New trend in Seattle Municipal Court at DUI arraignments

A new trend has been occurring in the Seattle Municipal Court at their DUI arraignment calendar. Several Judges have been imposing bail at $1000 on any first offense DUI if the breath test allegation is above a 0.10. These Judges have determined that since the statutory minimum bail amount on gross misdemeanors is $1000 that is their cue to set this condition. As a practicing DUI lawyer in Seattle Municipal Court, I strongly feel this is a misinterpretation of the law.

When determining release conditions for a defendant in a DUI case in Seattle Municipal Court you need to really look at one court rule. That is Criminal Rule 3.2. This rule discusses when a Judge can set release conditions on a defendant. The gist of the rule says there are three occasions when this can happen. 1. If there is a substantial likelihood the defendant will commit a violent crime. 2. There is a substantial likelihood the defendant will fail to appear at future hearings. 3. There is a substantial likelihood the defendant will intimidate witnesses.

Usually if you’re facing a first offense DUI in Seattle Municipal Court. Number 2 and 3 doesn’t apply. So what the Judge is to consider in deciding whether to impose bail at a DUI arraignment is whether there is a substantial likelihood the defendant will drink and drive again. And it’s important to keep in mind that Criminal Rule 3.2 states there is a presumption the defendant is to be released, and only upon a showing of a substantial likelihood can the Judge set any conditions the defendant has to follow. And even then the conditions set by the Judge have to be the least restrictive means possible.

Typically in a first offense DUI the defendant has no prior history. This means there is absolutely no evidence the defendant has a history with alcohol related crimes. Which in turn means there is no evidence because the Court that the defendant suffers from substance abuse or substance dependence and therefore will continue to drink and drive.

Additionally the least restrictive means is imply to tell the defendant that they cannot drink. But for some reason several of these Judges in Seattle Municipal Court are misinterpretation the rule. They believe they have to consider whether the defendant is a community safety risk. Nowhere in Criminal Rule 3.2 does it say anything about “community safety risk.” This is a common misconception and quite frankly very frustrating when a Judge doesn’t even understand that.

So how do you stop a Judge from imposing bail at a DUI arraignment? Well first thing is you want to go through the analysis I just laid out. But if the Judge continues to set bail then the defendant will have to pay it. I guess the defendant can appeal to the King County Superior Court and file a writ against the Judge. But most times a $1000 is not that big of a deal to people and they just let it slide, rather than going through an lengthy appeal process.

About the author: Matthew Leyba of Leyba Defense PLLC, a Seattle DUI Firm located in downtown Seattle is a highly rated DUI Attorney in Seattle. He is ranked as a 10/10 by, and was named a Rising Star among other Seattle DUI lawyers by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.