King County District Court, Seattle
King County District Court, West Division, King County Courthouse is located in the City of Seattle at 516 3rd Avenue, on the 3rd floor. (Note, some calendars are heard at the King County Correctional Facility (Jail) located at 500 5th Avenue.) All DUI and BUI cases (District Court) will be handled in the west wing of the 3rd floor at this courthouse. Any felony DUI, Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Manslaughter will take place on the 12th floor in room 1201 in the Chief Criminal Presiding's Courtroom (Superior Court)
DUI Procedure - King County District Court, Seattle
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 and the conditions of release set.
Conditions of Release for DUI Cases: In many courts, such as King County District Court, West Division in Seattle, 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 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 District Court 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 Seattle should be consulting with a Seattle DUI Lawyer as soon as possible. Attorneys who practice DUI defense at the King County District Court in Seattle know that it is essential to anticipate what types of conditions of release the King County Deputy Prosecutor may seek and be prepared to address the court's concerns. Anticipating and addressing the court's likely 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 Seattle 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 the District Court in Seattle. 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 the Seattle District Court are set at the pretrial hearing stage. Though individual judges in this court sometimes differ on their preferences for when these motions are heard, most DUI motions can be set prior to the day of trial. 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 at the King County District Court in Seattle, 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 the Seattle District 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 Seattle DUI case will be set for trial for a specific date. You will need to show up on this date. Once you start your Seattle 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 Seattle 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 Court
King County District Court, West Division is located in the City of Seattle at 516 3rd Avenue, on the 3rd floor. There are entrances both on the west (3rd Avenue) and east (4th Avenue) side of the building. If your hearing is at 8:45 am we recommend that you arrive at least 20 minutes early as the security lines are often long during the early morning hours. If you do not know what courtroom you are assigned to, there are several digital displays just to the west of the elevator bank where all cases are listed alphabetically along with their courtroom assignment.
If you have more questions about your Seattle District Court DUI charge or need help with your case, please contact Pewitt Law, PLLC. Sheri Pewitt, is a Seattle Washington criminal defense attorney with an emphasis in DUI and criminal traffic law.