DUI in Washington

What is a DUI in Washington?

A DUI refers to the offense of driving under the influence. In Washington, a DUI occurs when a person drives or operates a vehicle after ingesting intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or other drugs in the person's system. DUIs have over the years become one of the state's most significant criminal justice priorities, and the Washington State Courts are on the ground to hand down the punishments provided for in the Revised Codes of Washington.

Washington is also one of the "zero-tolerance" states in America. It has zero-tolerance for underage driving under the influence, and the state's DUI laws have a special provision to that effect. In order to establish a person's guilt for a DUI offense in Washington, the prosecution must prove that the intoxicating substance consumed before driving affected the individual's ability to control the vehicle. The number of previous convictions an offender has will determine the penalty they are proscribed. When a motorist is convicted, details of the offense may be included in their Washington criminal record depending on the nature and severity of the offense committed.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Washington?

DUI and DWI appear in various Washington state legislations to represent driving under the influence or driving while impaired. In many states, these offenses are distinct and have separate punishments that apply to them, but this is not the case in Washington. Under Washington DUI laws, there is no legal distinction between a DUI and a DWI, as they mean the same thing.

Some persons may use both terms interchangeably, but Washington state statutes specifically refer to DUI as the preferred term describing driving violations involving intoxicants. Hence, when law enforcement officers apprehend a person driving while intoxicated, the charge is considered a DUI. Regardless of the name of the offense, a conviction carries stiff penalties whether the person pleads guilty or the court finds the person guilty.

Washington DUI Laws

Title 46 of the Revised Code of Washington is the official DUI statute of the state, as it contains all motor vehicle-related laws in the state. The statute in section 46.61.502 regards a person with an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, two hours after driving, as guilty of a DUI, having a THC of 5.00% or higher. At the same time, driving is also illegal under the code. In Washington, driving under the influence of marijuana, intoxicating liquor, or a combination of both also results in a DUI charge.

Any individual that commits any of the offenses mentioned in the statute is guilty of a gross misdemeanor which may increase to a Class B felony, depending on certain factors like prior convictions. While offenders cannot claim that the law allows the consumption, It is not a defense for a person charged for any of these offenses to claim that the law allows the consumption of such a drug. However, it is a valid defense to prove that alcohol or drugs came after driving and before the breath or blood test.

Washington's zero-tolerance law is outlined in section 46.61.503. The law prohibits persons under 21 from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana. In Washington, the motorist becomes liable when they have an alcohol concentration of at least 0.02% but under 0.08%, or a THC concentration of above 0.00 but lower than 5.00%. However, offenders are no longer liable if they can prove that they ingested the substance after driving but before the test. In addition, for purposes of challenging the suspension or revocation of driving privileges, offenders can argue that they managed to move the vehicle safely off the road before pursuit. Offenses under the zero-tolerance law are misdemeanors.

Section 46.08.190 confers jurisdiction on district and municipal courts, having concurrent jurisdiction with superior courts in the state to handle and penalize all traffic infractions and violations of Title 46.

DUI Penalties in Washington

Section 46.61.5055 provides the penalties for all alcohol and drug-related traffic offenses, and a first offender faces an imprisonment term of between a day and 364 days. The person must serve at least 24 hours of the sentence unless the court finds that imposing the mandatory minimum sentence risks physical or mental wellbeing. Instead of the compulsory confinement term, the court may subject the person to a minimum of fifteen days of electronic monitoring at home or a 90-day sentence of sobriety program monitoring.

The court is at liberty to include an alcohol detection breathalyzer in the person's monitoring device, restrict the amount of alcohol that the person can take, and bear the cost of the electronic home monitoring device. A first offender must also pay a fine ranging from $350 to $5000, and the court may not suspend the minimum fine unless the offender is an indigent person.

If the individual has an alcohol concentration of 0.15 and above, the imprisonment term is between two days to 364 days. The individual must serve 48 consecutive hours unless the court believes that imposing the sentence will harm the person. If the judge decides to suspend the sentence, it must give reasons for doing so in writing.

Thirty days of electronic home monitoring or 120 days of 24/7 sobriety program monitoring are alternatives that the court may employ instead of the imprisonment term. The cost of this electronic monitoring is on the offender, who must also pay a fine that costs between $500 to $500,0, and the court shall not suspend $500 of the fine unless the person is indigent. Apart from these punishments, the court may order the person to install an ignition interlock device, alcohol detection breathalyzer, transdermal sensor, or other devices to detect alcohol. The judge may also order the person to attend a verifiable sobriety program.

The penalty for having a minor in the car at the time of the offense is using an ignition interlock device (IID) for six months, a fine ranging from $1000 to $5000, and an additional 24 hours imprisonment if it is the first offense. Then, for an alcohol concentration below 0.15%, the driver's license suspension period is 90 days and a year if the concentration level is 0.15% and above.

In addition to any fees that the court may impose, section 46.61.5054 mandates an offender with a lesser charge or deferred prosecution to pay $250 for funding the Washington Toxicology Laboratory and the Washington State Patrol for grants and activities to increase DUI conviction rates in the state. A refusal to undergo the test for determining blood alcohol limit attracts a two-year driver's license revocation for first offenders, three years for second offenders, and four years for habitual offenders with three or more prior convictions.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Washington?

Given that a DWI and DUI mean the same thing, the arresting officer follows the standard arrest procedure to bring the suspect into custody. After that comes the arraignment of the suspect before a judge who dishes out the punishments, in line with the provisions of the Code of Washington. The same penalties apply to a DUI apply to a DWI offense, depending on the severity and the judge's discretion.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Washington?

What comes after an officer suspects and tests for intoxication is an arrest. Then, if a child is present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, section 46.61.507 empowers the arresting officer to notify Child Protective Services unless there is a valid reason for taking the child into custody. The refusal of a person to undergo the alcohol or drug test amounts to a subsequent criminal trial, according to section 46.61.517. Section 46.61.50571 imposes a duty on the accused to appear before a judicial officer at least a day after the officer's arrest serves the person with a citation.

If the officer did not serve the person a citation at the point of arrest, the person must appear in the court for arraignment as soon as possible but no later than fourteen days. During the hearing, the court will determine the necessary conditions for pretrial release and the terms of electronic monitoring, where required.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Washington?

A second DUI in Washington occurs within seven years of the first one, and it attracts an imprisonment term of between 30 days to 364 days and 60 days of electronic home monitoring. In this category, the mandatory fine ranges from $500 to $5000. If the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.15% or more, the fine is $750 to $7000. The term of imprisonment for a second offender with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% and above is between 45 to 364 days and 90 days of electronic monitoring.

If the person had a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, it attracts five days of imprisonment. The fine for committing a DUI with a minor in the car is $2000 to $5000. For a second DUI conviction, the driver's license suspension period is two years, for an alcohol concentration of below 0.15 and 900 days for 0.15 or more. Section 46.61.5058 further allows the seizure and forfeiture of the offending vehicle, and the court may order for its sale at market value.

What Happens After a Third DUI in Washington?

A third-time DUI offender who has two prior offenses in seven years faces 90 to 364 days in prison for an alcohol concentration below 0.15%. It also attracts a fine of between $1500 to $5000, and the term of imprisonment increases to a minimum of 120 days if the person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% and above. The court may order an additional ten days of confinement and a fine of $3000 to $10,000 for a minor case. The driver's license suspension or revocation period for a third DUI is three years and may increase to four if the alcohol concentration level is 0.15% or more.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Washington?

A DUI conviction stays on a person's criminal record for life, and the Department of Licensing lists the length of time as 99 years. Washington state does not allow for the expunction of DUI records, as the state has a solid public policy that favors open and public criminal records. So, it is essential to avoid getting a DUI conviction in the first place and treating any DUI charge that arises as a grave matter.

DUI Expungement in Washington

An expungement is the complete physical destruction of the court file and all database records of an offense and is very rare in Washington. Section 9.96.060 of the Revised Code of Washington caters to the vacation or expunction of criminal records in Washington, and it doesn't include DUI convictions. To vacate a conviction is to release a person from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the sentence.

While there are no provisions for vacating or expunging a DUI record, the court may at its discretion order the reduction of some charges like reckless driving, endangerment, hit and run, or driving on a suspended license. The reduction still counts as a prior DUI, as only an expungement can nullify the use of a conviction as a previous conviction for future sentencing purposes.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Washington?

Yes, jail time after a first DUI is likely because a DUI in Washington is a gross misdemeanor that attracts up to 364 days in jail. As provided in Title 46 of the Washington Code, the state's sentencing guide for DUI offenses provides for terms of imprisonment that apply to first offenders. Dishing out specific jail time durations is at the judge's discretion, who must follow the sentencing guide that orders the incarceration of first-time offenders.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in Washington?

A Washington DUI conviction attracts not only statutory penalties but also collateral damages. If the court requires the individual to install an ignition interlock device, it may cost up to $150 to get the device installed, while regular calibration fees cost around $150 per appointment. Removing the device at the end of the required duration may cost up to $100, bringing the total cost of having an IID to $1000 or more.

Auto-insurance premiums for convicted drivers also rise to 55% more than the average insurance cost. Then, getting a driver's license restored costs about $100 for application fees, $54 for licensing, and $150 for an alcohol-related suspension reinstatement fee. Towing the vehicle from the point of arrest may gulp anything $100 to $1,200, cost of DUI education school and alcohol evaluation ranges from $80 to $250. Attorney fees cost a lot more, and depending on the attorney's expertise; it can rise to about $10,000 or more.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in Washington?

A person arrested and charged with a DUI may get out on bail, depending on the circumstances of the case. In common practice, bail for a standard DUI charge in Washington ranges from $150 to $2,500, depending on the judge's discretion. The court issues bail to a defendant to ensure that the accused person shows up on the next court date, and if the person cannot afford to post bail, such a person may take advantage of viable alternatives, like getting a bail bond.

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Washington?

A motorist in Washington may get a suspended or revoked license, limiting the person's inability to drive for a serious traffic violation like a DUI or accumulating too many traffic violation points. Washington state uses a point system to raise red flags against habitual traffic violators. So, if a person gets four tickets in one year or five tickets in two years, it may lead to a suspension of driving privileges.

A suspension of driving privileges in Washington involves a person's inability to drive for 364 days, and anything longer than that duration qualifies as a revoked license. Cancellation of driver's license in Washington is the permanent loss of ability to drive. The procedure for reinstating a suspended driver's license is straightforward. All that a driver has to do is wait out the suspension period, stated in the conviction.

Then, the person may submit an SR-22 Financial Responsibility Form to the court and pay the required $75 fee. Reinstatement requirements may vary, depending on the particular charge and driver involved. So, it is best to contact the Washington Department of Licensing either via phone at (360) 902-3900 or via e-mail at drivers@dol.wa.gov for specific guidelines.

Alternatively, the Washington State Department of Licensing has released an online self-service program to help individual drivers walk through the reinstatement process. The program has personalized instructions for each driver, but the individual must create an account and log into the web application to use the service. Interested persons may also check out the Washington Department of Licensing's Youtube page for additional information on the reinstatement service.

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Washington?

Getting a DUI in Washington has long-lasting effects on the life and future of a person. Concerning future offenses, the penalties will increase with every additional offense, and the driver will face more jail time, permanent license suspension, and higher fines. The convicted driver also faces high-risk insurance and having to use a mandatory ignition interlock device.

Apart from these, it can affect employment and housing opportunities. However, employers may not consider arrests of over ten years in Washington, and background checks do not include convictions older than seven years or juvenile convictions. While a person's driving records contain information relating to traffic tickets, collisions, license suspensions, DUI charges, etc., not every person has access to these records.

Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Washington?

Yes, having a DUI conviction can get a person fired because Washington is an employment-at-will state. Most companies provide employees with a handbook that details the expected duties and conduct of the employee, on and off the work premises. So, a DUI may result in the violation of company policy, leaving the decision to terminate or not at the employer's discretion.

The relevance of driving to the job will influence the decision to keep the employee or not. For some positions, driving is an essential requirement. A suspended or revoked license is a hindrance, e.g., if the employee drives a company car or has to carry out inter-state travels on company business. However, if the job does not require driving, the possibility of job loss is relatively low.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Washington?

DUI checkpoints in Washington are outlawed, unlike other states where it is legal for law enforcement to set up random checkpoints to apprehend persons driving under the influence. Washington courts regard these sobriety checkpoints as a violation of an individual's right to no disturbance in private affairs.

According to the Supreme Court, law enforcement officers have no right to randomly stop and detain a motorist with no specific or valid reason for doing so. Some good reasons an officer may stop a person are speeding, failing to maintain a lane or failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, not using turn signals, having broken brake light, etc. In the state where DUI checkpoints apply, law enforcement officers may stop a person for no other reason than passing through the checkpoint. For the residents of Washington state, this does not apply.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

In other jurisdictions, a DWI is a more severe offense than a DUI because it requires higher levels of intoxication to prove that a person is guilty. However, this is not the case in Washington, as the state's DUI laws do not make such a distinction. There is no way to say which of the offenses is worse in terms of punishments or requirements, as there is one category of punishment that applies to these offenses under the Code of Washington.