A very powerful tool in a Washington DUI lawyer’s arsenal is the deferred sentencing option that judges have in most cases that are reduced from a DUI to a lesser offense. A deferred sentence means exactly what it sounds like. Upon conviction of a crime in Washington, either by way of guilty plea or after trial, a judge may opt to “defer” sentencing for a period of time. In most cases the period of deferral would be one or two years. If after this period of time the defendant complied with the conditions set by the court, the case would be readdressed, the guilty plea withdrawn or finding of guilt vacated, and the charge would be dismissed. Surprisingly few attorneys, when allowed, request this option for their clients. It is the position of the DUI attorneys at Milios Defense that a deferred sentence should be requested in every case that it is permissible to do so.
RCW 3.66.067 and .068 addresses the concept of the deferred sentence in Washington. RCW 46.61.5055 comments upon the deferred sentence as it applies in Washington DUI cases. Essentially it is within the discretion of the court to grant a deferred sentence in most criminal traffic cases. Until 2013, even a conviction for DUI was eligible for deferral. Unfortunately, the state legislature has removed that option and now judges are forbidden from considering deferring sentences for DUI convictions. Practically speaking, this change will have very little impact as only a handful of judges in Washington state were deferring DUI sentences to begin with. But the reality is, DUI lawyers can no longer even ask the court to consider this sentencing option.
The deferred sentencing alternative can still come into play more in cases where the original charge of DUI is reduced to a lesser offense (i.e. negligent driving, reckless driving) or where the charge is originally filed as that lesser offense. To be eligible for a deferred sentence, most courts will require that the person have never had a previous deferred sentence or previous criminal convictions. It is generally intended for the person who has never been in trouble before. The 2013 legislative amendments to the deferred sentencing laws also impact a deferral under these circumstances. As of 2013, charges that were dismissed under a deferred sentencing alternative will still count as a prior offense, even though the charge was dismissed, in case of subsequent DUIs. The benefit of this amendment, however, may be that more judges may consider deferring sentences now that they know that even the dismissed charge will count as a prior in the future.
Additionally, some prosecutors will condition a reduction from a DUI charge on the defense not seeking a deferred sentence. Finally, a deferred sentence granted on a lesser offense will not be acknowledged by the DOL and the charge will stay on the driving record.
There is no reason not to request a deferred sentence when legitimately able to do so. If successful it will allow a person to lawfully say that she has not been convicted of that crime. A person need not worry about going through the unpredictable hassle of the expungement process. It keeps an otherwise marred criminal record clean. To best position oneself for an eventual deferred sentence, review our DUI Self Help Guide and contact one of our Seattle DUI attorneys as soon as possible. We are very knowledgeable about the courts and judges who are friendly to the concept of a deferred sentence.
NOTE: A deferred sentence is NOT a deferred prosecution. These are two completely different concepts and only share the term “deferred” in common. Review ourDeferred Prosecution section for more information.