DES MOINES MUNICIPAL COURT – DUI Defense
Des Moines Municipal Court is dedicated to the fair, impartial, and timely administration of justice, providing the community it serves with a safe and accessible environment that is respectful to all. The business of the Court shall be conducted with integrity, competence, and a commitment to excellence, in order to promote public trust and confidence in our system of justice. The Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The Municipal Court judge is authorized by Washington State statute to preside over criminal misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, traffic infractions and other City of Des Moines Code violations. The Des Moines Municipal Court Judge is Lisa Leone.
DUI Procedure – Des Moines Municipal Court
First Court Appearance In most cases, the first court appearance for a DUI is called an arraignment or first appearance. At your first appearance if the prosecutor has decided to file charges, you will be arraigned and then assigned a pretrial hearing date (next court date) about a month later. Judge Leone will most likely will also impose DUI conditions of release.
Arraignment. In many if not most jurisdictions the arraignment and the first appearance are one in the same. In these instances, in addition to determining what conditions should be imposed on the defendant, the court will enter a plea from the accused. In almost every case the best advice is to plead not guilty to the allegation(s). A guilty plea should only be entered at arraignment in very rare cases and hen only after consultation with an attorney. Once the plea has been entered, conditions of release set by the judge.
Conditions of Release for DUI Cases: In many courts, such as Des Moines Municipal Court, if there are no aggravating circumstances or prior DUI convictions, most prosecutors will ask the judge to impose "standard DUI conditions" such a no driving without license and insurance, commit no criminal law violations, and do not refuse a breath test. However, if there are aggravating circumstances such as an accident, a minor in the vehicle, a high breath test or a prior DUI conviction, prosecutors routinely request additional conditions such as bail, no driving without an ignition interlock on the vehicle, and in some situations, have an alcohol detection device installed in their home and be on house arrest. It is not uncommon for judges to impose some of these restrictions, even on first offense DUIs.
It may also be important to have bail money available or a bail bondsman at the ready. Pewitt Law has preferred bail bond agents that do an excellent job for our clients. The good news is that many bail bond companies are at the first appearance ready to help you if the court imposes bail - however, it is best to be prepared in advance.
Because the imposition of bail and conditions such as installation of ignition interlock, SCRAM bracelets and/or pretrial home detention are common, those arrested for DUI in Des Moines should be consulting with an experienced Des Moines DUI Lawyer as soon as possible. Attorneys who practice DUI defense in Des Moines Municipal Court know that it is essential to anticipate what types of conditions of release the prosecutor may seek and be prepared to address the judge's concerns. Anticipating and addressing the court's concerns often can be the difference between imposition of large bail and/or home detention and a release on your personal recognizance (or your promise to appear).
DUI Pretrial Hearings (PTR)
At the pretrial hearing, your Des Moines DUI attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor. DUI negotiations can mean anything from a reduction in the charge, to a dismissal, to the prosecutor saying that no offer will be made. DUI reductions are typically made because of both evidential problems (i.e. the prosecutor may have a tough time proving the case) and equitable reasons (person with no criminal history and a low breath test). Most cases have several PTR's before they are resolved or set for trial. Pre-trial hearings generally occur 4-5 weeks apart. If a good offer is presented by the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, the case can be disposed of by a plea deal (plea bargain) at a PTR. During this process, your defense attorney will be investigating your case and obtaining police reports, medical records, interviews from witnesses, victims, experts and law enforcement as well as any other evidence related to your case.
It is not uncommon for there to be more than one DUI pretrial hearing at Des Moines Municipal Court. This occurs when the attorney asks for a continuance of the hearing. For a continuance to occur, you (the defendant) must waive your right to a trial within 90 days of your first court appearance. If the case is not resolved after a few pre-trial hearings, the court will often pressure the parties to conclude the case with a plea deal or go to trial. If your case is not resolved at the pretrial, then it can be set on for a jury trial. Often there is a pre-trial motion hearing before the DUI trial.
Pretrial Motions: A motion hearing is often a testimonial hearing. At a motion hearing the facts and the legal issues are presented for purposes of determining their admissibility at trial. This is a good time to hear the evidence that the arresting police officers or any other witnesses will be offering. DUI substantive legal motions at Des Moines Municipal Court are set at the pretrial hearing stage. There are numerous pretrial motions that can have a significant impact on your defense – or even result in the dismissal of your case. A few common ones include motions to challenge probable cause (PC) for the stop or arrest, to challenge admissibility of statements made by the police, witnesses or defendant, motions to compel or limit discovery and motions to dismissed based on insufficient evidence. Pretrial motions require extensive legal briefing and strategic planning to be successful.
Readiness Hearings: When a case is set for trial in Des Moines Municipal Court, the defendant is provided with both a trial date and a readiness date. The readiness date is normally set 4-12 days prior to the actual trial date. At the readiness hearing, parties will either confirm the pre-set trial date, resolve the case by way of an agreed disposition, continue the trial date for a variety of reasons, or set a new date for disposition of some other motion.
DUI Trial at Des Moines Municipal Court You may choose to go to trial in the event the prosecution has not offered an agreeable plea deal, or if a conviction would be unacceptable or especially damaging to your career or personal life. Your Des Moines DUI case will be set for trial for a specific date. You will need to show up on this date. Once you start your Des Moines DUI trial, if there is a breath or blood test in your case and if motions have not been heard, it is not uncommon for these trials to take 2-3 days once you begin. If there is no breath or blood test in your Des Moines DUI and limited motions, then trial will typically take 1-2 days. You will need to be present for the entirety of the trial.
Jury trials typically proceed in the following order:
- Legal motion
- Jury selection or "voir dire"
- Opening statements
- The prosecution's witnesses
- Defense witnesses (if any)
- Closing arguments.
Coming to Des Moines Municipal Court
Des Moines Municipal Court is located at 21630 11th Ave. S., Suite C, Des Moines, WA 98198
If you have questions about your Des Moines Municipal Court DUI charge or need help with your case, please contact Pewitt Law, PLLC. Attorney Sheri Pewitt, is a criminal defense attorney with an emphasis in DUI and criminal traffic law.