What’s Involved In a DUI Deferred Prosecution? Many years ago, the Washington legislature recognized that some people get in trouble with the law not because they’re criminals, but rather because of alcoholism or drug addiction or in some cases, serious mental health issues. As a result, it passed theDeferred Prosecution statute designed to emphasize treatment more than punishment. Thus, if you are charged with a DUI and are either an alcoholic or drug addict, or you are suffering from mental problems, and you are in need of treatment and unless treated the probability of future recurrence is great, you have the option of asking the court to defer formal prosecution of the case while you seek treatment at a state-certified treatment agency. Deferred prosecution is a demanding task requiring absolute abstinence from alcohol and non-prescribed drugs and complete adherence to the program requirements. In return, you do not suffer the usual consequences of a DUI conviction; fines, jail, and loss of license.
However, there are some potential consequences which should be thoroughly discussed with your attorney before deciding to petition for deferred prosecution. It is not an easy road to take, but is an appropriate alternative for alcoholics and drug addicts truly interested in confronting and dealing with their problem. The law states that you may be grante only one deferred prosecution in a lifetime, so it important to carefully consider this decision.
All state-certified treatment agencies are required to follow essentially the same treatment program, so there is no such thing as finding an easy-versus-hard program. The alcohol treatment program itself is divided into three phases: the Intensive Phase, the Follow-up Phase and the Monitoring Phase.
The Intensive Phase is just that, requiring either inpatient hospitalization or outpatient treatment involving almost daily contact with the agency for three or four hours at a time for four to six weeks. The program involves in-depth individual and group counseling, education, alcoholics anonymous meetings, lifestyle changes, etc.
The Follow-up Phase lessens the time demands, but still requires strict sobriety and complete compliance with the treatment requirements. During Follow-up, you are required to attend at least two AA (or other recognized support group) meetings per week and meet with a counselor once a week. In addition, you are required to submit to random urine or breath tests throughout the two year program upon the request of either by your counselor or probation officer.
Once phase two is completed, you move into the Monitoring Phase. During these last 16 or 17 months, you must still attend at least two AA meetings per week and meet with your alcohol counselor at least once a month, who monitors your compliance with the program. In addition, you may be required to meet regularly with your probation officer to confirm your compliance.
Upon successful completion of the treatment program, the treatment agency sends a discharge summary to the court, the probation department and your lawyer. Even after completing the two year treatment program, you must still wait an additional three years before the case may be dismissed. The court may elect to continue your probation for the additional three years while imposing such conditions (continued AA attendance, for instance) as are deemed appropriate. Three years after completion of treatment, you will have earned the right to a formal dismissal of the charge.
Deferred prosecution has many positive aspects, but is it important to consider several points. First, you are only eligible if you agree that you are an alcoholic or drug addict or that you suffer from mental problems, are in need of treatment and unless treated the probability of future recurrence is great. Secondly, the court requires you to give up substantial rights in return for the deferral, including the right to trial and to contest the charges should any violation of the program occur during the five year period of deferral of the DUI charge. In other words, you likely will proceed directly to sentencing on the DUI charge should the court determine that you have failed to comply with any condition of the court’s order.
Thirdly, strict compliance with the treatment plan’s terms is required, including total abstinence, random urinalysis or breath tests and attendance at all required meetings. In addition, costs of the program can be substantial; an outpatient treatment program costs anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. Most group health insurance policies cover the bulk of the costs at approved treatment agencies, but certain individual policies do not.
Fourth, even a successfully completed deferred prosecution, where the charge was dismissed, counts as a prior conviction if you are convicted of another DUI where the second arrest occurred within seven years oirst arrest. A person who successfully completes a deferred prosecution should, however, never again be arrested for DUI, if the program has been successful.
A final consideration is that as a condition of granting the deferred prosecution in an alcohol-based DUI case, the court will order the imposition of an ignition interlock restriction on your license. The judge will set the length of the DUI interlock requirement for court purposes, ranging from one year to five years. Independent of court-required ignition interlock, Most judges require the driver simply to ” comply with the Department of licensing requirement on ignition interlock” when granting a deferred prosecution. The Department of licensing will impose an ignition interlock requirement of one year or more depending upon the driver’s record.
The deferred prosecution option has some major advantages in the right case, but it should be pursued only after very careful deliberation with the assistance of an experienced Washington State DUI attorney. In your writer’s experience, the deferred prosecution program can an excellent option when used appropriately, but it is a recipe for disaster if entered into without consideration of all the rigorous requirements and the consequences that follow if the DUI deferred prosecution is not successfully completed.
For the right person and in the right case, the deferred prosecution program is an excellent avenue to consider for one charged with DUI. It should not be used as a “way out” of a DUI conviction but rather as a means to obtain needed alcohol/drug treatment which also has favorable legal benefits. You should consider the deferred prosecution program only after thoroughly discussing your case with a competent DUI defense attorney and only after achieving a clear understanding of what is entailed in the treatment program and all the legal and practical implications of such a decision. This is an example of an area in which a very experienced DUIattorney can offer you valuable guidance and useful advice to consider when making this very important decision