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The Right to Counsel in Washington DUI Cases

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | Oct 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

Representing Yourself in Front of the Judge
Contrary to popular belief, people who are charged with driving under the influence should and do have rights during the trial phases of their cases. One of them involves the right to representation by counsel - or the right to represent oneself in their defense. And if this right isn't correctly observed, a trial verdict can be tossed out on appeal.This is what happened in a recent decision authored by the Washington Court of Appeals Division I.

Michael Rich appealed his guilty verdict on several grounds, including the erroneous fashion in which the trial court handled his choice to represent himself. The ruling stemmed from a case in which Rich was on trial for felony DUI and he opted to act as his own counsel.

Rich claims that the court invalidly waived his right to counsel. He says that as part of the process to determine whether Rich could represent himself in court, the state gave him a questionnaire (known as a colloquy) that was incorrectly written so as to provide him incomplete information. First and foremost, the form never stated the precise charges of which Rich stood accused. And secondly, the form incorrectly indicated the potential maximum sentence for the charges that Rich faced. The state even tried to offer an explanation that Rich should have known about the maximum penalty because of his extensive criminal background.

The appellate court noted the error and ruled that the colloquy was incorrectly administered, meaning that the court erred in waiving Rich's right to counsel. As a result, Rich's conviction was overturned, and his case was remanded back to the lower court for retrial.

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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