One of the more controversial areas in Washington DUI law is the deferred prosecution. Under RCW Chapter 10.05, a person who truly believes they suffer from either alcohol or drug addiction or mental illness can petition the court for a dismissal of his or her DUI charge. In exchange, that person must undergo an intensive alcohol, drug or mental health treatment program, complete the program successfully and follow all conditions of the court for a period of five years. Successful completion likely means a dismissal. Failure almost certainly means a conviction.
At Evergreen Defenders, we believe in assessing an individual’s history, the facts of their case and the consequences that they are facing before making a recommendation for deferred prosecution. We feel strongly that sobriety can be accomplished without the rigors of the deferred prosecution program and believe in exhausting all legal efforts and arguments before entering a client into the program.
The consequences for conviction of DUI rise with each occurrence. There are few things in this practice that are more disturbing than seeing a person in court on a second offense DUI who attempted a deferred prosecution on their first DUI. We strive to avoid ever finding a client of ours in that unfortunate position.
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Is Deferred Prosecution Right For You?
One of the options for handling a DUI and keeping it off your long term record is called Deferred Prosecution. A deferred prosecution is a statutory creation intended to help people suffering from the disease of alcoholism who commit the crime of DUI to treat their illness in the hope that by treating the alcoholism no future law violations will occur.
Deferred Prosecution is a method by which the legal charges against you can be dismissed if you successfully complete a strict, two-year treatment program. Deferred Prosecution is available only for those who believe alcoholism, drug addiction, or a mental health problem caused the behavior leading to their DUI arrest. If you do not successfully complete the treatment program, you will face the original charges and consequences and may still be required to complete the treatment program. You only qualify for Deferred Prosecution once in your lifetime so it is very important to use your Deferred Prosecution wisely.
If you are assessed and qualify, a typical Deferred Prosecution treatment program at a state certified drug and alcohol treatment agency involves the following: 24 three-times-a-week three-hour intensive outpatient group sessions (approximately eight weeks), 26 weekly 1.5 hour continuing outpatient group sessions (approximately six months) and then monthly 1.5 hour continuing outpatient group sessions for the remainder of the two-year treatment program. Throughout the two years you will also be required to attend a minimum of two self-help meetings each week. Then, three years after the successful completion of your treatment program but no less than five years after you have entered your deferred prosecution with the court, your case will be dismissed, keeping the DUI from ever appearing on your criminal record. Some courts require that you attend a minimum of two self-help meetings each week for the full five year period of time.
A Deferred Prosecution is an incredibly intensive program that requires a tremendous amount of commitment to complete. Alcoholism is a disease that is characterized by relapse and recovery. Alcoholics do not generally consider themselves “cured” but “in recovery.” For a person who has been struggling with alcoholism for many years and has seen the impact of their addiction on their personal, professional and legal life, a deferred prosecution can offer an opportunity to get sober and the structured program combined with the threat of the consequences of failure can be the support that they need to find success. For a younger person dealing with a first offense DUI and alcoholism, a deferred prosecution may not be the ideal choice.
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