What Happens After a DUI Arrest in Seattle?

What Happens After a DUI Arrest in Seattle?

Getting arrested for DUI can be scary. You might not know what to expect or what comes next. This article will walk you through the typical process after a DUI arrest in Seattle so you can be prepared.

The Arrest

There are a few things that commonly lead to a DUI arrest in Seattle:

  • Traffic violations like speeding, failing to signal, etc.
  • An accident
  • Getting pulled over for another reason and the officer suspects intoxication

If an officer pulls you over and thinks you seem impaired, they’ll usually have you perform some field sobriety tests like walking a straight line. If they believe you’re under the influence based on those tests and other evidence, you’ll be placed under arrest.

After arresting you, the officer has to read you your Miranda rights. This lets you know you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It’s important not to say anything that could incriminate you before talking to a lawyer.

Breath or Blood Test

After the arrest, you’ll be brought to the police station for a breath test to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). If you were in an accident or can’t do the breath test for some reason, they may take you to a hospital for a blood test instead.

Washington’s legal BAC limit for driving is 0.08%. If your BAC is 0.08% or above, you’ll face DUI charges. There are also lower BAC limits for commercial drivers and drivers under 21.

Booking or Release

After the BAC test, you may either be:

  • Booked into jail
  • Released and given a citation with a court date
  • Released and told to come back later for arraignment

Whether you’re released or booked depends on factors like your criminal history and how high your BAC was. In Seattle, being released with a citation is common for first-time offenders.

Your First Court Appearance

If you’re not booked into jail initially, your first court appearance will be an arraignment. This is where you’re formally charged and enter a plea. Your arraignment will usually happen within 30 days of your arrest in Seattle.

It’s very important to have a DUI lawyer represent you at arraignment. They can help negotiate conditions of release and advise you on entering a “not guilty” plea.

Conditions of Release

At your arraignment, the judge will decide on conditions for your release from jail while your case is pending. These may include:

  • Posting bail
  • No alcohol or drug use
  • Submitting to BAC/drug tests
  • Ignition interlock device installed in your car
  • No new criminal violations

The conditions set will depend on factors like your criminal record and BAC level. Harsher conditions may apply for high BACs or if you refused testing.

Pretrial Hearings

After arraignment, your case will go through one or more pretrial hearings. This is where your DUI lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea deal or dismissal. If a deal can’t be reached, an evidentiary hearing will be scheduled.

Evidentiary Hearing

At the evidentiary hearing, the judge decides what evidence can be admitted if your case goes to trial. The arresting officer(s) will likely testify. Your lawyer can question them and argue to suppress evidence, which could lead to a favorable resolution.


If a plea deal isn’t reached, your case will go to trial before a judge or jury. The prosecutor presents evidence like officer testimony, while your lawyer argues there’s insufficient evidence for a conviction.

If found guilty at trial, you’ll be convicted of DUI. If found not guilty, the charges are dismissed. You can appeal a guilty verdict to a higher court.

Penalties for a DUI Conviction

Penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in Seattle may include:

  • Up to 364 days in jail (minimum 24 hours)
  • Up to $5,000 fine
  • 90-day license suspension
  • Alcohol evaluation/treatment
  • Ignition interlock device
  • SR-22 insurance requirements

Penalties increase for repeat offenses within 7 years. Your lawyer’s goal is to avoid a conviction through dismissal, reduction, or an alternative resolution like deferred prosecution.

Finding the Right DUI Lawyer

The consequences for a DUI conviction can be life-altering. It’s critical to have an experienced DUI lawyer represent you from the start. They can guide you through the process, defend your rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome.

When choosing a lawyer, look for someone with extensive DUI trial experience in Seattle courts. Also consider client reviews and fees. Meet with lawyers before deciding – most offer free consultations.

With an aggressive defense, many first-time DUIs can be reduced or dismissed. Don’t go through this alone. Consult with a dedicated Seattle DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.


Here are some helpful references on DUI arrests and laws in Seattle: