LAW FIRM OF DAVID N. JOLLY
The Washington legislature has recognized that some people run afoul of the law not because they are criminals, but because they can't help it. The lawmakers have recognized that the most effective way to keep an alcoholic from driving drunk is to get him or her to stop drinking. From this inspiration was born the deferred prosecution statute.
The law allows a defendant to request the court for deferral or postponement of their case for five years while he or she seeks treatment for their disease. If the request is granted the advantages are clear: defendants retain their license, do not go to jail, keep the DUI off their record, avoid being fined, and, except for cases of blood or breath refusal, avoid administrative license suspensions. Most importantly, they are given an opportunity to sober up and regain control of their lives. Washington is unique in this statutory alternative.
Deferred prosecution is not limited to alcoholics, but may be granted where the defendant is suffering from drug addiction or mental health problems. It is not uncommon to find people suffering from symptoms of all three illnesses.
In order to qualify for deferred prosecution, the defendant must obtain an evaluation from a state approved treatment agency. The agency will conduct an assessment and if it concludes that the criminal conduct for which deferred prosecution is sought occurred as a result of alcoholism, drug addiction or mental health problems and that the defendant is amenable to treatment, meaning they are willing to be treated, the person is eligible for deferred prosecution as long as they have never been granted a deferred prosecution before.
In DUI cases, of course, the most frequent reason a deferred prosecution is sought is because of a drinking problem, and the required two-year treatment program is quite rigorous and occurs in three phases. The first phase is typically three or four nights a week for the first two or three months (seventy -two hours of treatment in the first 90 days) or can involve an inpatient program. Phase two entails weekly counseling for six months. Phase three requires counseling once a month for the balance of the two-year program. Additionally, two Alcoholics Anonymous or other self-help meetings per week are required for the full two years. Usually the defendant is also placed on supervised probation, which means that he or she may be required to meet on a regular basis with a probation officer and to pay for those services. Additionally, an ignition interlock device (IID) will be required for at least one year.
If a blood or breath test is taken, a deferred prosecution will stay, or postpone most administrative license suspensions. However, in the case of a test refusal, the administrative action is unaffected, although one can get an ignition interlock license after a set period of time.
Three years after the completion of the treatment program, the charge is dismissed. What the defendant is required to do during the three years after treatment ends and the case is dismissed, other than not re-offend, is up to the judge. Typically, continued attendance at AA is all that is required, along with law abiding behavior.
Entry into a deferred prosecution program should not be undertaken lightly. It is a rigorous program, and the court usually requires strict compliance. While it is a wonderful way to deal with both a significant health problem and a serious legal problem at the same time, recovery is not easy. It requires strong commitment and the consequences of failing to successfully complete the program are usually severe. Particular care must be used in determining whether a juvenile should enter a deferred prosecution because of the difficulties of diagnosis at younger ages, and because of the particular roadblocks to successful completion facing younger people.
Revocation of a deferred prosecution invariably results in a conviction for the DUI, and any other criminal charge that may have accompanied it. The penalties imposed may be harsher than if the defendant had merely pleaded guilty in the first place, and will almost always require completion of the treatment program originally undertaken as a part of the deferred prosecution.
Furthermore, a person is only entitled to one deferred prosecution in a lifetime. So if a person is not totally committed to recovery, entering into a deferred prosecution could be very foolhardy.
Finally, a deferred prosecution counts as a prior offense if the person is convicted for a subsequent DUI within seven years of the DUI for which deferred prosecution was sought, and will be used to substantially enhance the mandatory minimum penalties to be imposed on the subsequent DUI.
Successful completion of the deferred prosecution, however, has significant rewards, both personal and legal, and should be examined in any case in which alcohol, drug or mental health problems may exist. It is recommended that an alcohol assessment from a qualified and appropriate agency be obtained in every case well before trial. If you are considering deferred prosecution please contact one of our Washington State DUI attorneys today.
The final word on this page should focus on how each court treats a deferred prosecution. Simply, every court in Washington deals with the process of admitting a deferred prosecution differently. For instance, for a Whatcom County DUI, attorneys prepare the Petition, Order and evaluation and treatment documents and provide proof of enrollment in the program to the Court, Prosecutor and Probation one week before the scheduled court date. In Skagit County, DUI lawyers must advise their clients that they must meet with Probation prior to entry and Probation must approve the Petition prior to the Judge's review. Finally, DUI attorneys in Snohomish County are well aware of the difficulty of having a deferred prosecution petition approved. The extensive documentation must be presented to the Probation Department more than one week ahead of the court date and the Petitioner must complete 36 hours of treatment to be approved. Complicated, your criminal defense lawyer will be able to handle these requirements on your behalf while you concentrate on treatment.
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If you have been arrested for DUI in Washington State you must immediately seek advice from an experienced DUI Attorney. You have many options when facing a charge of driving under the influence in Washington State. One of those options is deferred prosecution. The main advantages of a deferred prosecution are that: 1) Your Washington DUI is dismissed; 2) You will not go to Jail; and 3) You can maintain your privilege to drive (unless you refused the breath or blood test or if you have a CDL). Naturally there are many negatives too, and to find out about the requirements to do a deferred prosecution read further and contact a Washington DUI attorney at the Law Firm of David N. Jolly.
Deferred prosecution is a program that allows a person suffering from an alcohol problem (alcoholism), a drug problem (addiction), or a mental health problem to seek permission of the court to go through an intensive treatment program in lieu of being prosecuted. Successful completion of the treatment program, and continued lawful conduct will result in dismissal of the charge and may avoid a suspension of driver's license by the Department of Licensing.
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Further, if you are not a United States Citizens we strongly encourage consulting with an immigration attorney to determine how a criminal charge may affect your immigration status.
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LAW FIRM OF DAVID N. JOLLY - OFFICE LOCATIONS
Whatcom County: 218 W. Champion St., Bellingham, WA 98225
Skagit County: 415 Pine St., Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Snohomish County: 2731 Wetmore Avenue, #401, Everett, WA 98201