Trial on a DUI charge

If a person does not prevail at the motions hearing, or the motions hearing does not prompt a better plea offer, the only option remaining is trial.

A DUI is a gross misdemeanor filed in District or Municipal Court. This means a panel of six jurors (as opposed to twelve in Superior Court on a felony charge) will hear the evidence and render a verdict. In order to be convicted, all six jurors must unanimously agree that the person is guilty. On the other hand, all six jurors must unanimously agree that the person is not guilty in order to acquit. If the jurors are split (6-1, 3-1, 2-4, ect.) it is a mistrial. The prosecutor will then decide whether they will retry the person (they normally do).

While the Washington Constitution provides the right to a speedy trial, just finding an available trial date is an exceedingly difficult task. In short, there are too many cases proceeding to trial these days, and not enough court rooms to handle all the cases. A person who wants to exercise their Constitutional right to trial can expect to be forced to appear at multiple “readiness” hearings before a courtroom becomes available for their case. To make matters even more inconvenient, you never know when a courtroom is going to become available, so you always have to be prepared to drop everything, and jump when the opportunity comes up.

A typical DUI trial can last anywhere from one to five days. In order to admit the breath test against a person, the prosecutor is required to admit testimony of breath test technician, the toxicologist, and the officer who made the stop and administered the breath test. The defense may also present witnesses. Defense witnesses can include the defendant, the people who were with the defendant on the night of the arrest, or an expert witness to testify about the scientific principles involved with the breath testing. If the person is convicted at trial, they would have the right to appeal to a higher court. In the DUI context, the next court up is the Superior Court, which handles Rules of Appeal for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (a RALJ appeal).

Up next, the sentencing hearing.

Go back to the motions hearing.