Saturday, June 22, 2013

Does it matter when the Prosecution decides to file a DUI charge?

Recently an article came out in the Seattle Times discussing the delayed filing of DUI charges in King County compared to other jurisdictions in Washington State.  The reporter suggested the delayed filing of DUI charges was bad, and called out the King County Prosecutors office because of it.  In the article an example is used of a guy who was arrested for DUI but the charge was not filed for a few months.  During those months he was arrested again for DUI.  And the question was asked why would he out of custody?

Well this article got me thinking.  Does it really matter when the Prosecutor files a DUI charge.  Obviously this will be from a Defense Attorney standpoint, but in my opinion the filing of a DUI charge most times has very little effect on a DUI case.  However there are certain instances when a delayed filing will benefit the Defense.  For example:

Lets say that you have been arrested for a DUI in Seattle.  Your case gets referred to the King County Prosecutors office.  Almost 3 months after the arrest you have an arraignment.  At that arraignment the Prosecutors office asks for bail or a requirement of ignition interlock while the case is pending.  The Prosecutors argue there is a community safety risk if these extra conditions are not imposed and there is a substantial likelihood another drunk driving arrest will occur.

Well in my opinion as a Seattle DUI Attorney the Prosecutors would stand a better chance of having those above conditions imposed if the DUI charge had been filed sooner.  It is kind of difficult to convince a Judge someone is a community safety risk when the Prosecutor hasn't been concerned with them for the past 3 months.  Meaning if they thought there was a substantial risk they would drink and drive again then the DUI charge should have been filed sooner.  Typically this is what a Judge says and that is why sometimes the Prosecutors cannot get those conditions imposed.

The second reason it is sometimes advantageous for the Defense when a DUI charge is not filed right away is the amount of investigation that can get done prior to the arraignment.  If a DUI charge does not get filed for 2-3 months.  Than that is 2-3 months a Defense Lawyer is working on the case.  Interviewing the arresting officer.  Requesting and reviewing video evidence.  Investigating the breath test records and maintenance logs of the breath test machine.  Essentially this delayed filing has given the Defense Attorney a head start on preparing a defense.  Something that comes in handy when compared to the amount of time a Prosecutor has on the case.

And lastly in my experience when a DUI charge gets filed closer to the statue of limitations rather than sooner.  And I mean right at the 2 year limit then usually by that time the case is pretty stale.  Witnesses are gone.  Police officers do not remember as well or may not even be around anymore.  And usually due to the time frame and age of the case, Prosecutors are more willing to negotiate and offer a plea deal then normally would not have.

So those are three instances when a delayed filing will benefit a Defendant.  But generally a delayed filing of 2 months is not that big of a deal on a first offense DUI and most times will have little to no effect on the outcome of the case.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  He is rated a 10 out of 10 by Avvo and named a Top Seattle DUI lawyer.  Additionally he has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by Seattle Met Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.   

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