees may occur.
The second case was more interesting. This was a second offense DUI. Meaning the guy hadn't gotten a DUI two years ago. But in the recent case his BAC level was .05. Which is extremely low. In his case the Prosecutor asked for $5000 bail, and IID, and a scram bracelet. The scram bracelet is something new in SMC, but it is like an home detention device that detects alcohol from your skin. It is pretty expensive and a tremendous pain in the ass. Now despite the extremely low BAC the Judge imposed both an IID, and the $5000 bail. Needless to say he was not very happy about this, and went off a little on the Judge. Bad move, but nothing happened.
So what would have happened if either one of these gentlemen had taken the time to hire an experienced DUI Attorney. Well I cant say for sure. But I would have argued to the Judge in the first case there was no basis to find the defendant was likely to commit another drinking and driving offense. The City presented absolutely no evidence of this. In fact they said if he was allowed to be free there would be a community safety risk. Well under the rule that is not a factor the Judge is to consider. There is always a presumption of release unless it can be shown the defendant will likely commit a violent offense in the future, or will not come back to court. Since the guy had no warrant history, and there was no past behavior of DUI or alcohol related offenses. I believe the Judge made a bad ruling, and this guy will now have to have an IID because of it.
The second guy is the more difficult case of the two. Simply for the fact it was his second offense. But what he had going for him was the allegations. This was a really low breath test case. Arguably he didn't violate any of the conditions of his sentence on the first DUI because he did not drive with an alcohol level over .08. What I probably would have done is get him an alcohol and drug assessment. He probably would have received a relapse prevent treatment program and I would have provided that to the court to show he is taking this seriously and currently involved in treatment. Additionally at an arraignment if the Judge does find the defendant is likely to drink and drive again, the least restrictive means possible must be imposed. In a DUI case that is to abstain from alcohol. Thus it would be far more lawful, and reasonable to impose that condition instead of the bail and IID. I would have made a case and really pushed that.
Now it is easy to second guess what happened, and play Monday morning QB. But what probably isn't up for debate is both of these individuals were obviously worse off because they didn't take the time to meet and hire an attorney.
Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA. His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses. He is currently rated a TOP DUI Attorney by Avvo, and a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in the area of criminal defense.