Perhaps the most serious and often worrisome penalty for a drunk driving offense is jail time. While fines, probation and a license suspension are all common as part of a drunk driving sentence, clients want to know how much time they can expect to serve in jail. Knowing what to expect is an important part of preparing for sentencing. An idea of what to expect going in can help with nerves, and it can also help a client get their affairs in order if they expect to spend time in jail.

If you’re found not guilty

If you’re found not guilty of the offense, you serve no jail time at all. In that case, the matter is simply dismissed, and you’re free to go about your business. It’s important to work with a team of skilled and experienced attorneys such as the attorney team at Russell and Hill to explore all of the defenses available to you in the case. If the state’s attorney chooses to dismiss the case before trial, or if the jury finds you not guilty, you serve no jail time.

Washington sentencing guidelines

The State of Washington has a system to help judges give consistent rulings throughout the state. Without this system, an offender’s sentence could depend on the personal philosophies of the judge. For example, drunk driving in Washington is usually a gross misdemeanor. That means it’s punishable by up to 364 days in jail except in cases with extenuating circumstances. Without sentencing guidelines, one judge might sentence each drunk driver to 364 days while the judge in the next court might routinely sentence each drunk driver to zero days in jail. That wouldn’t be very fair, and that’s what the sentencing guidelines are supposed to fix.

Sentencing grid for drunk driving

The DUI sentencing grid directs the judge to look at the circumstances surrounding the offense to determine the most appropriate sentence. At the most basic level, without any extenuating circumstances or prior offenses, a person must serve only twenty-four consecutive hours in jail for a first drunk driving offense. If you have one prior offense, you serve at least thirty days in jail. With two prior offenses, you must serve at least ninety days in jail.

Besides prior offenses, there are other things that can increase a jail term for driving under the influence. An underage passenger in the car is one enhancement. A high blood alcohol content or refusing a breath test can also add extra jail time. In some cases, the court allows home monitoring instead of jail.

How to Present the Best Case

No two cases are the same, and it’s important to work with a skilled attorney to get a realistic idea of what might happen in your case. Even though the courts have sentencing grids to help them form an appropriate sentence, they still have discretion over many aspects of a person’s sentence. That makes it important to prepare for sentencing with a skilled attorney in order to put your case in the best possible light.

Categories: Legal


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