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Pros and Cons of Deferred Prosecution in a Washington DUI Case

If you are facing Washington DUI charges, you may have heard about getting your case dismissed through a Deferred Prosecution.

If you are eligible for a Deferred Prosecution and comply with all of the statutory and court requirements, you can avoid jail time and will have the case dismissed.

But like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to Deferred Prosecution for a Washington DUI, the details are critically important.    

What Is Deferred Prosecution for a Washington DUI Charge?

Think of a Deferred Prosecution as a contract between you and the city or county government prosecuting the case against you. Under the terms of the contract, the government agrees to dismiss the case against you once you have complied with all of the statutory Deferred Prosecution requirements. The Deferred Prosecution is a creature of statute.  The judge cannot modify the statutory requirements. If you fail to uphold your end the of the bargain, the government will ask the court to find you in violation of the terms of the agreement and find you guilty of the charge against you.

How to Qualify for Deferred Prosecution in a Washington DUI Case

To qualify for a Deferred Prosecution in a Washington DUI case, you must:

  • Never have been granted a Deferred Prosecution before (this includes similar out-of-state programs)
  • Admit that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol or have a mental condition that makes it likely that you will re-offend unless you receive treatment
  • Waive your speedy trial rights
  • Waive your constitutional rights to call witnesses, to testify or refuse to testify, to cross-examine witnesses against you, the presumption of innocence, and the right to appeal
  • Admit to the judge that you do not believe you were truly innocent of the crime charged.  

If you qualify, you agree to:

  • Attend substance abuse or mental health treatment for 2 years that includes:
    • 3 group meetings per week for the first 3 months
    • 1 group meeting per week for the next 8 months
    • 1 group meeting per month for the remainder of the 2 years
  • Attend a minimum of 2 self-help meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, every week for at least 2 years
  • The installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for at least 1 year

If the court agrees to the Deferred Prosecution and you successfully complete 2 years of treatment, your case will be continued for another 3 years during which time the court maintains oversight of you. If, after these 5 years, you have complied with all of the court’s requirements, including not consuming drugs or alcohol and not being charged with any additional crimes, the court will dismiss your case.  Keep in mind, if it takes you 3 years to complete the treatment program, the Deferred Prosecution will last a total of 6 years. The 3 year clock does not start until the treatment program is completed. 5 years is the minimum time frame an individual can complete a Deferred Prosecution.

Deferred Prosecution is intended for people for whom treatment will likely be successful and who are ready to address the underlying problem.  Most jurisdictions require approval of the probation department before a judge will sign an order entering an individual into a Deferred Prosecution.  If someone is not serious about addressing their specific problem or probation does not think they have the ability to stick with the program, probation will be a roadblock to someone being accepted into a Deferred Prosecution program.        

What Are the Benefits of a Deferred Prosecution?

The primary benefit of a Deferred Prosecution is that at the end of the 5 year period, if you meet all of the statutory requirements, the case will be dismissed and you will be acquitted. There is no criminal conviction, and you do not have the risk, time, and expense of going to trial.

What Are the Drawbacks of a Deferred Prosecution?

While there is tremendous upside to successful completion of a Deferred Prosecution, it’s important that you understand that successfully complying with the court’s requirements is not for the faint of heart. Deferred Prosecution is difficult and time-consuming, requires tremendous self-control, and is intended for people struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

If you are considering Deferred Prosecution as the easy way out of a Washington DUI charge, you are in for a rude awakening.    

In addition to the personal difficulties you may encounter in trying to comply with the requirements for a Deferred Prosecution, there are also significant legal risks if you agree to a Deferred Prosecution.  

By agreeing to a Deferred Prosecution you waive your right to challenge the evidence against you. This means that if you fail to comply with the terms of the Deferred Prosecution, you have virtually no way to challenge the evidence against you.  You will stipulate to the accuracy and admissibility of the police reports as evidence against you. In almost every case, the police report is not written in your favor.

A Deferred Prosecution will also show up on a Washington State Patrol background check and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device for the same time period as if you were convicted of a DUI.  Also, a judge can order that you are required to not drive without a functioning ignition interlock device for the duration of the Deferred Prosecution.

If you are subsequently convicted of a similar offense after entering a Deferred Prosecution program, a judge will revoke your Deferred Prosecution and sentence you up to the maximum penalty.

Is Deferred Prosecution Right for You?

Deferred Prosecution is intended for people who believe they were charged with a DUI due to alcoholism, drug addiction, or a mental health issue.

If you have struggled with addiction or mental health issues, a Deferred Prosecution can be a great opportunity to turn your life around, get the help you need, and avoid a DUI conviction. However, because recovering from addiction often involves relapses, there are very real risks that you might not be able to comply with all of the requirements.

If you are curious about whether Deferred Prosecution for a Washington DUI charge is right for you, contact DUI defense attorney Justin Campbell at the Campbell Law Firm.

Call (360) 588-4111, email info@lawjrc.com, or complete our online form to schedule a free 90-minute consultation to discuss your case.

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