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What to expect at a King County DUI arraignment

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Oct 03, 2012 | 0 Comments

Anyone arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) by a Washington State Trooper or King County Sheriff's Deputy on the roads or highways in King County will have their case filed by the King County Prosecutor in King County District Courts.  There are actually three courts- Seattle, Burien and Redmond- that handle DUI charges brought by the King County Prosecutor.

Each year, there are thousands of people accused of a King County DUI.  In 2011, there were a total of 5654 DUI and Physical Control charges brought in the three King County District Courts.  For the first half of 2012, there were a total of 2948 DUI and Physical Control charges in the King County courts.  With these high numbers, it is common for their to backlog on filings by the prosecutor's office.  While they have up to two years to file charges, the general time frame I tell people is one to five months.

(Note:  Even though it is common for a King County DUI case to see a delay between arrest and the first court appearance, I strongly suggest a person immediately contact a DUI lawyer to discuss their case.  The attorney can make sure that all interests are protected- both for the criminal and administrative process.)

Once the charge is filed in the court, a person will receive a summons to appear for an arraignment. In Redmond, arraignments are typically held on Monday mornings at 8:45.  In Seattle, they usually take place on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30pm.  Burien also has them on various morning and afternoon calendars.  It is very common for their to be 50 + people on an arraignment calendar, so I always advise people to get there extra early.

Upon entering the courtroom, the defendant will need to review a copy of their "defendant's rights at arraignment"  and sign it.  There are usually copies on the desks in front.  This form informs the accused of all of their rights- including their presumption of innocence; right to representation; for a speedy trial; to see and confront witnesses; to have witnesses appear to testify at no expense to them; the right to testify as well as right to remain silent, and the right to appeal a finding of guilt.  At the bottom of the form, it says that if a person pleads guilty, they give up all those rights except the right to a lawyer.   That may sound scary, but no matter what, a person should always plead not guilty. Then they will be able to preserve all of those important rights

The DUI attorneys will be up front waiting to check in with the prosecutor.  It is common for the prosecutor to provide the police report (aka discovery) at the arraignment.  Sometimes, there is an initial offer with the police report.  For people who do not have a DUI lawyer with them, there will be a public defender present to assist with the arraignment process.

Once the judge takes the bench, most of the time there is a roll call to see who is present,  It is well-known that certain judge(s) are sticklers for being on-time and will issue a warrant if a person does not answer during roll call.  It goes without saying that people need to plan accordingly to make sure they are there early.  After roll call, the judge will briefly go over all of the rights of a defendant that I listed above.

Some judges will call the calendar in alphabetic order of last name.  Other times, a judge will ask the prosecutor to call the cases that are ready.  Almost always, private counsel cases go first.  With there commonly being 50+ cases on a calendar, a person could have to wait upwards of two hours before their case is even called.

Once it is their turn, a person will go to the front and confirm their name and date of birth. Then either the prosecutor or judge will state they are charged with the crime of  DUI occurring on a specific date, and they will ask the accused if they understand the nature of the charge.  At this point, the DUI attorney will interject and enter a plea of not guilty.  They will waive formal reading of the complaint and request a jury trial.  Then the judge will review an affidavit of probable cause to determine whether conditions of release may be imposed.

Sometimes, a DUI lawyer will state they stipulate to probable cause for purposes of setting conditions.  This does not mean they are agreeing their client is guilty of DUI!  Probable cause is a very low burden and for this hearing, it is only to decide whether the court has enough information to warrant the imposition of certain conditions of release.

Typical conditions of release for a King County DUI charge are to have no new violations of law, to not drive without a license and insurance, to appear at all future court appearances, and not to consume alcohol or non-prescribed drugs while the case is pending.  Sometimes a judge will not require a person to abstain completely, and instead require them not to drive after consumption.  These conditions are common for first offense DUI cases.  If a person has prior(s), they can expect the requirement of an ignition interlock device as well as the potential of bail and/or house arrest.

After the conditions are imposed and next court date selected, the lawyer and defendant will go to the clerk's counter to sign the notice of conditions as well as notice of next court date.  The total time before the judge at the arraignment is very quick- anywhere from one to three minutes.  I tell people it is usually the hurry up and wait game.

The detailed description I have given above comes from my decade of experiences handling  King County DUI cases in the Seattle, Redmond and Burien district courts.  I offer a free initial consultation and can be reached directly 7 days a week at 425-284-2000,

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 18 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.


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