The criminal DUI court can be very intimidating and confusing for most individuals. Preliminary court appearances can conclude in the blink of an eye for the defendant, witnesses and laypersons. Often the defendant does not even speak a word in court during the initial court hearings. These hearings are strictly conducted by the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney answering inquiries from the presiding judge. This section will explain the criminal DUI court process in Washington State for the crime of DUI and for most misdemeanor crimes.
Defendants, witnesses and the curious will benefit from becoming more familiar with the foreign environment of our criminal justice system. Most Washington State courts have criminal calendars in the morning and afternoon. The scheduled hearings range from the arraignment, pretrial conferences, probation reviews, sentencing, trials, motion hearings and various others. There are only a few hearings that require the appearance of witnesses or investigating police officers, but every hearing requires the presence of the defendant. However, there are a few exceptions in which the defendant can waive their presence at a hearing. This must be confirmed and granted by the judge and judge only. Do not assume your presence is waived because your failure to appear will result in the issuance of a bench warrant. That means you can and will be arrested for skipping the court hearing. Always confirm this with your attorney if your presence is necessary for the next DUI court hearing.
The amount of criminal cases for review during the morning and afternoon calendars depends upon the jurisdiction of the court. It is not surprising to see some criminal court calendars to review 14 to 100 cases in a morning or afternoon session. However, it is imperative defendants appear at the beginning of the calendar. Most judges will call attendance at the beginning of the session. Those defendants that do not appear on time will be considered a failure to appear. This will cause a bench warrant to be issued resulting in an arrest of the late and delinquent.
The question now is how defendants will know when a criminal case has begun and when is their first appearance.