Despite being one of the most common crimes committed in the United States and in the state of Washington, a charge for driving under the influence (DUI) can seem confusing and convoluted to many who do not know the ins and outs of the system. This is not through any fault of someone trying to make sense of the process – instead, it is the DUI process itself that is unusual and counter-intuitive.
Instead of being straightforward, like most criminal charges are, a charge for DUI in Washington has two aspects to it. The first aspect is the administrative one, and deals with the future of your driver's license and driving privileges. The second aspect is the criminal one. This facet of a DUI charge deals with the criminal sanctions that you can face, like fines or jail time.
Knowing that there are two distinct pieces to a DUI charge can help you better understand what is going on, giving you at least a little bit of peace of mind in such a stressful time.
The Administrative Process
If you get pulled over by a police officer and end up arrested for DUI, the first thing that happens is your license will get suspended by the Washington Department of Licensing (DoL). The DoL is an administrative agency, and is in charge of issuing Washington citizens their drivers' licenses. Because they can issue these licenses, they can also attach strings to your driver's license, and can even take away you license without going through a hearing process outside of the DoL.
One of the strings attached to your driver's license is the fact that it will be suspended if you are found to be driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or over the legal limit, or if you refuse to submit to a BAC test when requested by a police officer.
This suspension happens immediately, without a hearing. The only way to get a hearing and argue your case is to request an administrative hearing with the DoL, where they will have to prove their case.
The Criminal Process
While the administrative aspect of a DUI charge puts you up against the DoL, in the criminal process you will face prosecutors from the state of Washington. Additionally, more than just your driver's license will be at stake: In the criminal process, you will be facing criminal sanctions like a fine and jail time. Because your very liberty is at stake, the court will act as a referee in this duel, which could culminate in a trial if it is not resolved earlier in the process.
A DUI Attorney Can Help Throughout Both Processes
The complexity of a DUI charge, coupled with having to face down both the DoL and a team of prosecutors from the state, can make the whole process seem overwhelming. DUI-defense attorneys like Steve Karimi, however, have extensive experience defending against DUI charges. Call his Seattle law office at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.