Word to the wise - because even the wise can make mistakes (or be accused of making mistakes):
It's getting tougher and tougher for those accused of DUI in Seattle and Tacoma, and elsewhere throughout Washington State. Recently, it appears that the King County Prosecuting Attorney sent word down to his misdemeanor prosecutors that they were being too soft with their plea offers, even for those charged with DUI for the first time. As a result, Seattle and Tacoma DUI defense attorneys like myself have witnessed an immediate effect: prosecutors now commonly offering what they call "PGAC" (Plead Guilty As Charged) on first DUI offenses, even those with low to moderate (between .08 and .15) Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) levels. In the face of such "offers" (which aren't really offers at all), many defense attorneys dedicated to defending those charged with DUI are finding it necessary to set nearly all their DUI cases for trial, while others unfortunately less dedicated or knowledgeable simply advise their clients to plead as charged.
And it's not only the King County prosecutors; we're seeing the same thing in other (though not all) courts throughout King and Pierce County. A new law that went into effect January 1 requires that all Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) come equipped with cameras. Add to this more stringent pretrial release conditions (IIDs, alcohol monitoring SCRAM devices, probation monitoring), a new statutory definition of marijuana impairment (5ng/ml) for DUI cases, and ever-increasing costs and tightening of restrictions thanks to the DOL and the message is clear: those arrested for DUI, even for the first time, will suffer greatly if the government has its way, regardless of whether or not they have a clean record otherwise.
As a former prosecutor for five years, my job was to seek justice. As a Seattle and Tacoma DUI attorney now, my definition of justice (with very few exceptions) is not "PGAC" on a first DUI offense, nor was it then. Justice says there should be a balance between enforcing the letter of the law and recognizing the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law says each DUI case should be treated differently, taking into account prior history (or lack thereof), BAC level, and other factors - even those that don't bear upon the evidence in a case. Was my client cooperative? Has she been proactive in getting an Alcohol and Drug Assessment, attending the 8 hour ADIS Class, or the DUI Victim's Panel? These things used to mean a great deal in the past for clients with no prior history, and for some prosecutors they still do - but those seem fewer and fewer these days.
If you are charged with a Seattle or Tacoma DUI it's more important than ever that you obtain competent, aggressive legal counsel – someone with an emphasis on DUI, who understands how prosecutors think and knows how to talk with them. And someone who is not afraid to take a case to trial - even a case that may appear on the outside to have little hope - rather than settle for "PGAC."