People charged with a DUI need to do everything possible to avoid the serious consequences that attach to a conviction. Hiring an experienced Washington DUI attorney is a good start. But many individuals are looking to be proactive in their defense or do things prior to hiring a lawyer. This is a guide for them.
Write your own report
The police officer who arrested you is going to spend a significant amount of time documenting what he believed occurred when he arrested you, and from his perspective. He does this in order to help the prosecutor convict you. You need to do the same, Drafting a report of your experience soon after it occurs will help you focus your thoughts, it will help your attorney better understand your case, and it will assist you in remembering the details of what happened should you need to testify, sometimes months later. While there is no one correct way to write your report, try to include the following information. How much did you have to drink and over what period of time? Who was with you before, during and after you were arrested? As much detail as you can remember about the stop, arrest and processing at the police station. What did the office say to you? What tests did you take? No detail is too small and sometimes a seemingly insignificant fact will have an enormous impact on a case. So take a half hour or so as soon as possible after your arrest and write your report. It will help.
Alleviate a Prosecutor's Concerns About You
All prosecutors in Washington view DUI cases based largely on two factors. (1) The level of the breath test. (2) The defendant's DUI history. These are two factors that you can do little to change. What you can do, however, is to alleviate a prosecutor's concern that if they were to give you a second chance, you would make them regret it. Prosecutors want to be certain that if they were to agree to reduce the charge, you won't be back in front of them with a new DUI. To that end, showing a prosecutor that this is an isolated incident and that you do not suffer from alcoholism is invaluable. A prosecutor who thinks you may have an alcohol problem is significantly less likely to reduce a DUI charge. After getting a referral from a knowledgeable DUI attorney, get an alcohol evaluation at a reputable treatment agency. Provide the results to your attorney. Granted, this advice would be different for a client who does suffer from alcoholism. That is a topic for a different guide.
The vast majority of defendants sit back and wait until they are ordered to do something by the court. To differentiate yourself in the eyes of both the court and prosecutor, figure out what is likely to be expected of you and complete these tasks as soon as possible. A DUI lawyer in your jurisdiction will know after even a brief phone consultation what the court in your area will likely require. Most courts, regardless of state or jurisdiction will expect the following. (1) An alcohol evaluation from a certified treatment agency. (See Step 1) (2) Follow up with treatment recommendations. This can range from a short term alcohol information class to a full blown treatment program. (3) Participation in a DUI Victim's Panel. Quickly getting started on these basic requirements will usually serve to help your eventual attorney negotiate your case and can save you time and money in the long run. Specific questions regarding these issues should be addressed to local counsel.
Go Above and Beyond
Proactively completing requirements that the court will likely order is the bare minimum a person can do to help in their defense. For some people, those with prior DUIs or higher breath tests, it will likely be necessary to go beyond that minimum. For people in this scenario, more will need to be done to help elevate you in the eyes of the court and prosecutor. Even for an individual with no priors and a low breath test, extra credit can't hurt. Consider proactively doing community service or volunteer work. It's a virtual lock that other defendants are not doing this. Seek out a non profit, charitable organization and give of your time. Many DUI attorneys have exhaustive lists for you to consider of possible organizations. How much time you should give is case dependent. A good rule of thumb is to do as many hours as you feel comfortable with. In this attorney's experience, doing unrequired proactive volunteer work always has a positive benefit at some point during the case.
Stay on Top of your Defense
Finally, there is no substitute for being informed and participating in your defense. Assuming you hire a DUI lawyer, always stay on top of what he or she is doing for you. Ask questions. Ask if there is anything you can be doing to assist in your defense. While it's understood that you are hiring a lawyer to help you beat the DUI charge, ultimately you are the one who bears the brunt of any consequences. Don't just write a check and then take a back seat. Take responsibility for yourself and let any prospective attorney know you intend to do so. A good lawyer will welcome and appreciate this attitude. Be proactive, be informed and participate. While there are no guarantees in this area of law, the more you do on your own behalf, the more likely your case is to find success.