Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why deferred sentences should not be eliminated on DUI cases

Recently I wrote a blog post giving an update on what is currently happening with the DUI bill that is in the Washington State legislature.  I wrote a few sentences about some of the major overhauls this bill contains when it comes to DUI cases in Washington State.  At the end of one of the descriptions of the bill I wrote that I was not in favor of eliminating deferred sentences on DUI cases (which is one of the proposals in this bill).

No sooner did I make the post I received the below comment concerning that section 

"Getting rid of deferred sentences for DUI cases is a fabulous idea. If you are stupid enough to drive drunk then you should be punished and not with just a tap on the wrist. DUI is nothing to take lightly. If you drive drunk and, heaven forbid, kill someone, then you deserve to die. Drunken driving is totally 100% preventable. I totally support Governor Inslee in his efforts to strengthen our DUI laws."
- Anonymous

In this blog I receive for the most part two kinds of comments.  One from other lawyers or business websites that leave a comment with a back link to their website.  Some believe this helps increase your organic search listing on search engines like google, and bing.  I will typically approve these comments if it appears the individual attempted to leave a legitimate comment concerning the particular post.  If it is just spam then I will usually delete it.  

The second type of comments I receive are from individuals who left the comment above.  They typically write something negative about my post, or my profession.  Some attack what I do, question why I do it, etc.  Most of the time I just delete these comments.  Even though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do not want that kind of negative feedback on my blog.  Not surprisingly these individuals are always anonymous.

But the reason I'm writing about the comment above is because I believe individual who posted the comment doesn't have all the information when it comes to deferred sentences and is a bit misinformed about the severity of DUI penalties in Washington State compared to other States.   

First of all  those charged with a DUI do not just get a slap on the wrist.  I'm a DUI Attorney so I guess sometimes I forget that lay people are not familiar with the laws.  I can tell you unequivocally that Washington State currently has some of the toughest DUI laws right now.  Did you know that first time offenders in Washington State are required to have an ignition interlock device for 1-2 yeas.  A requirement that very few states make.  Additionally there is mandatory jail, mandatory fines, and mandatory insurance requirements that other States do not have.  So when this individual says there shouldn't be a slap on the wrist.  Believe me these penalties are anything but soft.

Secondly I wouldn't characterize someone who gets a DUI as "stupid."  Yes it is a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes.  But not everyone that gets a DUI is your typical drunk driver.  One time I represented a client who went out drinking the night before.  She got pretty drunk, and knew she shouldn't drive home.  So she did the responsible thing and spent the night at her friends.  When she woke up she felt fine and drove home.  On the way home she got stopped and arrested for DUI.  Her breath test was a 0.03 and she got charged with a DUI.  Now was this girl "stupid?"  Absolutely not.  And I'm sure the anonymous comment above would agree.  

Lastly deferred sentences aren't just given away like candy.  If you get charged with a vehicular assault or vehicular homicide or a high breath test, or any kind of accident case you're not getting one.  I think the anonymous comment above is under the impression that is the case.  No it is not and a deferred sentence is extremely rare on a DUI case.  

Typically when a deferred sentence is given it is when the defendant has a breath test under the legal limit or right at it.  They DUI charge is lowered to Negligent Driving 1 which is a simple misdemeanor.  A less severe crime than someone charged with stealing a candy bar from a grocery store.  Throughout the life of the case the Judge determines the defendant is  not at risk to re offend, and they have been proactive and completed all conditions of a sentence before they were even imposed.  The Judge feels they learned their lesson and taken the incident very seriously.  Additionally even if a deferred sentence is grated and the defendant gets another DUI.  The Judge still has the discretion to treat the second DUI as a second offense, even if the first one got dismissed.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as a Top Seattle DUI Attorney by Avvo, and named a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 



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