US District Court, Western Division, Tacoma (Federal Court)
If you are arrested for DUI anywhere on Federal property – JBLM or Naval Base, Kitsap, for instance, or in a National Park – your case will likely be filed in the U.S. District Court, which is located in the Union Station building at 1717 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma.
In US District Court, you may be summonsed to appear several months after your DUI arrest. Although the arresting officer will likely issue you a citation noting the charge, as well as the Request for DOL Administrative Hearing form, the actual notice to appear will come from the Court after the charge is filed by the US Attorney’s Office.
At your first hearing, after you clear security, you will typically be funneled downstairs to the CVB courtroom. At that point, you will fill out some paperwork and be sent upstairs for your first appearance (Arraignment) before a judge. The assigned judge will set conditions of release which may also include enhanced conditions, such as bail or alcohol monitoring (Ignition Interlock Device (IID), EHM and/or SCRAM). If this is a second DUI offense, the court will most likely order both IID and SCRAM. Following Arraignment, the court will issue a pretrial hearing date, usually about four to six weeks later.
Following arraignment, US District Court cases are assigned to a particular courtroom. Once assigned, your case will likely stay in that courtroom. There are currently three federal judges – appointed by the President of the United States – in Tacoma who handle criminal cases. There are also three federal Magistrate Judges who handle misdemeanor cases, such as DUI’s, in the federal system.
Federal court is significantly more formal than Washington’s state and municipal (city) courts. The judges expect you and your lawyer to be on-time and prepared. Additionally, the US District Court bench, and its Assistant US Attorneys (prosecutors), are known for being tough on DUI, particularly on second offenses, whether or not they are within seven years. Depending on where you received your DUI, you might be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office, or a Military JAG Officer.
Also, the rules of evidence are different in many respects from state courts, and not always in favor of the accused. For instance, statutory (RCW) breath test requirements which may render breath test evidence inadmissible in State court may not do so in Federal Court. And there are fewer jail alternatives available, and jail time is served at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
On the other hand, prosecutors and judges have more discretion in recommending and imposing restrictions and sentencing requirements; they are often restrictive in Federal court, there is no post-conviction probation for Federal DUIs, and fines often times lower than in the State counterpart.
The DUI attorneys at Puget Law Group, however, have the skills, knowledge and experience to aggressively defend you in US District Court. Many of our DUI attorneys are licensed to practice in US District Court, and we defend DUI cases there on a regular basis. DUI Attorneys Dan Gerl and Casey Arbenz are former DUI prosecutors, who along with Gina Buskirk, Philip Petersen, Phil Su, Nichole Fisher, and Nathan Trudeau have years of experience fighting DUI charges throughout Western Washington. Although every case is unique, in US District Court we have been successful in obtaining reductions, dismissals or deferrals on about 95% of cases involving DUI charges.