This informational page has been established to help answer the most frequent questions Mark Stephens has encountered from representing 1000+ DUI cases in over 15 years. Go through these questions and answers first, and then give the Law Office of Mark R. Stephens a call with any additional questions you have or to discuss your representation needs.
What do I need to know if I have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence?
If you have been arrested for DUI (either alcohol or drugs — prescription medications, too) or Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle while Under the Influence, you need experienced, aggressive representation to navigate the confusing process of licensing and legal consequences.
Should I have taken the Breath Test?
In most cases — YES. The consequences for "refusal" of the official breath test (at the jail or police station), are generally more severe than cases where a driver submits to the test. There's a difference between a portable, road-side, breath test and the "official" test administered at the station or jail. The only test admissible in court and by the Department of Licensing is the DataMaster given after proper warnings about the consequences of taking the test versus refusing the test.
My first court date is soon ... what should I expect?
First, DO NOT MISS YOUR COURT DATE! If you have a compelling reason why you can't attend, you need to hire an attorney immediately. The first court appearance is your arraignment. This hearing is a formality, in which you will enter a "Not Guilty" plea and receive future court dates. No matter how hopeless you think your case is, no judge in the Puget Sound region will accept a "Guilty" plea to DUI at arraignment; the consequences are too complex and serious. The judge will simply confirm with you your understanding of your rights in court, and then the judge will ask if you plan to hire a lawyer or if you want a public defender. If you aren't sure, you should apply for the public defender...you can always change your mind later and substitute your choice of private attorney.
What is the advantage of a private attorney vs. a public defender?
- A public defender will not represent you through the mandatory license suspension process, which is separate from the court process.
- Public defenders have much higher case loads than private attorneys carry. Thus, the time spent on each case is severely limited by the sheer number of cases assigned. Public defenders perform important work under difficult circumstances, but they are rarely able to provide the level of attention to your case that a privately retained attorney can provide.
- When you are assigned a public defender, you get the counsel the government provides. You have the right to counsel, but not the right to counsel of your choice.
I was arrested for DUI, but have no court date and no idea what's happening with my case; what does this mean?
If you were arrested for DUI, but released without getting a court date, it usually means you will be charged in the near future. In Snohomish County, deputy prosecutors review each case prior to charging, and the delay between arrest and a Summons to court may take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. In King County the delay will be significantly longer.
Why should I meet with a lawyer now?
Because the clock began ticking on your license suspension the day of your arrest. Also, hiring an experienced lawyer before charging ensures that you will be notified and ready to go once the prosecutor moves forward on your case. In some instances, an experienced lawyer familiar with the prosecuting attorney's office can negotiate favorable conditions or possible resolutions before the criminal case is filed. Politely request to speak with an attorney as soon as it becomes clear you are about to be charged.