Each December, we observe National Impaired Driving Prevention Month: a 31-day opportunity to raise awareness about the real world consequences of driving while intoxicated. This observance is particularly important in the state of Washington, where an average of 100 people per day are arrested for this offense between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence this month, you may have several questions. Today, we will answer one of the most common: Can voluntary treatment help your DUI defense?
DUI in Washington State
“DUI” is an abbreviation for driving under the influence. This may involve driving after you have consumed alcohol, marijuana, or other substances. Our state also considers it illegal have physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.
In Washington, these charges are usually considered gross misdemeanor crimes, which carry significant consequences. If you have received multiple DUIs in the past, your sentencing will become harsher with each offense.
The mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for DUI and physical control charges can be found in RCW 46.61.5055. They include…
- Mandatory jail time
- Electronic home monitoring (EHM)
- Losing your driver’s license
- Alcohol/drug assessment
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
The maximum sentence that could be imposed by a judge would be up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Charges may increase based on whether you have a minor passenger in the vehicle, if your driving resulted in injury or property damage at the time of arrest, and whether you were in violation of other rules of the road (driving against the flow of traffic or speeding, for example).
Helping Your DUI Defense with Addiction Treatment
As you can see, the punishment for a DUI charge can be severe, especially if you have a criminal record. If you are looking for a more lenient sentence, voluntary addiction treatment may be the answer. Here’s why.
You’re Trying to Initiate Change
Enrolling in a treatment program after receiving a DUI shows the judge that you are trying to change your life. This demonstrates that you have the ability to identify your problem and resolve it without needing to be sentenced to a drug and alcohol school.
You Understand What Went Wrong
The primary goal of the criminal court system isn’t to punish – it’s to prevent future offenses. Telling the judge about your family, job, and desire to get better can help to convey the fact that you have reflected on what happened and are taking this seriously.
You’re Doing It of Your Own Accord
Many people have heard of court-ordered drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Going of your own accord – instead of waiting for a court order – shows that you understand the severity of the situation and want to get better.
It Won’t Happen Again
Entering into rehab after a DUI demonstrates to the judge that you do not intend for this type of offense to happen again. By seeking treatment, you indicate that this is hopefully the last time she will see you in her courtroom. This can inspire more lenient sentencing.
Why Treatment Helps Your Situation
If you take it upon yourself to enter treatment, most judges understand that your outcomes will probably be better than if you have to be sentenced to a program. As is often said in the rooms of recovery, “You have to want it.” If you are not genuinely interested in breaking free of addiction, the judge will likely notice. The desire to recover can be a great asset to your DUI defense – if you really do want it.
Furthermore, research shows that prison sentences (even short ones) can result in greater dysfunction upon release. Judges acknowledge this and would rather have you fix the root cause of your DUI than worsen your situation.
The above should not be considered legal advice. Ultimately, only you and your attorney can make the decision about whether addiction treatment can positively impact your DUI defense. Yes, it can help you to feel better and turn your life around, but it’s not a guarantee that a case will be dismissed. For example, attending AA meetings will not expunge your record. However, we always recommend that those who need help should attend a certified addiction treatment program as soon as possible.
Legal Support Services in Washington State
At Lakeside-Milam, we can assist you with a deferred prosecution plan for DUI, physical control, and possession charges, among others. Our thorough assessment provides clients and attorneys with a comprehensive treatment plan, ongoing case management, and regular one-on-one sessions. Additionally, our staff may provide client advocacy in court at your discretion.
Addiction is often at the heart of the DUI problem. Lakeside-Milam can help you to find a solution.
For more information, contact our admissions team.