You get arrested for DUI and processed, maybe even booked and released on bond, and then told charges and a summons to appear in court will be mailed. Several weeks, or even months, pass and nothing happens. In the intervening period, an administrative license suspension may have occurred and the license reinstated… but still no word from the court. A question we at Milios Defense receive often is, “why is it taking so long for my DUI charge to be filed?”. It’s a legitimate question and depending on where the arrest occurred and what type of alcohol analysis was done, there could be a number of different reasons.
Washington delays in processing blood-alcohol toxicology reports
One of the main reasons for filing delays, statewide, is a back-up at the Washington State Toxicology lab in processing blood-alcohol results. Many prosecuting agencies don’t like to file DUI charges until all of the evidence has been received. The blood alcohol analysis is such a major component of the case, if there is a delay in processing those results there will likely delay the filing of DUI charges. As of this writing, there appears to a back-up at the state toxicology lab of anywhere from 2-4 months. Therefore, in DUI cases involving a blood draw, a filing delay of anywhere from 3-6 months is commonplace. If your case occurred in King County, Washington, and was initiated or processed by the Washington State Patrol or King County Sheriff, you may experience a different kind, and duration, of delay.
DUI Filing Delays in King County, Washington
Historically, the King County Prosecutor’s Office has had a reputation for delaying the filing of DUI charges. There doesn’t seem to be any nefarious reason for the delay, it’s just a reality. I addressed the issue of King County DUI filing delays in 2009 when delays of 6 months to two years were commonplace. Then, for a time, and based upon some outside pressures, DUIs were being filed in a much more timely manner. Starting in 2013, DUI charges in King County would be filed within days of the incident and at most within a matter of a few weeks. This became the standard for about two or three years. Now, in 2018, we are seeing filing delays that are similar to those that were prevalent ten years ago. People are contacting us wondering why charges that were based on arrests from early this year to as far back as Spring of 2017 haven’t been filed.
DUI Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for filing DUI charges in Washington is two years from the date of the incident. That means the state, for the most part, has the entirety of that two year period to make a filing decision. There are exceptions, however. If the state, by way of unreasonable or unnecessary delay, prejudices the defendant’s ability to defend himself, the remedy could be anything from suppression of evidence to the dismissal of charges. If the state violates the statute of limitations, it’s an absolute bar to the filing of charges. But even a long delay in the filing of charges could impact how or if the State is able to proceed.
Potential Impacts of DUI Filing Delays
There are a number of reasons why a lengthy delay in filing a DUI charge could negatively impact a person. Practically, there is the possibility of the spoilage of evidence. Witness’s memories fade over time. Physical evidence that existed at the time of the incident may no longer be around. Delays also prevent the possibility of seeking a ruling in a criminal court that might lead to the dismissal of a Department of Licensing administrative action. And of no small consequence is the anxiety that accompanies a person knowing that a criminal charge is still out there, waiting to be filed. There are also times when a long delay can actually be in your favor but can vary as every case is different.
If you find yourself in this situation, contact a DUI attorney. There may be things that you could be doing proactively while awaiting the filing decision that can help assure a better outcome once you finally go to court. If your case is sitting with the King County Prosecutor’s Office and just occurred, the reality is that you are probably in for a long wait.