Deferred Prosecution is one of the options for keeping a DUI off of your long-term record and avoiding penalties associated with a DUI or other misdemeanor conviction. (Chapter 10.05 RCW) If you are charged with a DUI in Washington State and diagnosed as alcohol or drug dependent in your mental health evaluation (or suffering from mental health issues), you may be eligible to petition the court for Deferred Prosecution in your case. If the court grants permission, Deferred Prosecution allows you to go through an intensive treatment program in lieu of being prosecuted.
This statute was created to help people suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness who believe the incident leading to the crime charged was a result of their illness. The goal of a deferred prosecution is to treat an alcohol, drug or mental health illness with the goal of preventing future violations.
Potential outcomes of Deferred Prosecution:
Deferred Prosecution can help you avoid losing your license, serving jail time, paying for SR-22 (high risk) insurance, paying additional fines, and ending up with a DUI conviction on your record. Deferred Prosecution requires five years of probation and compliance with a number of specific conditions. (RCW 10.05.140)
The required treatment program lasts two years. The charges will be dismissed three years after the completion of the program and compliance with the terms, for a total of five years of time on probation. The judge determines what is required of the defendant during the three years after treatment and before the case is dismissed. Often this includes continued AA participation and no further criminal offenses.
If you do not successfully complete the treatment program and comply with the terms, you will face the original charges and consequences and still may be required to complete the treatment program.
Important points to consider in determining whether Deferred Prosecution is the right choice for you:
- You only qualify for Deferred Prosecution once in your lifetime (RCW 10.05.010). Because of this, Deferred Prosecution needs to be used wisely and in certain circumstances may not be advised on the first offense.
- To be eligible for Deferred Prosecution, you must be diagnosed as alcohol dependent, drug dependent, or with mental health issues by a state approved treatment agency (RCW 10.05.020). One may have a “problem” with alcohol or drugs, but unless they are diagnosed as substance dependent, they will not qualify for Deferred Prosecution. This diagnosis becomes part of the court record.
- A Deferred Prosecution is a very intensive program, requiring extreme commitment to sobriety in order to meet requirements for completion. Treatment will occur at a state certified drug and alcohol treatment facility, involves two rigorous years of treatment, and occurs in three phases. The first phase involves frequent, intensive group sessions (3-4x/week) for approximately 2-3 months, or can involve an inpatient program. The second phase involves an additional 6 months of weekly outpatient counseling. The third phase involves monthly counseling for the remainder of the two year program. Participants will also be required to attend at least two self-help or AA meetings per week for the full two years at minimum.
- On Deferred Prosecution, you are placed on supervised probation and may be required to meet regularly with a probation officer.
- An ignition interlock device (IID) will be required for at least one year if the Deferred Prosecution is based on alcoholism.
- A Deferred Prosecution does count as a prior offense if you are convicted for a subsequent DUI within 7 years of seeking Deferred Prosecution. The subsequent DUI may face enhanced penalties.
- You give up the opportunity to fight your case by choosing Deferred Prosecution. If you are out of compliance with the terms, you would be found guilty of the original DUI charge.
- You must remain completely abstinent from alcohol and all other non-prescription substances during the full 5 years of probation. You would be subject to random urine tests through both probation and your treatment program.
- You are responsible for all costs. Some treatment costs may be covered by insurance, but whatever remains is your responsibility, as are all probation costs.
Entering into a Deferred Prosecution program poses many potential advantages but there are multiple complex factors to consider and it is not necessarily in the best interest of every case. It is essential that you work with an experienced DUI attorney to determine whether it is the best option for you and your unique, individual situation. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.