In January of 1999, changes in Washington state DUI laws made it a lot easier to turn law-abiding citizens into serious criminals in the State of Washington. Most lawyers had dire predictions of the effect the new DUI laws would have on all aspects of DUI practice. The laws have now been in place over a year and it’s time to test the doomsayer’s accuracy.

While the legislature made wholesale changes to the DUI laws, the one most expected to have the greatest impact was the lowering of the legal breath alcohol limit to .08. Other significant changes were mandatory appearance at arraignment, administrative license suspension, extending probation to five years and limiting individuals to one deferred prosecution in a lifetime. We predicted that these changes would result in increased filings, more jury trials, a decrease in deferred prosecutions and a significant increase in DOL hearings in an effort to fight administrative license revocations.

A review of data compiled by DOL, the Office of the Administrator of the Courts and the Washington State Patrol Breath Test Section revealed some surprises, but the burden the new law has placed on the Department of Licensing wasn’t among them. Under the old DUI law, a first time offender with a BAC over .10 had her license placed in a probationary status. With the new law came an administrative suspension of 90 days for a first time offender with a BAC over .08 and, as a result, a lot more hearings.

In 1998 (under the old Washington State DUI law) the DOL received requests for 7,868 hearings of which 6,644 were actually conducted (84% of those requested). In 1999, the DOL received 11, 718 requests for a hearing and actually conducted 9,575 (82% of those requested).The impact these numbers have had on the DOL is apparent to anyone who is practicing regularly in the field. The DOL is scheduling hearings much closer to the 60 day time limit and the police are having more difficulty submitting their reports in a timely manner.

One would think that the increase in caseload and backup of hearings would result in an increased rate of dismissal of DUI license suspension hearings. This is not the case. In 1998, the DOL dismissed 3,011 cases (38% of hearings requested). In 1999, there were 3,666 dismissals (31% of hearings requested). Instead of an increased dismissal rate, what we have seen from the DOL is an increase in telephonic hearings (to save time) and a crack down on continuances. It is expected that the number of hearings requested from the DOL will continue to increase as the public becomes more informed of the often catastrophic consequences of administrative revocation, and as access to hearings becomes more available to indigent drivers.

While the predicted impact on the DOL was realized, the impact on the criminal courts is much different than expected. The number of DUI/Physical Control filings in the state remained about the same (78,386 in 1998 and 77,760 in 1999)[1]. The State Patrol reports that the average breath test result in those cases continues to hover around a .15 (about 3,000 of the breath tests were between .08 and .10). The number of people who either plead or were found guilty remained about the same in 1999 as well (20,812 or 27%) as it was in 1998 (18,266 or 23%). Finally, there were about the same number of dismissals[2] in 1999 (9,644 or 12%) as in 1998 (9,698 or 12%).There was also, as expected, an increase in the number of trials in 1999 (2,919) from 1998 (2,221). Those additional trials, however, were not in front of a jury. The number of jury trials in 1999 (904) were down from the 951 jury trials that took place in 1998. While lawyers were apprehensive to try DUI in cases in front of juries, they appear less so in appeals to the bench. In 1998 there were 1,270 bench trials. In 1999 that number increased by about 59% (to 2,015).The last surprising statistic relates to deferred prosecutions. Given the increase in the length of time (from two years to five), the requirement of an ignition interlock for cases with a breath test over a .15, refusals and repeat offenses, along with the limitation to one in a lifetime, it was expected that attorneys would be less inclined to encourage clients to petition for deferral of prosecution. The prevailing opinion was that trials would increase while deferred prosecutions decreased. However, while the numbers clearly show that DUI trials did increase in 1999, the number of deferred prosecutions remained almost exactly the same. In 1998, 9,701 people (12% of total filings) petitioned for a deferred prosecution. 9,200 people (12% of total filings) petitioned the court for a deferred prosecution last year. It will be interesting to see the impact on the system from the inevitable increase in revocation hearings over the coming years given a length of probation more than double that of the old law.

These are just a few of the ways in which the new laws have significantly impacted our system. Complications that remain waiting in the wings include jail overcrowding due to much longer minimums for repeat Washington State DUI offenders, huge numbers of suspended drivers, vehicle forfeitures, etc. If history serves as an indicator, the full impact of the new laws will only begin to be felt before the legislature unleashes yet another round of ever more punitive reforms.','1999 Washington State DUI Law Changes Explained ',0,'','inherit','open','open','','3-revision','','','2008-09-10 16:43:57','2008-09-10 23:43:57','',3,'http://jonscottfox.powweb.com/duinews/2008/09/10/3-revision/',0,'revision','',0),(31,2,'2008-10-26 12:52:08','2008-10-26 19:52:08','In January of 1999, changes in Washington state DUI laws made it a lot easier to turn law-abiding citizens into serious criminals in the State of Washington. Most lawyers had dire predictions of the effect the new DUI laws would have on all aspects of DUI practice. The laws have now been in place over a year and it’s time to test the doomsayer’s accuracy.

While the legislature made wholesale changes to the DUI laws, the one most expected to have the greatest impact was the lowering of the legal breath alcohol limit to .08. Other significant changes were mandatory appearance at arraignment, administrative license suspension, extending probation to five years and limiting individuals to one deferred prosecution in a lifetime. We predicted that these changes would result in increased filings, more jury trials, a decrease in deferred prosecutions and a significant increase in DOL hearings in an effort to fight administrative license revocations.

A review of data compiled by DOL, the Office of the Administrator of the Courts and the Washington State Patrol Breath Test Section revealed some surprises, but the burden the new law has placed on the Department of Licensing wasn’t among them. Under the old DUI law, a first time offender with a BAC over .10 had her license placed in a probationary status. With the new law came an administrative suspension of 90 days for a first time offender with a BAC over .08 and, as a result, a lot more hearings.

In 1998 (under the old Washington State DUI law) the DOL received requests for 7,868 hearings of which 6,644 were actually conducted (84% of those requested). In 1999, the DOL received 11, 718 requests for a hearing and actually conducted 9,575 (82% of those requested).The impact these numbers have had on the DOL is apparent to anyone who is practicing regularly in the field. The DOL is scheduling hearings much closer to the 60 day time limit and the police are having more difficulty submitting their reports in a timely manner.

One would think that the increase in caseload and backup of hearings would result in an increased rate of dismissal of DUI license suspension hearings. This is not the case. In 1998, the DOL dismissed 3,011 cases (38% of hearings requested). In 1999, there were 3,666 dismissals (31% of hearings requested). Instead of an increased dismissal rate, what we have seen from the DOL is an increase in telephonic hearings (to save time) and a crack down on continuances. It is expected that the number of hearings requested from the DOL will continue to increase as the public becomes more informed of the often catastrophic consequences of administrative revocation, and as access to hearings becomes more available to indigent drivers.

While the predicted impact on the DOL was realized, the impact on the criminal courts is much different than expected. The number of DUI/Physical Control filings in the state remained about the same (78,386 in 1998 and 77,760 in 1999)[1]. The State Patrol reports that the average breath test result in those cases continues to hover around a .15 (about 3,000 of the breath tests were between .08 and .10). The number of people who either plead or were found guilty remained about the same in 1999 as well (20,812 or 27%) as it was in 1998 (18,266 or 23%). Finally, there were about the same number of dismissals[2] in 1999 (9,644 or 12%) as in 1998 (9,698 or 12%).There was also, as expected, an increase in the number of trials in 1999 (2,919) from 1998 (2,221). Those additional trials, however, were not in front of a jury. The number of jury trials in 1999 (904) were down from the 951 jury trials that took place in 1998. While lawyers were apprehensive to try DUI in cases in front of juries, they appear less so in appeals to the bench. In 1998 there were 1,270 bench trials. In 1999 that number increased by about 59% (to 2,015).The last surprising statistic relates to deferred prosecutions. Given the increase in the length of time (from two years to five), the requirement of an ignition interlock for cases with a breath test over a .15, refusals and repeat offenses, along with the limitation to one in a lifetime, it was expected that attorneys would be less inclined to encourage clients to petition for deferral of prosecution. The prevailing opinion was that trials would increase while deferred prosecutions decreased. However, while the numbers clearly show that DUI trials did increase in 1999, the number of deferred prosecutions remained almost exactly the same. In 1998, 9,701 people (12% of total filings) petitioned for a deferred prosecution. 9,200 people (12% of total filings) petitioned the court for a deferred prosecution last year. It will be interesting to see the impact on the system from the inevitable increase in revocation hearings over the coming years given a length of probation more than double that of the old law.

These are just a few of the ways in which the new laws have significantly impacted our system. Complications that remain waiting in the wings include jail overcrowding due to much longer minimums for repeat Washington State DUI offenders, huge numbers of suspended drivers, vehicle forfeitures, etc. If history serves as an indicator, the full impact of the new laws will only begin to be felt before the legislature unleashes yet another round of ever more punitive reforms. More information on the subject of DUI Defense in Seattle, King County or Washington State can be found here.

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